Law 3_lead and halter

The Horse Paradigm – Talk To The Hand

As I was watching Robin Williams in the movie, “RV” I paused and replayed a dozen times the section where he tries to prove he is a cool dad to his son.  They were on a lonely basketball court at a state park with two other boys they had come across.  They looked like trouble makers and were nothing like his son but that only encouraged the father to show how cool he could be.

If you don’t know of the actor, I can tell you that he was a genius.  He had a connection between his brain anbd his mouth like few other will ever have.  He was good at rapping and so, to be really cool, he started to rap to the two strangers.  

In the middle of this rap, Robin holds up his hand, palm out towards them, and says, “Talk to the hand!”  This is an expression that is common and means that whatever you are saying to me, I’m not really interested in hearing about it.

But then Robin instantly flips his hand around so the palm now faces him and says, “Call waiting!”  For those who don’t know, telephone calls have an option where a person can place a person on hold while they go off to do something else.  They are placed on call waiting.  For me, it was instant recognition of how I work with horses I have never seen before.

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As I was watching Robin Williams in the movie, “RV” I paused and replayed a dozen times the section where he tries to prove he is a cool dad to his son.  They were on a lonely basketball court at a state park with two other boys they had come across.  They looked like trouble makers and were nothing like his son but that only encouraged the father to show how cool he could be.

If you don’t know of the actor, I can tell you that he was a genius.  He had a connection between his brain anbd his mouth like few other will ever have.  He was good at rapping and so, to be really cool, he started to rap to the two strangers.  

In the middle of this rap, Robin holds up his hand, palm out towards them, and says, “Talk to the hand!”  This is an expression that is common and means that whatever you are saying to me, I’m not really interested in hearing about it.

But then Robin instantly flips his hand around so the palm now faces him and says, “Call waiting!”  For those who don’t know, telephone calls have an option where a person can place a person on hold while they go off to do something else.  They are placed on call waiting.  For me, it was instant recognition of how I work with horses I have never seen before.

When a horse sees me for the first time they see a man, a vet, a stranger and any or all of these will trigger a story in their brain.  Often these horses want to tell me their story and sometimes it is in very explicit terms.  Their story could be this – the last man who came into my stall was a vet and he put a sharp needle in my neck and it hurt!  They start to connect me as a man and a vet and he starts to think about the pain and fear associated with that visit.

I just say, “Talk to the hand!”  I am not interested in his story.  I don’t reward his behavior of fear, doubt and worry by coaching him with words like, “It’ll be OK” or “I’m not here to hurt you.”  It’s probably what the last guy said before he jabbed the needle into his neck.

Then I say, “Call waiting” which conveys to the horse that I am NOT that man and I am NOT that vet.  I am here to build a new and different conversation with a fresh perspective.  This one event on my part tells the horse that I am deeply listening to him.  More importantly I am not rooted in the past but I am completely in the moment building a relationship with fresh perspectives on solid ground.  This recognition by horses is immediate for most horses.  It leaves horses owners in disbelief and speechless often making owner cry tears of joy.

All the horse wants id for someone to be listening in the moment.  If we don’t then they will immediately go  to their library of experiences and determine their next course of action.  This happens in a blink of an eye and even faster if their expectations of another bad man and bad vet are met.  Instead I offer them a chance to create a new story by acknowledging their past only momentarily but remaining solidly in the present.  Horses love this and will create a new connection with me that over time becomes lasting.

Try this sometime when you meet a stranger.  I did this once with a man behind the counter at a convenience store.  His face and actions toild me that I was just another customer in a long day.  So I started a new relationship by asking him where he was from.  He said, “India.”  I replied, “Wow your a long way from home from a country that has the longest democracy in existence!”

He did not expect this reply and for a full minute we discussed the similarities between the democracies in the US and India.  Just one minute!  Then I returned to the car at the gas pump where I got in and closed the door.  Melissa was there and said, “Oh no!  What did you do now?”  I looked up and the man was trotting to my car.  I wasn’t afraid and I rolled down my window as he got to me.  With delight in his eyes he said to me, “Thank you so much for taking the time to make me feel at home here.  I just couldn’t let you go without you knowing how much I appreciated our short conversation.”

No lie – call Melissa to verify!.  But that is how powerful the “Talk to the hand – call waiting” approach to meeting a stranger can be.  It works but it takes practice.  Give it a try.

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