Dancing with Canner
by Mackenzie Cole – Photos by Mackenzie Cole
Many trainers talk about working with animals as a kind of dance. In a training relationship, timing, motion, and our presence with another being are all important. Just as they are in dance.
Of course, there are dog-training sports like Freestyle that capitalize on the similarities. For example, take a look at this amazing video:
When we actually combine dancing and training, it can be pretty incredible stuff. A while ago, SuzAnne mentioned that I should take a crack at doing some dance training with Canner.
Most of us have built a box around what it means to be a horse. Horses are for things, things that humans want of them. Horses are for riding. They are jumpers or pasture pets, defined by their human utility. But Canner has little utility. He was too messed with too early on to fit into those boxes. Why don’t we spend more time thinking about what our animals want, what their purpose is?
That pushed me to ask, what does the horse want to do? And if you’ve ever seen him trot or toss his head, you know this guy wants to dance.
Fortunately for him, I met some dancers. Dancers who also think outside the box of what dancing is. Or beside the box. Or lying down near the box. Or walking up the side of it.
Recently, I was lucky enough to meet and befriend Alyssa Kennamer just before she left Missoula to go dance with apple crates and her best friend and dance partner, Evelyn Langley. They met at Knox College, where they discovered they both loved dance and were from Oklahoma. Dance with apple crates? Yep!
Of course, on first learning about Alyssa and Evelyn’s love of, I think it’s fair to say, strange dance, their dance that makes a seemingly benign normal space strange again, I decided I should try to get them involved with the strangest character I know: my horse. Why? Why teach a horse to dance? I think if you’ve taken the time to get to know this horse, the answer is right in front of you.
This was a wholly different sort of dance than I had imagined anyone doing with animals, but I thought it might also have some interesting implications for helping Canner reach the next step in his resilience to all the things people do. It would mean widening the scope of unusual and sudden movement he had experienced, and hopefully open up new doors for him to play with people other than myself, thereby increasing his appreciation of people.