How Did I Know That Her Horse Needed Therapy?

I was inspired to write this blog post the day after I had given a ‘Handover Session’ to a client who had asked me to have her horse for the summer to help with the horse’s flighty and spooky behaviour.

This little horse has been with her owner since we first ‘started her’ as a two year old frightened mare, bought over from Ireland. Which means she has been in the same home for over 9 years.

At that time, we started her in a natural way, which meant helping the mare to be less afraid of humans during her time as a brood mare and then to be able to progress and be ‘useful’ to her owner so that she could be used for Riding Club activities and a bit of hunting etc.

Along the way, she went to a ‘loan home’ for a year before being returned to her owner.

Please understand that this article is not being written in the name of blaming anyone, least of all the owner.  But we have to ask ourselves ‘What went wrong with this horse along the way, that caused her to become so distrusting of humans and really wanting nothing to do with us’?

How do I know this?

Well, put yourself in my shoes as I went to pick her up and then look at from the horse’s point of view.

I first noticed something wrong when the owner asked me to help her trailer load the horse.   She had been unsuccessful in all her previous attempts to load since receiving the horse back from a loan home……… I couldn’t even get near that mare IN THE STABLE!   Let alone in a field.

What does that tell us about the mare’s emotional state?

Think of humans and how we greet one another.  We might smile, make eye contact, maybe a nod and generally greet that other person in a positive manner.    Now imagine if I turned my back to you on a first meeting. What would your impression be of me then?

Do you see my point? That horse was telling me, in the only language she knows, which is BODY LANGUAGE that she wanted nothing to do with me.  And yet I knew that my task was to convince her to trailer load so she could start her period of ‘therapy’.

So does all this mean that the owner is a cruel person?

The answer to that question in this case would be ‘Don’t be absurd!’

The owner is one of the nicest, kindest people I know around horses. She has decades of horse experience under her belt. She is a fabulous horsewoman.
Her horse is in perfect condition. The stable is a plentiful size. Her facilities at home are way above what the average horse owner could provide for their horse. The tack is a perfect handmade fit with no expense spared and yet something was missing. Something was causing this horse to behave in an emotional, unpredictable and mostly UNSAFE way.

The last time I visited this owner, I took my little ‘ginger guy’, Mr Smiffy for a visit and a ride around her farm.   The owner was having such a scary ride, that it ceased to be fun for both her AND her horse. This bought up such feelings of anxiety that we had to change the planned ride and take an alternative route which was less stressful for both horse and rider. When we get to that state, it is worth noting at this point, that the owner’s anxiety was not irrational but completely founded as it was there to keep her safe!
Do you remember that I said in a previous blog post, that the best idea when things are not going well is to dismount? How many of us ‘battle through’, trying to ‘master’ the horse, when in fact that is actually the most unhelpful thing to do for BOTH horse and rider!
One thing I know for sure about this person, is that she was so full of guilt when she came for her handover session. She felt guilty because she had not been meeting her horses most basic need of all…..which is it’s emotional need.

Well if we are talking about guilt, I have had that by the BUCKET LOAD!! But at this point in time, how helpful is it to me, the horse, or my client if all I feel is guilt?

Not much you say. And indeed you would be right.

Guilt is not going to help this horse progress.

Actually it is enough that this horse owner recognized that something was indeed ‘missing’ from her horse. It takes a big personality to recognize and admit this.

So this last 8 weeks has seen this little horse progress from a highly emotional, scattered, unpredictable horse, into one that is really trying to connect with us humans.

I have been able to give her the TIME to figure out the answers to the questions I have been asking of her and she is turn is asking ME questions and learning that she has some responsibilities, that require her to THINK, connect with me and not just react……

You see, we want our horses to be calm, connected and responsive, not reactive.

There is a difference.  If you are not sure about this then I can explain that in another post.

As her time in ‘therapy’ draws to a close this summer, I have the ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling that this horse is going to have a much nicer life from now on and indeed her owner has been able to really connect with her horse and will be so much more mindful of who she lets into her horse’s life.

If you or anyone you know, has a horse that will not allow itself to be caught, either in the stable or out in the field, remember that the horse is having problems with it’s perception of us humans.  It’s acting on instinct remember?  Please do get in touch.  There is a solution which doesn’t involve the horse having to wear a headcollar all the time and it doesn’t take that long to change the horse’s perception of us humans:)  You don’t need to keep struggling any longer.  Help is at hand!

If you got something from this post, I would be grateful if you would ‘like’ and ‘share’ it so that many more horse/owner combinations can be helped:)

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