Sunny is another case of horse trauma caused by something that most people would consider no big deal. When she arrived, she was scarily quick to use her teeth and her feet for defending herself. She was a fight horse on the five f’s (flight, fight, freeze, fidget and faint).
When I was working with her to let go of her tension around being haltered, she showed me that her first trauma was as a newborn foal being cornered in her stable and wrestled with to get the halter on. It turned out that she actually wasn’t a born fight response horse at all – that tendency to fight first and think later was a trauma response from her first catching experience.
Who would think that something that is so regularly routine in the horse world, could have had such an enormous impact on her? There’s a whole story about how she came to release that fight response – and how I inadvertently discovered it had been released, that is a story for another day.
The next trauma was more dramatic.
When she came to me, we also had serious problems trimming one foot safely. She used to slam her near hind leg down so hard that if your arm or leg had been in the way, it would have been broken. I don’t believe in putting my feet trimmer in danger, so this particular foot of Sunny’s had been trained but not trimmed for five months by this stage in the story. Better to have a messy foot than a damaged feet trimmer.
We were working this day – again – on helping her to get better with holding her hind leg up for Cat to trim, when she showed us an image of a horse thrashing on the ground with it’s leg tied up, grinding its face and eye into the sand and the utter despair that she felt as she fought that rope until she thought she was dead. This leg tying thing is a technique used by some trainers, designed to beat a horse’s fight response.
I might cry at the drop of a hat, but Cat sure as heck doesn’t and we both got the same vision, with same feelings of utter despair and both of us had tears pouring down our faces. I found out later that that Sunny and her sister had gone of to the trainer to be started at the same time and that her sister came home blind in one eye, so it seems that the vision was of what happened to HER, not to Sunny.
Do you know, I just realized something as I was writing this. For all these years I thought BOTH sisters had the same technique done to them. But now I’m thinking that’s not necessarily the case and that maybe Sunny’s traumatized response came from WATCHING what happened to her sister, not physically experiencing it herself.
My point is, that it is possible to help our horses RELEASE old trauma and the mental and physical effects of it. She had to develop a confidence in our willingness to listen to her and helping her to release all kinds of other traumas that she had experienced – in her case around being caught and haltered – to develop the kind of confidence that she needed to bare her soul to us with that vision of a horse thrashing around. From that day she could pick her foot up for trimming safely.
HOW to do that releasing takes FEEL for your horse and the TIMING of knowing when to keep going and when to back off and that comes from a deep and profound connection to them that EVERYONE has the ability to have and the tiniest portion of one percent of riders and handlers use. Even our BEGINNER riders here are learning how to use it from the beginning in our Fast Track program – and our KIDS in this program learn it from childhood.
Starting to get my point here? I could give you a hundred stories of horses traumatized to some degree and the ordinary people who have helped them solve that trauma. These are horses that were suffering from PTSD type reactions. Some of these circumstances may seem like no big deal to those who have seen or suffered more, but they are damaging to THAT horse and causing reactions and problems and tensions that simply don’t need to exist.
…That simply don’t need to exist…
Look around you. What are you observing in your horse – that you think is no big deal – that is in reality caused by an actual trauma that the horse has experienced? Excessive spooking? Tie up problems? Feet picking up problems? Bridling? Saddling? Separation anxiety? Caretaker horses that just can’t look after you any more and eventually explode?
I wonder how many of you will be shocked when you realize how much of what the horse world considers “normal” is not normal at all and is symptomatic of an old trauma. If our horse is stressed or “flip out” about ANYTHING that is a normal part of a horse’s life, then they need help.
Healing and good horsemanship go hand in hand.
Talk to me – tell me what’s happening and we can talk about a path forwards from this.
p.s. Keep in mind that some horses require more skill and know-how than others – but ALL of them require the person to have Feel to help them and that’s what we do here, teach people Feel for their horse – ordinary people being extraordinary.