Wednesday, September 23, 2009

When my horse ran from me

At first, I thought he was still mad at me. Mad about all the flexing, the heavy hands.

It started when I got to the stables. The ground of the paddock area where Cibolo runs (with a grouchy arabian and a lanky thoroughbred) was a horrid mucky mess thanks to the rain we've had for the last week. I walked out as usual and generally he'll either walk to me, or stand for me. This time he avoided me.

I was stunned. Not just because he was heading out like that, but the way he acted was so strange. It was "stand offish", exactly what they had told me about him.

Since it was a muddy mess I wasn't about to make him run like I normally would with a horse avoiding me in a field. I found he did let me direct him, so I waved him into the barn area.

Still he wouldn't let me even pet him. Talk about holding a grudge, I thought.

I got some feed, some cookies, bribing him a bit. He took them from the greatest distance possible, but his attitude was just terrible. After a while I even dropped the rope to make it clear I wasn't going to "catch him."


It was raining, so all I'd planned on doing was spending some time with him. But this threw me for a loop. I sat down for a bit and he kept a distance, not looking at me at all. Was this the standoffish horse they talked about? Was our last flex-a-thon that bad?

After a while in the barn aisle, I waved him into a stall since I wanted to keep him out of the muck. I stood outside his stall, wondering what had happened to my Bo, feeling a little sad. I looked down and I saw it. One of his shoes was coming off. (I took pictures, but I'm a little too tired to download. I'll get them up tomorrow)

"Cibolo! Your shoe! That's terrible," I said, walking into the stall.

Right then something weird happened. He didn't avoid me like he had been, but was just a little wary. He let me move around to his side actually touching him and check his hoof. The shoe had slid on the hoof but was firmly attached somehow. It's as if it was slipped back to the middle, like to the ball of the foot if he had a foot instead of a hoof, and his toes were completely shoe free.

When I stood back up I saw something else. A big fat scrape right at the round part of his jowl as if he had banged the mess out of it on something! Banged it hard.

"Oh no, Cibolo! What happened to you?" I said as I checked it.

Everything changed in the moment. I don't know how to explain it, but his energy and demeanor changed. He softened, trusted. He didn't avoid me. He met my gaze. He let me doctor him, rub him, check him over. He had a good size bite on a hip too, and I guess he'd knocked himself hard on the jaw during some nonsense in the paddock. It was a serious scrape and it must have hurt terribly. He asked for his favorite rub (circles on the jowl, which I did carefully), and rested his nose on my leg.

By the time I left, he was carefully putting his head over the stall door towards me, reaching towards me but careful not to bump his jaw. Just like always.

It was an incredible experience. I hadn't been aggressive, or angry, mostly just confused and a little irritated. But when I realized he was hurt, he changed his attitude.

I'm still a somewhat stunned by the whole thing...


Anonymous said...

Interesting - he was reflecting what you were feeling! Also, with a horse that is somewhat indifferent/standoffish - if fact for all horses - I don't chase them if they won't be caught - to my mind that just teaches them not to be with you - and besides its a lot of work! I just calmly walk to where they're going - cut them off at the pass, so to speak. And I just keep heading to where they're heading as they turn. No pressure, so no running off, or if they do run a bit they stop pretty quickly. When they stop, I just calmly approach. My mare Maisie (who started off very remote) was hard to catch when I got her - a few times of the cut-off-the-corners catching, and she now stands for catching - I don't expect my horses to come to me.

Hope his wound heals up and the shoe gets fixed soon!

Life at Star's Rest said...

I think what you experienced with Bo is what I think of as *true* connection, what happens in a natural herd. I don't usually talk about this because it makes me pretty unpopular in some NH circles, but I think a lot of damage is done by some training techniques with some kinds of horses. Running a horse to make them submit or 'hook up', is only done by the bullies of a herd, not the real leaders.

One of the things I hope to do with the center is teach about *real* herd communication, not what is taught by most NH trainers. If you ever want to talk about it, just email!

PS - was it you that sent me the liquid supplement? My memory is so bad from the meds I'm taking. If so, thanks so much!


Breathe said...

I appreciate the tips on catching - I'd been taught the chase approach and while it's a good work out, I feel like it's just projecting annoyance.

I was doing the cut off routine, but he wouldn't even let me touch him at all.

So was he reflecting or was it that once I was empathetic he relaxed?


Yes, Carmon, I sent that supplement. It gives me alot of energy and is all natural. I thought you might want to try it.

FlyingHorse2 said...

Aren't horses fascinating? With their intricate personalities and behaviors, they are truly a wonder.....sometimes it's a wonder you keep them and sometimes it's a wonder why you don't have more!! Great post!

Grey Horse Matters said...

It is truly amazing how his attitude changed once you realized he had some problems to be dealt with. I'm surprised all the time when working with different horses and their personalities and getting to know each one's character.

symphonious sweets said...

Very heartwarming story! Gosh, I love it when we calm down enough to realize just how much our horses trust us... when we trust them!

Life at Star's Rest said...

Thank you so much for the supplement! It has really touched me how kind people can be. When I was off having my last surgery, two friends came up and put wheels on the gates because they knew how hard it would be for me to open and close them. How sweet is that?

Now matter how good I feel in the mornings, I still crater around 4:00 so I'll let you know if it helps!


Flying Lily said...

That is so wonderful. He picked up your comforting concern. I hope his cut heals fast and he gets his shoesies back on right.