Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fear Issues with Horses

Note how fearful Shaman it, and how Abby is reassuring him.
FEAR - it raises it's scary face with most of us with horses at some time or another. I know all about fear and horses. My fear became deep seated when my 8 year old daughter fell from my sweetest and safest horse ever, lost her helmet and sustained a traumatic brain injury. Two weeks in a coma after neurosurgery, two weeks when she could neither talk or walk or swallow. A long path to recovery and still she struggles every single day with things most of us take for granted.

Shaman still is frightened, Abby is relaxed and reassuring.
First, the experts did not expect her to live, then they did not expect she would be capable of much, then they suggested  long term rehab center, then it was 'special classes'. A nightmare for a little girl.

I had different opinions. Good nutrition and being at home with her family, and therapy, hours and hours of therapy. We started with the basics: crawling. Up and down the hall, we crawled together. I followed many of the ideas of an independent thinker, Glen Dolman who wrote "Your Brain Injured Child". He believed in pattering and rebuilding the neural pathways or making new ones if necessary. It was a long road. She went swimming, jumped on a trampoline, when to a chiropractor, had PT and OT every day, and I made sure she had time with children her age to regain her social skills. It was a long hard road. She still is recovering almost 30 years later. We both are.

My Sweet Girl all grown up!
My sweet girl, Felicity graduated high school with her class, she got scholarships to the U. of Miami and graduated in 4 years with a double major. She lived in her own apartment from the time she was 19, as she was not into wasting her time with the party atmosphere at college. She's a hard worker and smart as a whip!

Felicity in Mexico

As for me, my lifetime passion with horses came to a screeching halt. Once my solace and happiness, they became my biggest fear. Eventually, I put aside horses as they brought up the pain and fear and the guilt.
Ken picking bales out of the field in Crow Valley

My husband, dear man felt that I needed to reclaim that part of myself, and over time began by quietly bringing horse magazines home. ..then we went and looked at some horses..  Well, here I am riding my mustangs - but, don't think for a minute that I am done with the FEAR. I have to deal with it all the time. I have tools to deal with it, gentle tools like EFT, and Stephanie Burns : 'move closer stay longer' , and most importantly learning how to read the horse. We, as the leader need to learn to help the horse with his fear issues. For it is when the horse is afraid that we get hurt.

I don't believe that 'just make him do it' works for the horse, or for the person! I believe if we take our time you and the horse will become more confident and competent. Learning how to handle a horse with expertise on the ground will give you more skills than you can imagine once you begin to ride. Understanding how to move the horse's body while standing next to a horse is a logical step to understanding how to move the horse's body while riding. So, lunging, ground driving, games with your horse, trail walks - all these things are building blocks for your future together. Every time you handle your horse, you are training your horse, that is why I feel it's so important to learn all the foundation steps. The payoffs are great. A safer and happier horse, a more confident and relaxed rider and much less fear!
When I met my student Betty, she said she didn't know if she ever would ride again.. but, here she is on Rascal - looking happy and relaxed. When I asked was she afraid, she said: "oh, no, not at all!"