As amazing as he is, however, there is one thing he doesn't have--
He is a doctor of the mind, not the bones, but that doesn't stop me from asking if things are broken--and accepting his homemade remedies. I imagine anyone who is a married to a doctor rarely goes to a doctor. You have to be on death's door. So, the broken toe when I walked into the barbell--he taped it to my other toe, and said carry on. (It worked.) The ribs--he asked if I could cough without pain (I could) and he said they could be broken or bruised, but it would be the same either way--rest them.
I'm not quite to three weeks post-accident, but we are pretty sure they are broken, and I probably need to be better at resting them. I have not gotten back on a horse since reinjuring them while trotting Cowboy. Trotting was a big mistake, and it has set me back in the healing process. I stopped taking Motrin a few days ago, because I felt like the pain is a good reminder to slow down, and masking it only allows me to make bad choices.
I think I'm safe to walk and work from the ground, though, so I have started At Liberty training with Beautiful Girl.
No surprise, she's a natural.
Aurora introduced me to Mustang Maddy. After watching her free videos, I subscribed to her Facebook page to get more. For subscribing, she sent me five videos of her "5 Golden Rules". The first, "Rule #1: Use reinforcement to reward your horse" was very helpful for getting through to Beautiful and speeding up At Liberty work.
Basically, she says there are a couple ways to reward / motivate your horses:
*negative reinforcement (natural horsemanship--pressure and release and timing--opportunities to think about what they've learned. It is a form of what psychologists would term "negative reinforcement," but that doesn't mean it's negative. It can actually work really well.) The limitation with this type of training is for a couple horses--one of which is a "Shut Down Horse." The way they react to their fear is that they "almost leave their bodies." They "shut down mentally and physically and get stuck." "This is the horse that doesn't end up in "such good places." It's a fear response which makes it easier for them to handle fear, stress and pressure. (This is Beautiful Girl!! I've always said she goes somewhere when she's stressed--her eyes look blank--like she's not even there. I knew it was a big issue, but I just tried to get her to come back to me and engage. But she is the definition of a "Shut Down Horse." Beautiful Girl shuts down, let's her anxiety build, then blows up.)
*Positive Reinforcement is another way to reward / motivate (grazing mode--food--lower level than safety and security concerns and you don't need them, but they can speed up the training & help a horse with trauma.) Food "amplifies what you already have." You can do it without food, but it's faster with food. Advantages--less pressure, it will speed learning (increase motivation), helps them relax. "If a horse is really shutting down and holding onto trauma--food can help." The problem with food treats is that horses can get "pocket crazy," (solve it by creating "cue spots" and only give it as a reward--use boundaries), another problem is "bribing".
First Sessions of At Liberty
Since the bucking, Bee has been even more "shut down," and she wasn't eager to work with me again. It was a negative experience for both of us. But I decided that I'd give the motivation / reward thing a try, and I studied Mustang Maddy's beginning at liberty work with one of her Mustangs.
Off we went to the arena, treats in pocket, short whip in hand. The process is quite simple--flick the whip to ask for hindquarter disengagement--back leg steps over the other--if they don't move, add a clucking or kissing--if they still don't move--tap them with the end of the crop. They move. Relax and let them think about it. (Insert a food reward IF that's what you're doing.) To give the food reward, if you choose to do so, stand to the side of the horse, wait until they raise their head directly in front of their body (away from you)--do NOT give it to them if they look toward you or poke around your pocket.
We also worked on backing up, (same concept) and moving away forequarters, (crossing front legs over).
The first day we worked on it, I went out to the turnout in the evening and asked her to do all those things at liberty--completely free. I only used the palm of my hand to motion for each--hindquarters, back up, forequarters.
She did them all.
Each day she's getting easier to catch, and she's showing interest in me again when she's just out in her turnout. The pain in my ribs is rather symbolic of the pain in our hearts toward one another. It's healing, but slowly.
Sometimes, I look at her and I think how close she came to killing me. I feel the pain in my ribs, realize I can't ride for a while, and I blame her...and then myself for not heeding the signs.
Sometimes, I look over at where it happened in the arena, and I try to imagine it as if I'd been standing outside the arena when it happened, rather than in the saddle. Then, I'll look at her and see her as that tornado of spins, bucks and runaway, and I can feel the power of her fear all over again.
Last night, I wondered if I'll ever be able to see her fresh, separate from that day, and I don't know the answer.
I hope so.