Saturday, July 21, 2018

First At Liberty Sessions with Beautiful Girl



My husband can do a lot, in fact, he is the master of all trades.  This week he has been building by 36 x 12 loafing shed, sanded, puttied, and painted the rust and holes in my truck, helped me with the family vacation, worked three days when we got home from the vacation, is currently loading all the garbage to go to the dump AND planning a new jackleg fence for my turnout. 

As amazing as he is, however, there is one thing he doesn't have--

X-ray vision.

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".  

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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.

12 comments:

  1. I just read over the post, and had my first cry since the accident.

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    1. Oh Linda, I wish I could give you a big {hug} you have been holding so much in. I think we do that when things are deeply rooted. It's good to be at a point, where you can let it out. It is how true healing moves us forward. Takes a looong time, and comes out when it feels right. Keep on keeping on girlfriend, and take your sweet time healing, processing, and re-bonding with your Beautiful Girl.

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    2. Thank you. I'll accept that hug via the internet. Yes, there are so many layers to this. She wasn't a horse I got yesterday--I raised her from a yearling, and I have a deep emotional investment in her. There are just a lot of feelings churning around and no easy paths or answers or fixes. Thank you, Aurora, for all your support these last couple of weeks. Thanks to everyone who has offered encouragement.

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    3. You are so very welcome. I love your spirit & tenacity. I simply shared a video that made me think of you & Bee and the crossroads you find yourself in. Odd part is I almost didn't, but glad I did. You just never know how a small act can help someone, the rest has been all you. Investing your time & heart into something more meaningful then words can describe. It will come to you, you'll see.

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  2. It can feel like such a betrayal when they hurt us. Logical or not, it just does. But it is a journey and those are full of twists and turns. And if you never see her separate from that day, it's okay if you don't . Because that is part of her too. Sometimes I think these reactive horses are like people suffering from PTSD- if they are triggered the world falls away and the trauma is there fresh and raw and overwhelming. I know from my own experiences how strong this can be.

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    1. Well said. It is a good reminder to see how closely we are related and how normal her reactions are, under the circumstances. I’ll be thinking about PTSD in a new light.

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  3. So few people seem to care how the horse is feeling after something like this - they know it's "wrong" from the signals they see, but they don't know how to make that right again.

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    1. Very true. Hopefully, we find that path.

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  4. Oh Linda, I think crying is a good place to start. It's the best stress releaser of all and will open the channel for forgiveness and a fresh start. I'm so sorry. But it happened for a reason, and it gives you a chance to reassess everything with Bee. I can't help but think that if you feel this traumatized, can you just imagine how Bee must be feeling? It must take so much mental energy and control to maintain her composure - that would be exhausting. I wish you could just slow down with her. There is no unwritten rule that says you have to make so much progress in a short period of time. I realize you've had her for a long time, but what if she never makes a good riding horse for you? Does that make her less valued? She might be able to teach you far more than you ever thought imaginable. Whatever her trauma was at such a young age, must have been horrendous, and I can only imagine how hard she tries to be a good girl for you. My only criteria for the two of you, would be to enjoy yourselves, regardless of what you're doing. Make it fun...and remember, tomorrow is always another day, another opportunity. Take the time to heal, body and mind. Big hugs to you ((()))).

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    1. Thanks for the hug! We have definitely slowed it down, and are building back up in small, successful increments. She won't ever be my riding horse, and that's okay. I have the space, and means, to keep her for as long as she lives--riding or not. She's my baby. I've gone this long without riding her, and to be honest, I didn't count on it at all--which is why I started planning the new baby--and found Tumbleweed. She does like to do things, though, so at liberty has been a fun way to reconnect. I had to learn the hard way to take the time to heal, but I'm feeling quite a bit better today. I won't jump to riding though, like I did last week! I'm blocking out two weeks before I get in the saddle again. That should be safe. We'll see.

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  5. As time passes you will definitely forget and forgive the whole incident. It just happened because she wasn't ready or able to be ridden. She may never be, our Donny wasn't. He couldn't be trusted not to blow up and it wasn't worth getting hurt over. However, he did like to work so we did lots of things with him from the ground to make him feel useful. They do watch the other horses and I believe he liked to be included in the line up. We worked with clicker training I didn't know we could have tried the liberty training. I think you and Beautiful will have a lot of fun with it and become close. Hang in there and don't push yourself to succeed, if it happens good if not you still have a lovely horse who knows you love her.

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    1. Very true. It is already starting to fade...as my physical pain does. Funny how that works. She's acting more herself, too. Yes, I agree with you, they like to be included and feel that accomplishment. She has tried to do everything since the accident super well! Standing tied. Whatever. She is giving it her all. No doubt, she wasn't ready or able for what I asked her. It may have even hurt her, because she is terribly club footed on the side I was asking for the turn.

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