Thursday, October 27, 2011

Horse Training Paralysis

Since I last wrote I went into a terrible horse-funk that I couldn't pull myself out of. The whole thing with Cowboy hit me much harder than I could have predicted. The lesson learned for me was that I had much more bound up in him than horse/human. He was the horse who got me through my fears and helped me find courage again.  He is a large part of who I am today and helping me find and be okay with my happiness. 

Where you'd think I might draw closer to my other horses and find some solace there, the exact opposite was true. I withdrew from them all, even Beautiful. It was like I needed to have a separation, a line in the sand between my horse-life-past and my horse-life-future. I needed to give myself a chance to mourn and, eventually, accept that it was never going to be the same again. There was not going to be any going out and jumping on my long-time partner, Cowboy, and riding off into the sunset with my friends. My new life was going to be all about training young ones and starting once again from that place Cowboy and I had long ago left--the getting to know each other stages. It was sad letting go of my familiar friend...very, very, very sad.

In my personal life, it was the exact opposite.  Where doors were being closed with Cowboy and there was this overwhelming sense of loss--in my home life we were planting gardens, building a sunroom and covered deck, doing a lot of local traveling and biking--there was this great sense of creation and energy.

My husband and I would work (and play) together, then sit on the new deck and watch the horses who would gather about 100 feet away from us or move out and graze the pastures or lie sleeping in the sun. 
Sometimes I'd feel terribly guilty that I'd stopped cold in  my training and I wasn't continuing where I'd left off with Beautiful.   I'd reached this great point with her--saddling and mounting. Then, I quit. When I'd work in the yard, Beautiful was always there in my back-pocket....waiting. And, C'ya, my other sweet filly, needed riding, too.

Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. But no movement.  I was in a sort of horse-paralysis.  I wanted to get out there and ride, but I didn't.

Until my daughter woke me up.

(To be continued...) Sunroom project...still in the making.


  1. Guilt has no place here- there's nothing wrong with taking a little mental vacation. Horses don't have timetables, they don't have goals, and they absolutely don't mind time off to hang in the pasture. They also have excellent memories, so when you're ready to pick up Beautiful again she'll remember where you left off :)

  2. You're right about that, they do have excellent memories. Shocking, really....more on that later.

  3. You have always been an inspiration to me. You always comment when I get back around to blogging. Your blog is great to read. I have been on the loss of inspiration or lack of confidence side way too many times in the last 10 years. Hopefully I am finally getting over it and reading your blog, moms, and all of your input over the years has been very appreciated. You will get back out there and you will have well rested happy horses to play with. Unfortunately our best horses aren't with us as long as they should be sometimes, they can never be replaced but we can have new different adventures with the new ones. I am dealing with that with Willow right now but have decided that she can be my trail horse and I may need another horse to game on,we can never have too many horses can we?

  4. Tina--that means a lot to me. Thanks for the encouragement! You are really getting out there with your horses, it seems, and gaming would be icing on the cake. Do you have any new horses in mind yet? I'll keep my ears and eyes open for you. I'm glad you can still ride Willow on the trails though. Enjoy her as much as you can. Since Cowboy broke his coffin bone four years ago--I got a lot of rides on him that I'm extremely grateful for! Some of the best memories of my life--for sure.

  5. I look forward to the rest of the story... I went and looked at "Your Horses" as I am a new follower... It looks like you have had a wonderful time. I'm not sure if Cowboy is still with you or you had to put him down... the wording wasn't clear. I'm so sorry for your not being able to ride him and to watch him be in agony... I have two horses I just bought and they do get to one's heart awfully fast.

  6. Don't feel guilty - we all go through these periods - especially when our ability to do things with a special friend are over - and the good news is that horses don't mind vacations and they'll be right there waiting for you, and probably won't have forgotten much either.

    After the 6 weeks or so I took off after my accident, I was surprised by how willing the horses were to go back to work and by how much of their training "stuck".

    Will look forward to the next chapter . . .

  7. Hi Linda, I know just how much horses are a part of your life, so it's a little sad to read this. But maybe it's all part of your horse journey, this lull as you come to terms with Cowboy's change. Lulls are good, too, and have a purpose in our lives.

  8. I know where you're coming from Linda. I have the same thing going on with Dusty right now. For the past two years we've been working on her training and then her founder and suspensory injuries stopped all that. She may never be able to be ridden again and that's sad to think of but I'll have to deal with it. I do have Blue to ride and that's a good thing.

    When dealing with horses there are so many things that can and do go wrong. We just have to make the best of it. I'm glad you still have Cowboy and can interact with him, if only from the ground. He knows you care and he will always be your best guy. We have so many stages we go through with our horses and some of them aren't pleasant or what we had in mind. The main thing is that we can still be with them and try to help them be comfortable.

    Love the new sun room. Gorgeous.

  9. You have such a clarity to your thoughts, feelings and writing. I've been worried about you and Cowboy. Of all the horse-related challenges I've read about in the blogosphere, yours is the one I know I wouldn't have the strength to face right now. It's one thing to know your horse is sick or injured and know exactly what the cause and treatment are, and it's another thing to not know. The feeling of helplessness must be overwhelming.

    I kind of went through a similar thing with Bombay when he stared mauling both himself and the trailer to the point where I had to pay hundreds of dollars after each outing to stitch him back up and repair the horse trailer. I needed a horse psychologist more than anything else, and I didn't think that any of the trainers I talked to were familiar enough with the problem to help. So, I did nothing. Horse Training Paralysis.

  10. I find myself wondering quite often about how much we "pay" for the good times with our animals. Yeah, there is always the huge financial investment--but there is a huge emotional investment as well.

    There have been a few days lately when I've resented the "special needs" members of my four-legged crew (the ones who need medication or other special attention) because I've been so horribly busy at work, and then I feel guilty for feeling resentful, guilt that I'm not doing what I "should," guilt that I have too many animals, etc. I also start resenting other members of my family, because nobody else "notices" what the pets need better than I do, which places a lot of responsibility on my shoulders.

    I think many people who are drawn to horses are naturally sensitive people--and isn't THAT quite the little double-edged sword. When something is wrong, we feel their pain as if it's our own. Or even if the 'something' is a training issue or problem, we beat ourselves up about it.

    I can so understand what you're talking about here. Cowboy sounds like a true one-of-a-kind horse, and you have been extraordinarily lucky to know him. Not many people have the chance to ride a horse like him.

    Glad to see you back writing. The sunroom looks awesome!

  11. Nuzzling Muzzles--you hit it right on the head. The not knowing causes so many ups and downs, you just shut down emotions so you don't have to have your hopes dashed...again. I would think the trailering thing is definitely in the same category.

    Margaret--that's great that you have two horses you're starting with. I think it's a good thing to "feel" deeply and get attached to them--they deserve it--they're special beings. People who don't know the joy of relationships like this with all its ups and downs--are missing out. I wouldn't trade my time with Cowboy for ANYTHING.

  12. Kate--that's right...I remember thinking, as you took your time off to heal, that your horses would probably be wonderful for you when you returned. After what happened, I was amazed that you found the courage and determination to get back in the saddle so quickly.

    Joanne--I think you're right about lulls having a purpose sometimes. Since my horses are in my backyard, I never really walk too far away from them. (The most I can get is about 150 feet.) ;) But I can walk away emotionally, as I did. It's probably not too different than our human relationships--letting go when we are forced to and learning to experience life without the loved one--letting yourself feel joy, letting yourself love again...and not feeling guilty for it. This element, I think, was really at the crux of my not being able to move forward.

  13. Grey Horse Matters--One thing I can say for your horses, they live in heaven--so any break you give them to heal, I'm sure, will be all gravy! When I die, I want to come back as one of your horses.

  14. Fetlock, what you say is true, and I can't imagine any horsewoman not feeling what you've felt. A good friend of mine just lost her heart-horse to a twisted-gut colic this week. It was a horse from her family's ranch stock--going back a hundred years--and she'd raised her from a baby, shown her, and then had several babies out of her. But as "practical" a horsewoman as she tries to be, I know it's breaking her heart. You can't escape the losses and you can't keep yourself from getting emotionally attached. When you decide on the horse-life you get more of a package than you bargained for, I think. They are animals who can get hurt so easily and we have to watch them like hawks to protect them. I'm the one at my house that has taken on that role, too. Some days it feels a bit overwhelming and like you I wonder if I have too many horses and if I'm up to the challenge. I think that's normal.

  15. Linda, I was wondering if something had been going on. I'd checked in on your blog a few times the past couple of months and noticed the quiet.

    There was an abundance of feeling to your post. I have been in a horse-funk for way too long, but it's not my horses, more me, and my own health issues. Interesting that often during some of our darkest moments an old "horse" friend calls, is encouraging, and you start trying to get back to what you left, at least that's what happened to me this week.

    I hope your new journey is as rewarding as your times with Cowboy.

  16. You can't push the river, it flows by itself. I have a little horse funk too, this year I didn't get much accomplished with Chickory, and any time I forced myself to go work with her, she got all wary and worried. My best days with her were when I was in a mellow mood- that horse is scary in tune with me.
    Looking forward to the rest of the story.

  17. Good to see you're back!

    I've had the same trouble since Tonka's tendon injury. I totally feel for you. It's so hard to want to work with the others.

    I love the sunroom, it's beautiful!

  18. Linda--I go through this, too. I read all the comments, and Fetlock pretty much said what I was going to say. I do my best to give myself permission to take a break when that's what I need. Like the others pointed out, despite my feelings of guilt, the horses don't seem any the worse for it. I honestly think they do better with too little work (if they are turned out, as yours are) than being pushed too much. So maybe you are doing them a favor.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.