How the Waterhole Rituals Changed my Horses' Attitude by Desiree Taylor
Carolyn, When you asked me to write this piece for your blog, my heart rate went up a few beats and it felt like all the blood was being pushed straight up to my head. It's been such an intense journey and my head felt like it was going to explode just thinking about all the things that have happened to me and my horse Abby. You asked me to include some information about Abby's past and I thought long and hard about how to word it without making her sound like the terrible horse she probably never was. The memories are still fresh but they are being overwritten by new ones every day. Abby's attitude change has been remarkable; even non-horse friends notice the difference. Abby now greets people with a smile instead of a sour face and a threatening look. She is less defensive about her body and is even starting to enjoy a good scratch and a hug. She has started to call out at me, which is very special because she has never been a very vocal kind of horse. In fact, I was not even sure what her voice sounded like (it's heavy; like her mom's). Her food aggression is pretty much gone. Abby is just so much more optimistic about me, other people and life in general and it all came about by “simply” following your program!
It's not that I did not know this horse, or her past. I bred Abby myself and she has been with me ever since. Already as a youngster, Abby was a spunky individual. This in itself was not a problem, but her spunkiness started turning into bullyish behaviour towards her aging mother (the Grand Leader of our herd of four) and towards strangers entering the pasture. She never went to any territorial extremes with me, but she would not exactly be cooperative either, especially when we had a difference of opinion. We fought a lot. At the same time, she did seem to enjoy our interactions, which I found confusing. She was just SO different from any other horse I had dealt with until then!
Technically speaking, training her wasn't hard. She's a very intelligent horse, but also very opinionated about the way you work with her. The conditioned – response program that had worked like a charm on our other horses got the job done with Abby as well, but she did not feel as happy about it as my other horses had been. I had her checked by different vets, but nothing was ever found to explain her sour behavior from a physical perspective. I just had to accept the fact that she was a mareish, stand-offish kind of horse and not the huggable one that would have been so much more pleasant. So on we went with our program. Abby had always liked going out to explore and adventure, so once the basics were on her under saddle, we went and hit the trails. However grumpy she could be in her daily dealings, not hesitating to kick or bite when in disagreement, she was a fantastic riding horse and had never set a foot wrong under saddle, until that day when she spooked at something and bolted across the road. There was no way she could have seen there was a ditch hiding under all that tall grass and she crashed into it with both front legs, summersaulting, launching me in the process. I shattered two vertebrae and my left wrist. In an emergency operation, they put titanium scaffolding in my back to hold the damaged vertebrae together; it truly is a miracle that I literally walked away from all this! The worst of Abby's fall had been caught by the wire fence that she landed on and she was physically fine, but very timid for a couple of days – so I've been told. It's probably not hard to imagine that our relationship got even more complicated after that.
So, that's our story in a nutshell. I have had to read it several times myself to let it sink in that this is the same horse I hugged and kissed after our session with the ball this afternoon. Every day I find out something new and exciting about her: something sweet, something funny, something heart-warming, something ridiculously clever … She is such an ambitious horse; almost like a misunderstood genius child waiting to be discovered. What we have is still fragile, but it's beautiful and it's US!
THANK YOU Carolyn for recognizing Abby’s budding optimism and THANK YOU for sharing your wisdom with the world!
Thank you Desiree for sharing your lovely story with our readers and for not giving up on Abby to find her true self. I'm so glad you could bring out the magic between the two of you.
Look out for new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you.