He has become afraid. I feel it when I put his halter on, when I lead him to the barn, and even when I feed him his morning supplements. He feels like a coiled spring as I lead him into the barn, if I stop he runs into me because he walks so close. I ask him to back up, but he scoots right up next to me as I continue our walk into the barn. He even will keep walking and knock me into the gate if I don’t stay aware of where he is at all times. If I ask him to back off with too much energy he dances around and snorts. He is ready to explode.
I’m not sure where this fear, or anxiety is coming from. Is it because I was using him in lessons and at times his students react with fear when he moves too fast? Did something happen in the pasture? Was it the time I picked up the hula hoop and he jumped back in fear as I rolled it away? I guess it doesn’t really matter what started the fear, I just need to find a way to help him.
Yesterday I led him into the barn and he literally felt like a pot ready to boil over. I lead him into the stall for his feed and he lost it. He pawed the stall door, reared up, and then I knew. He needs me now, this cannot wait until it gets warmer. It is time to help him get to the bottom of this fear. I walked him out to his pasture again to give him some time to settle down, and allow me to work on the morning chores a little bit. I talk to Joanie and Kristin and let them know I can’t let it go anymore and need to work with him and they agree to finish up chores.
I enter the pasture again, and see him there. There is confusion in his eyes, and fear. He is on high alert. His body is rigid, he is holding his breath, and his head is as high as he can get it. I slow my pace down, slow my breathing down, and approach him quietly and allow him to hear my breath enter and leave my body in a regular rhythm. He blinks a little and his head comes down just enough for me to slip the halter on his face. We walk to the barn, and he is almost on top of me, and is snorting with every breath. I feel the anxiety rolling off of him and my heart beat accelerates to match his. Poor little man, I think as I try to control my heartrate and breathe as deep as I can, hoping his heartrate and breathing syncs to mine. I turn him loose in the indoor and he takes off. He is scared. The barrels are set up in a pattern we were using for lessons, the hula hoops are out as well with some ground poles and the mounting block. He appears to be afraid of it all. He gallops a few laps, then slows to a trot. He still is blowing and his head is held high. I leave him in there for a bit, just to see if he can work things out on his own, and I return to doing chores. He can’t settle though and he comes to the fence with his eyes opened wide and presses against the gate. I need to help him, so I slip in the arena with him. I figure he needs to move his feet to release some of the tension that is built up in his body. I can see the energy bottled up in him, the tension can be felt from across the arena. In my mind Mark Rashid’s words come to me about resetting the horse, get them to canter until they start breathing, then they shake like a big dog, and release all the tension, and reset their nervous system. But, I am afraid to attempt that. The temps are in the teens and will be falling to below zero by nightfall. I don’t want him to get overheated when it’s so cold, I will never get him dry enough to be turned out. So I decide to try my own experiment.
It seems as though he does need to move, so I twirl the lead rope a little bit and he takes off like a rocket, tail pumping up and down, head up, nostrils flaring, and snorting. His legs move like pistons and his hooves dig deep into the sand. They are moving so fast he kicks sand up against the arena which makes a racket, and scares him a little more. After a couple laps he slows to the trot, still snorting, still swinging his head one way and the other as it’s lifted as high as he can get it. He glances at me and I step away from him. He slows his trot a bit more and his head comes down, I step further away from him, giving him space to release a little more, and he does. His head comes down, even with his withers and he licks his lips a bit. I step away a little more and then to the side to change his direction. He turns around and trots off, but he notices the hula hoop on the ground, he snorts and veers towards me at the other end of the arena. I quietly move my body and direct him back the other way again. He moves toward the hula hoop, sees it and veers at me again, I use my body position to direct him back the other way again. We do this a few more times and then I decide to try to ask him to weave through the barrels. I look where I want him to go, feel back towards him and ask him to move through the barrels by feeling him already going through them.
He follows my thoughts and does as I ask. I see out of the corner of my eye his head lower and some relaxation in his body. I begin to feel everything I want him to do, and he does it. We weave through the barrels, circle around, weave back, circle again, go towards the hula hoops, circle back. I step over to him, and physically become his leader, he starts to follow me, we circle around the barrels one way, circle back. There are times he slows down and sniffs the barrels, I stop with him and breathe. We move off again, circle the hula hoops, and then back to the barrels, then around, and around again. I lead him back to the hula hoops, we circle them. I’m noticing as we circle them he starts to relax, there is licking of his lips and a few times he chews. I walk in more circles and he relaxes a bit more. He reaches out and sniffs the hula hoops, he sniffs the mounting block and I feel calmness in him. It’s a good feeling and I smile. I walk to him and ask if he wants me to run his energy. He allows me to reach my hand up to the base of his ear and I start running his bladder meridian. He likes it and accepts my energy. His head lowers almost to the ground, as I reach his hocks he yawns and releases. I feel his calmness and my heart relaxes. I leave him there and get his supplements and he eats in peace.
He was nervous again this morning. I know this will take time, and every morning I will probably have dance with him. That’s what it started to feel like yesterday. A dance that weaves us through the places of anxiety. We feel the nervousness come up and do a circle around it. It doesn’t feel so scary when you can walk around the anxiety. The circles seems to unwind the fear, and make it smaller.
Buzz seems to like the circles, I do as well. They calm us, and help us redirect our thoughts, the circles feel loose, round, and soft. They ease us away from the straight lines and hard corners of our fears. Today Buzz and I weaved and circled again.
He didn’t want energy work, but today he rolled. He felt comfortable enough to roll, in the arena, among the barrels, with a hula hoops as our witness. You see, I don’t think it was the hula hoops, the barrels, or the mounting block. I think it was in him, something happened that made him afraid and he put that fear onto something he could see, touch, and circle. I think he is on his way to losing the fear, and I hope I can help him by staying open and letting me see what he needs. I look forward to tomorrow to see what he will show me, and I am honored he is allowing me to help him round up his fears and let them go.