This post should probably go into Life with Horses... but, horsemanship saved my relationship with Tika. It quite possibly saved both our lives.
I don't even know where to begin. After the 'devil horse', I was scared. I still loved horse, yes. But, in all honesty... I was scared sh*tless. And, out of fear, out of a need for self preservation, I made mistake after mistake. It's all so clear now... what I once viewed as unpredictable behavior (of my horses) was in fact totally predictable.
It was April 2012. Exactly one week after our lovely mare Sophie had passed away. I was heart broken. I was angry with Tika. I suspected that he had had something to do with the events that occurred prior to her injuries. I was tempted to call off going to Barrie to participate in a clinic with Chris Irwin. But, in the end, I loaded up Tika and went anyways. The trip down was, although eventful in many ways, smooth as far as the horses were concerned.
We congregated the next morning for a brief meet & greet, before starting lessons. Chris asked each of us to introduce ourselves and the horse we brought, issues we would like to address, or goals we wanted to achieve. After it was determined that the mare he had travelled with would be in the first lesson of the day (and he was not), I piped up and issued fair warning that Tika would have a melt down. Chris was unphazed and said: "Perfect. Then let's all go see Tika and sort that out before we start." Huh? Really?
So, Chris went into Tika's stall and 'talked' to him. Yes, with his voice, too.. but mostly with his body. He got his attention. He held his attention. He made Tika focus. Cool, I thought. He's still gonna lose it when you take that mare away. Never mind, that there's about 5 more horses in the barn. After about 10 minutes or so, Chris asked for the mare to be taken from her stall. He stayed with Tika. Whoa! Stress levels went WAY up (just as expected). Chris remained with him and continued his 'talk' with Tika. Attention. Focus. And, my horse calmed down. The mare came back. Then left again. Came back. And, so on.
Chris then asked Tom Shields, another trainer, to take over... and, looking at me, he said: "You're next"
I watched Tom doing exactly what Chris had done... the mare next door left (and finally got to go do her lesson), then Tom asked me to take over. I did. My horse was antsy, but not panic stricken. Eventually, I left his stall. He became much more agitated... so I returned.
What a concept! Instead of fleeing his stall when he turned into a train wreck... I could step in and actually avert the wreck. What I learned that day, changed my life with horses. It was the first baby step in a long and continuous journey to becoming the benevolent leader my horse so desperately needed and desired.
Tika's last melt down was probably 3 years ago now. If it ever looks like he's gonna lose his cool... I grab a dressage whip and go into his stall. I do exactly what we did that day at the clinic. Nowadays, it takes probably all of 30 seconds for Tika's head to drop, for a sigh, or a yawn.