Archive for April, 2012

Overcoming Fear and Pain in a Horse

This is something that is definitely easier said than done. And often people, even horse people, mistake fear or pain for defiance and meanness.



When I talked to this little girl a few days ago, it was hard to even get her to open up at first. She was very mistrusting and fearful, so having someone start talking to her who she couldn’t see was a pretty scary thing. She never did reveal her true, underlying personality because she was “flat” emotionally from her past experiences and dealings with humans. But she did show me lots of mental pictures and convey lots of feelings and ideas about why she behaves as she does.

I was called in to talk to this four-year-old filly because she spooked, shied, bolted, and bit—to the extreme. She had been bought from two “horse traders” not too many months ago, as a three-year-old who had been started at two, and nothing more was known about her background. Her new owner was very badly injured in an accident soon after getting her, when the filly spooked and bolted out from under her. She’d been hand-walked ever since (2-1/2 hours a day), but exhibited the same behavior even then, plus was now biting at her owner while they walked.

Not a pretty picture. Her owner was understandably afraid to ride her again, and was getting shoved and knocked around considerably by the filly during their walks. Both owner and horse were now afraid, so the filly had no strong leader to trust—a must in a horse’s natural life.

A four-year-old is still basically a baby horse, and if they’ve had a rough start like this girl, that young age is doubly stacked against them. This filly did show me that she had once been a normal, happy, frolicking foal, which gave me hope that that basic personality could still be resurrected. She showed me a traumatic weaning, very rough handling, and that she had extreme pain and restriction in her neck, which seemed to cut off neurological and circulatory function to the extent that her peripheral vision was restricted. So things coming into her vision “from the wrong place,” suddenly and unexpectedly, caused much of her spooking. Horses, being prey animals, can see peripherally almost all the way behind them, and that’s where predators come from. So it’s no wonder she freaked out all the time. And she said she was biting because her head was being jerked on, and it hurt!

Her owner, who had never consulted with an animal communicator before, and who was a novice horse-person, wanted me to explain things to the filly and simply tell her how she needed to behave. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, though many people think it must be. It is assumed that if you can talk to an animal, you can just tell them what to do, how to be, not to be afraid, etc. No. You can’t override fear or pain via intellectual explanation. I have a bad back, and if someone told me to simply ignore the pain and carry on normally when I’m in the middle of an extreme episode, I would think they were both nuts and lacking compassion. I think it’s the same with animals. They might hear us tell them “everything is okay,” but until we can provide concrete help that engenders trust and relief, no change will occur.

For this baby I recommended much shorter walks in-hand, a non-invasive technique of body work called Ortho-Bionomy, and trainer Carolyn Resnick’s at-liberty approach designed to appeal to a horse in the horse’s own “language,” thereby building trust and confidence in both horse and owner.

When I have a session like this, no matter how detached and emotionally clear I try to stay, it always pains me to have to sign off, knowing that things could go either way. Sometimes I get feedback later; sometimes I don’t. And horses like this filly, who are in a state of pain and mistrust, are dangerous animals who often end up being passed around and suffering more and more abuse due to lack of understanding.

I hope and pray in this case that this little girl gets the help she needs, and that her human companions won’t continue to write off her behavior as intentional aggression.

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