A note from the Editor:
Here at Cayuse Communications, we’ve been thinking about our community of horse owners and riders. How best to come together and share during this time? We’ve reached out to friends to see how they are making lemonade from lemons and coping with the strains of the pandemic. Read more here.
The pandemic isn’t going away. Neither are our giveaways.
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This week, six months into the pandemic, we hear from Debbie Hight. She is a BHPS board member, horse owner, and occasional guest columnist for Cayuse Communications. She writes from her home in Maine, where she is caring for barnyard and, during much of the pandemic was homeschooling her 10 year-old grandson.
The weekly newsletters from Cayuse Communications have been a source of information and friendship, especially during these strange days. We contributors, I think, have seen our horses as signs of comfort and normalcy.
In May, I wrote about the accident my grandson, William, had on Roxy that resulted a trip to the hospital and seven stitches. Lucky. But the damage went far deeper for all three of us. We did a lot of walking and groundwork after the accident and an occasional ride with a lead line. A subsequent ride, outside, on a lead line and with reassurances that Roxy won’t do anything while on a line, proved me wrong and she shied at something/nothing.
William got off and happily walked her home, but time in the saddle was over. My confidence was shaken as well. She’s been my forever horse of 17 years (she is currently 23). As a brand new rider at age 50, I had bought her and we had done everything from trail rides to lessons and more. Now I was scared of her.
Earlier this spring, I thought about getting another horse; one that I could ride along with William and to apply my increasing understanding of horsemanship. Then I discovered that, in fact, I had a new horse and her name was Roxy.
After the outside spooking episode, I was concerned that there was something physically wrong with her. My horseman friend, Rob Rowbottom, willingly rode her and said that while she seemed a little concerned, she felt as she always had under saddle. A visit by Dr. Cynthia Reynolds, a vet/chiropractor/acupuncturist, confirmed her good health.
Good news, but I still was scared.
In several conversations with horsewoman Amy Skinner, who knows my horse well, we came up with very little. “I wish I knew,” she said. An honest and valid comment, particularly since she is 1,000 miles away from me. Amy suggested I contact West Taylor who has a lot of experience with troubled horses. I really respect Amy and I know West from the previous Best Horse Practices Summit.
I sent West a two-cups-of-coffee-length email, describing the events of the spring. We then chatted by phone for nearly an hour. He said “I don’t really know.” (This seems to be the theme of 2020) He continued, “Maybe it was increased anxiety from only being ridden by a 10-year old. Maybe it was the saddle slipping. Maybe give my videos a try.” Learn more.
So, I signed up for six months and began my journey through his videos. While my time has been interrupted by summer activities with family, I have learned a lot about safety. Prior to this, I had done a lot of groundwork with Roxy. But when you are open to learning, you see things from a different perspective.
West’s videos gave me some different ideas and, in my work with my horse, I started to sense some calm for both of us. Plus, the groundwork was an added bonus for the hot days of summer (yes, even here in Maine).
I continued to read and listen to things like this article on Polyvagal Theorgy, this feature on Tackling Fear, and Amy Skinner’s post on understanding and respecting the horse and yourself. In addition, I consulted Jec Ballou‘s “55 Corrective Exercises for Horses” and had support from Maddy Butcher and a host of other friends.
I decided that it was ok to be afraid, to not have to put on my “big girl breeches,” and to take things slowly.
We have spent lots of hours just walking in hand. (To my delight, I recently learned from Ballou that walking in hand might be the perfect exercise both physically and emotionally.)
Eventually, it became easy to get back on her in the arena. It felt just like the days before the accident and riding was fun again. Then I put a saddle on her while outside and we rode some and walked some. I know that the journey to good horsemanship is never over and my last six months with Roxy have shown just that.