Is my mare traumatised?
I'm after a little advice, whilst I have a plan of action somewhat sussed, I figure you can't go wrong with outside perspective that could help! Sorry it's long, I apologise in advance.
My mare Honey and I were in a freak accident two years ago where I shattered my leg. I've barely ridden over the last two years because of ongoing rehab but got back into the swing of things in January. We were going well again until I ended up on crutches and just as I was about to get back up... we had the 6.3 devastating earthquake here in Christchurch, New Zealand. You can imagine that the animals as well as people have been pretty darn stressed out! Honey coped okay... she was quite stressed in the first few days because she now grazes at the back of the property without company in reach as after selling my gelding she's now alone... but its been three weeks now and the aftershocks have lessened off... (although you can never be too sure it's "over" for awhile - we had a 7.1 last Sept too... sigh.) so, despite being injured in the quake (was thrown to the ground and my metal rod pushed forward in my leg/knee and bruised it badly), I decided I'd had enough waiting and wanted to ride.
The reason isn't EQ related, although it could be something I need to consider. We normally ride in the paddock she's grazing in the moment, and I like to separate "work from home" with horses as much as I can. So I set up another place to ride in out the back of my other paddock and lunged her in there the other day to make sure she was okay. Although she's stiff through one shoulder, she wasn't unsound and so I thought a good old plod would be fine for us both. The place where I decided to ride her was where I took my fall two years ago.
She was quite sensitive, as the wind was up and it was my first time mounting off a bathtub since she's using my mounting block (a spare water tub) for her water. Walked her down to the area and then got her to stop baby stepping and walk out properly... she calmed down and started to sneeze and offered to soften at the mouth. However she then started scooting passed an area and I became confused, the person with me commenting on how she kept eyeballing it as well. She seemed calm at the same time, so I didn't think too much of it, making a point of putting my leg on and pushing her through it. After the fourth time, it dawned on me it was the spot where I had fallen off and had laid for some time waiting for the ambulance. I hadn't been thinking of it... I mean I knew it was going to be an interesting ride because we hadn't been out there in two years under saddle (she grazes out there often), but I was thinking more so because it was a "new" area to ride in.
I decided to push her forward into the trot so she'd have to focus on that. Except that's when the trouble started. She tried to wobble about (she's a Standardbred and ex pacer) which she doesn't really do under saddle unless confused. So I asked her again and she started to go side ways and argue with me, throwing her head around etc. Now I'm a nervous rider and this behaviour is something she's never really done. She's one of the bravest horses I know... and takes really good care of me so I don't fall off her again. She's really careful, so for her to throw a tanty like that, I was shocked. I was unsure at the time what more to do than assure her it was okay and keep asking but she got more and more vocal so to speak about not doing it. Even in the past where her shoulder was stiff she had never reacted like this. It got to the point where she started leaping on her front end and refusing to go forward. I tried to reason with her and she tried to back up. I growled at her to not do such a thing (growling usually gets her to stop with her mare tantrums and get on with it - obviously I'm aware this was more than a typical event!) and instead she threw herself half up. That was enough for me... with a still injured leg that had not enough strength for such a battle, I felt horrible, but I hopped off. Once I was off I noticed the look in her eye and she started trembling. I gathered my stuff and took her back to where I normally ride and she calmed down. I didn't have enough strength to get back up, so I lunged her, and she wasn't showing major signs of soreness, and trotted on both reins happily.
Our previous accident has caused problems with a couple of less experienced riders... have had a couple of other people on her where she bolted on them in blind fear, as they've dropped her in a point where she needed them to reassure her and she's lost them on a sharp turn (she's still green under saddle but usually a horse you can trust to look after everyone)... whilst our accident was different and involved another horse, she reacted the same as she had on me and the riders fell off whilst she stood in the corner in fear. I realised awhile ago that she had been traumatised from it as much as I had... but with all our leaps and bounds and her absolute excitement for work recently, I thought we were both pushing through our demons.
My thoughts on today are conflicting... and so I have put together a plan of action...
- Ride her again in usual paddock and see if she will trot out comfortably there or not.
- If not, get the chiropractor out and then do a series of elimination - saddle/dentist etc.
My main concern is, what do I do if it is that particular paddock and she's freezing up? I don't have the best of confidence in the world, and whilst I trust in my horse, I don't trust in my leg to cope with being jolted about the place and I'm not all that effective if I'm back on crutches. She's obese and that was one of the reasons I started riding her in January, to help her lose weight, and myself... and fell back in love with riding her. She's gained most of what she lost back again despite being on lock up grass wise... simply because lunging her isn't doing enough.
My Mum suggested it could be to do with the weather and earthquakes, as we are on alert for another sizeable quake to hit us this weekend (prediction based on the supermoon, but that's a whole different story!!) and said a couple of other horses were acting up when I was riding... but I don't know whether I can base it on that.
Any thoughts? Does it seem very plausible that she's still traumatised? Is it possible that even though I hadn't even been thinking of it consciously, my body perhaps triggered something to make her react? I believe my horse remembers what that day was like, having watched her react the same way in the past with the other riders... but for her to see the spot and remember it all... I feel like some horse people here will tell me I'm putting my own emotions onto her.
I'm not sure how well I'll cope with having to keep pushing through to get her to cope with out there if she's going to rear etc on me. I'm wondering if I got a more abled and balanced friend to really ride her and get her going for me, if we could reface this problem again without rearing? I don't know if its anything I'm doing wrong... but I always prefer to put the blame on myself than say its all on the horse. She was clearly trying to tell me something, I'm just struggling to figure out what it was!
Thanks if you can help me in anyway!!
♥ Seoul Searchin' for the Lovebug ♥