[TL; dr version: high-strung mare got super crazy in windy arena. What's your opinion of hopping off, untacking, grazing her, and then riding again after she's quiet?]
I'm curious about how other people would have handled this situation. I lease a high strung 9 year old OTTB mare. She and I are establishing a reasonably solid relationship - the way Dutch works, it's going to take time!
But hey, she threw her last rider almost every week, and so far we are actually developing a good, solid foundation together (with a lot of groundwork, a bit of hand -- hoof? -- holding, and an occasional carrot).
Anyway, Sunday was a crazy windy day at our barn, so I figured she wouldn't be super thrilled. Dutch spooks at a lot of things, including the back door of our arena because scary things are obviously waiting to kill her there; however, she was very quiet in the cross ties so I figured I'd give it a try. As soon as I got on, though, it was clear that she was really uneasy in the arena. I don't blame her: once we were inside, the roof was making some really weird sounds like there were animals skittering across the top...not fun!
We couldn't even go halfway down the wall without Dutch getting anxious, and she had some major spooks (not "spook in place" spooks, but "bolt sideways and run like something's going to kill us both" spooks). I tried a few different things to keep her feet moving and her eyes off the rear door, like working mini-circles and turns closer to the arena entry, but she was so agitated that I could barely keep her together more than a few steps before she'd spook again, more intensely than before. Normally, after one spook-and-correction, she figures out that there's just no point fussing when I'm in the saddle. This time, though, I don't really think she could listen (but see my note below about whether I was cutting her too much slack?). Plus, I realized that despite myself, my adrenaline was pumping after the fourth or fifth equine panic attack - so I dismounted.
I took her back into the barn (where she remained very wound up), untacked her, and took her out to graze and calm down while another leaser rode her horse. Once the arena cleared out, I decided to tack her up again with a goal to ride for 10 minutes, max, but have those 10 minutes be quiet. I also wanted the whole experience to end on a super-positive note for her, so I filled a bucket full of carrots and grain and left it at the back door. And we rode, at a walk, in the front half of the arena. We did a lot of circles, diagonals, and coming down the center line in both directions. I wouldn't say she was relaxed, but she was quieter, and we even managed to do one full half circle of the arena where she wasn't twisting her head off her neck trying to keep an eye on the rear door. So I got off after that. :)
I untacked her and let her run and roll around for a few minutes then lured her back towards the barn door with the bucket 'o goodies. She hesitated, of course, but before long she was munching the food right by the door and finished it all before she scooted away. We had a quick wash-down with the hose which she enjoyed (after she tried to run straight through a couple of other riders on the way out of the arena, when we all thought she'd calmed down), and that was it.
Do you think it was ok to handle the situation that way? I'm worried that in her mind, she might have "won," but she was so **** terrified of the wind and the crazy noises that things were making on the roof that I was afraid she'd hurt us both. I figured not letting it end after the first ride (which was awful!) was good enough...but I readily admit that I was really winging it. I'd really like to know what you think and what you'd have done! Thanks in advance.