Weird Mare, Natural Horsemanship Past
First, a bit of background. I've been around abused and neglected horses since I was 6, and I've rehabilitated 4 myself. What's going on with this mare is extremely weird to me, as she's not really afraid, in fact for all intents and purposes if you weren't listening to her she would be classified as bombproof. Some people seeing it as trying to mess with a good thing by trying to bring out he real personality, but right now I'm not sure if she even knows what that is.
I have recently purchased an old Tennessee Walker broodmare. She was my first horse that I didn't buy to ride, or that I had an emotional connection with, she was a breeding purchase. She is the daughter of a world grand champion and has some of the best papers I've ever seen. She is built like a refined Appaloosa and colored like one, if she didn't gait I'd swear she was really an App.
I didn't have much time with her the day I reviewed her for purchase. I picked up her feet, waved a bag, checked for vices, etc, but didn't really go to know her personality as a storm was coming. I was told by her former owner she may have had some serious and intensive natural horsemanship training when she was young because she was a bit of a "handful." She stayed in Kentucky for several months before she was brought down here to GA in just the last few weeks.
When she first arrived, I was really surprised how in charge she was, and I totally loved it. My alpha mare is a mean old thing that rules by fear, and she was the only assertive mare I'd ever known for any period of time, so when she was able to assert herself into the herd by standing her ground rather than chasing, biting and kicking, I was pretty excited. She was, personality wise, the picture of what I breed for until I got her into a halter.
As soon as I walked out with a halter, the day after she was let out in the field with the other horses, she stood stock still and evenly on all four legs with her neck parallel to the ground. I stopped, because her movement to this position was so sudden it actually scared my other mare. When I started walking again, she moved away a little, but when she stopped she stood stock still in the same position again (she has never done any showing, and it's an unnatural and uncomfortable looking position if you look at it, for a Walker) and let me catch her. As soon as I was close enough to feel how her attitude was, it was like the horse from the day before was gone. She was completely emotionally closed off.
I lead her around through the forest for about an hour like I do all my new horses or horses I'm working with, some bonding time to try to get to know each other. Generally with the squirrels, gophers, streams, deer and birds, their ears are perked forward and they are engaged with their surroundings and me. This mare, however, was only listening to me. It was like she had blinders on. She wouldn't walk over a log without me asking her to, or step over a stream. I had to give her permission with encouragement, body language, or the lead rope to do anything. Her eyes were glazed over, and she just looked zoned out while walking. This mare had a full health and reproductive workup done before leaving KY, there isn't anything physically wrong with her.
Over the last few weeks, as I've been working with her, it's only become stranger. She is the perfect horse in the field, confident, calm, assertive but not too much, willing, and intelligent. In hand, or even near a human, she stops being an individual and starts becoming a piece of equipment. Almost like she's used to being regarded as an ATV rather than an animal or something other than machinery. I know her last owner, she never rode her, but she said she had similar problems and never could get the mare to open up to her or anyone else. Same with the owner before her, who wanted her as a riding horse, but couldn't stand the emotional deadness she gives off. He believed it was from the owner before him, a man who wanted to be the next Monty Roberts or Clinton Anderson and experimented on his horses. His name isn't on her papers, but I'm trying to track him down.
The thing that I notice the most is that she simply doesn't react to anything. She doesn't ever look interested, whether it's a food bucket, another horse, or a squirrel running directly in front of her if she is on a lead or near a person. If she is off a lead, she reacts as any other good old horse would. It almost feels to me like she doesn't believe she is free to make any sort of choice whatsoever around a human without being given express permission. It feels like if I could just get her to react to something, feel an authentic emotion around a person, I could get a foot hold and get her going. But right now, nothing has worked.
I've met a few horses in my time that seem to have a touch or a full blown case of PTSD. Sometimes, with her, I think she may be one of them.
Any advice? Let me know if you need any more info.