I logged in only for a moment to scold you. You ruined my morning! ;) Iíve accomplished nothing because I read your book, and now I need to get to work.
Anyways, I loved it. It was your best work yet.
Congratulations on a great book.
Thank you! I appreciate that you read it!!
Thank you for adding to my mile-high pile of quality reading material,
, how on earth do you do it? It takes me at least two days to read a book...
I am sure we all read way too much. It's much better for our brains than what a lot of other people do with theirs though...
The recent discussions have got me thinking and wondering about associations, emotional associations that is...
...I wondered if Hero, in his past, was asked to do new things which led to scary experiences for him, so that now, he is actually afraid if he doesn't know yet what he is being asked to do, or where it will lead.
It's interesting, and seems complex to figure out what motivates horses. They are definitely all different. The TB I was riding the other day, Nickel is conditioned heavily to respond to forward cues. So several times we stopped to look at scary things, and twice I felt his heart pounding so obviously he was afraid. Elk kept crossing our path or popping out of the bushes. But when he'd stop, I would give a squeeze with my legs, which apparently I am in the habit of doing this even though in my experience a "stalled out" horse is going to just stand there anyway.
What was disconcerting was that when I squeezed, Nickel would immediately start forward. Then I was like, "Hold on a minute, are you sure you're ready?" It made me realize I am always asking horses to go forward when they stop to look at scary things, but I don't actually expect them to continue on until they are in the right frame of mind. Nickel was going to obey, whether that meant he was ready to face the scary things or not! That is strange to me, and means I better be prepared myself if I am asking him to go, since he's going to rely on my judgment.
Something that makes Hero difficult to assess is that most of the time he does not seem afraid. I'm not just relying on other horses and their reactions to judge whether Hero is afraid, but on his own responses when he is afraid. When he is afraid, he has pretty normal responses such as head up, nostrils flaring, tense body/staring at what concerns him, unwillingness to move toward that object. This is in contrast to when I believe he is not afraid, but rather unhappy.
For example, he does not seem afraid to leave behind horses in the fields in order to walk away from them with me. If I lead him out, he'll be alert and want to go see what we are doing. If we go to graze, or do something interesting, he will have no concerns. But most of the time his more extreme reactions seem not related to fear, but to unhappiness or over-excitement (anxiety?). For example, if a horse picks up the canter on the beach and goes by him he will often buck. I don't think he is afraid, but he seems unhappy either that they are passing him in that manner or that he thinks they may run off faster than he can follow. To me that seems less like fear and more like unhappiness or anxiety.
It seems that he has emotional associations about certain things that make him upset. He can stay in that upset state for a long time. But it doesn't seem like fear to me. It's more like he has made a decision, and anything contrary to that decision is upsetting to him. If he decides he should stop and graze, then anything that is not stopping and grazing is going to become a problem.
When I first got Amore, if anything made her afraid she would panic and start bucking. What I had to do was get her to stop the bucking, starting with a few seconds. Once I got a few seconds of lessened panic, I built on that. To me the feeling is almost the same with Hero, except it's not fear that is getting him upset, but rather unhappiness or frustration. This he doesn't tolerate the same way Amore didn't tolerate the fear. So I think I have to work on having him tolerate feeling frustrated, until he can cope with it and give me longer stretches where he does not feel the need to act up due to those emotions.
It would be impossible to avoid frustrating him, because his threshold is very low. Amore would fear/panic from the tiniest things like the breeze against her tail, a donkey braying on a nearby farm, or the rattle of a ladder. Similarly, Hero has strong reactions to the smallest things, and ones that are necessary for simple ridden work.
I have a theory about how he might have been conditioned this way. Judging by his physical appearance, he had dealt with the locking stifles for a long time. People with chronic pain often have this "short fuse" because they use up so many endorphins and so much mental focus dealing with the pain. Anything beyond that can be too much for them to cope with and can cause overly strong reactions. Hero was in chronic pain for a long time. He probably developed this habitual response during that time. Now he has to relearn how to cope with things in a less dramatic way, so hopefully I can teach him how.
Hero does not seem to associate me with negative things. He always nickers loudly when I come to the field, and usually comes to greet me. Last night I let the horses out to graze, and Nala and Amore ignored me but Hero came back to sniff at me and see what I was doing. He's always willing to be caught and to go out, and actually much better about that than when I first got him.