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Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Unhappy Trails

I'm still very shaken up as I write this, so I apologize if it makes little to no sense.

Let me back up a little...

I had a wonderful trail ride with Mystic and my friend, C, on Saturday.   I opted to ride in my bareback pad because my back was bothering me and the idea of hauling Mystic's new western saddle in and out of my car didn't exactly thrill me.  I actually have been riding her bareback quite a bit and haven't actually tried her new saddle on her yet (for shame).  It's on my to-do list for sure.  Anyway, we had a short ride down the road and my mare was foot perfect. 


Perfect mare is perfect



In sharp contrast to my ride on her last night, which was utterly terrifying.

 
There was a new horse added to the herd yesterday and everyone was a bit more excited than usual.  Mystic didn't really seem too bothered by any of the excitement on the ground. 


I had Apollo's verhan in my car, which Mystic has borrowed a few times.  The fit is decent but not perfect.  I'm hoping once I get everything squared away with her new saddle (I need to buy a pad and cinch for it still also) that she won't really be using it at all.  I decided to ride in it last night, just in case some of the other horses galloping around got her a bit jazzed up under saddle.




I tacked her up and walked over to the mounting block.  She was a bit more hesitant to stand still so we worked on that for a few minutes and got that sorted out.


C and I decided to start our ride by cutting through the hay field.  We do this regularly and it's not a big deal.  There is part of the field that gets a bit mucky and that's the only part that Mystic has ever had issue with (and the issue was pretty minor, she just was a bit tentative about walking through the muckier bits...fair enough).  Last night Mystic felt good at first, a little more forward than usual but nothing major.  C's horse has a slower walk so we had to stop and wait a few times for her to catch up.  This is kind of where things started to unravel.


Mystic would not stand still to wait for C and her horse to catch up.  She would dramatically flail to one side or the other, or start backing up.  I tried to calm her with my voice and checked in with myself (was I doing something different? was I not breathing/being relaxed in my body?).  I did a few circles and got a few mediocre stops.  She started to settle a bit as we got closer to the exit of the hay field.  Then she started spooking and scooting.  I could not figure out what she was looking at.  Sometimes she'd be fixated on staring back at the other horses and sometimes she was staring off into a section of trees across the road.  She spooked so hard a few times that she almost fell down the slight bank into the muckier area. 



I tried really hard to stay relaxed in my body and to calm her down with my voice.  C was pretty concerned for me as Mystic was really not acting like herself at all.  But neither of us could figure out the issue.  I had a very stressful day at the office so I wrote it off as Mystic feeding off my bad vibes at that point.


C and I decided to do a shorter ride (to prevent my imminent death).  We followed the exact path we took on Saturday to play it safe.  I was able to get some more obedient halts and half halts out of Mystic on the way out.  C thought maybe she saw some wildlife or something we couldn't see.  Or perhaps riding when it was a bit darker outside had thrown a wrench into her baby brain.  The sun was just starting to go down and it was very cloudly.  But she lives outside.... so..... ??


On the road out she was ok.  She was better than in the hay field but not quite her usual self.  We saw some deer so Mystic had a small spook at them (they did kind of pop out, to be fair).  When we turned around and headed back towards home... shit completely hit the fan.


She was very forward and started to tune me out.  I tried to keep a sense of humor it and was hoping she would start pacing (which she does randomly when she's jazzed) so C could see how it looks, so I was joking with C about that.  I added some circles and some stops.  I even turned back and headed the other direction a few times.  I had a few obedient moments but I could feel I was losing her brain. 


Then a few vehicles passed by.  This is not new/scary for us usually but I definitely felt a bit unnerved.  I tried to get her to stop as they passed.  She went sideways so hard that we almost hit a barbwire fence.  Then she spooked hard and flew back onto the road...directly in the path of large white van.   The driver was able to stop (obviously, as I am not writing this post from a hospital bed or from beyond the grave) but it was incredibly dangerous.  In that moment I had zero control.  It was probably one of the most terrifying moments I've had in my life.  My hands are shaking as I write about it.



Pic from Saturday, same spot as we were almost hit by a fucking van last night




I dismounted and walked her home.  I'm not going to say that I spoke calmly to her after that.  I was fucking pissed off.  We had a moment where she tried to drag me home...but after some choice words (read: beating) she was fine.  She seemed a lot calmer after I dismounted. 


I am honestly still in shock.  I can't figure out what went wrong.  Was it the excitement of the new horse?  Was the verhan uncomfortable?  Was I carrying more bad vibes after a stressful day than I realized?  I feel like if I could figure out what went wrong, I could fix it.... but I have absolutely no idea.


I held it together well enough to untack her and put her out.  I said goodbye to C and hopped in my car. And then proceeded to cry almost the entire drive from Mystic's place to Henry and Apollo's place.  I was planning to ride Henry but decided that I was too rattled.  I just brushed his tail (aka my zen garden) for a really long time and gave him his dinner.

I've been struggling with a lot of guilt lately about sharing my time between three horses.  Mystic is (was?) my favorite horse to ride.  She carried me so kindly and carefully when I was struggling with anxiety/depression issues in the summer.  I felt like being a horse in regular lessons at a busy barn was a bit stressful for her (although maybe I was projecting! because it was stressful for me) so I planned for her to take over Henry's trail pony gig.  I thought it would be a fun break for us.  But I knew it would be hard for me in some ways - because I wouldn't see her or ride her as much.  I find now that our bond isn't quite as close as when I saw her almost every day.  She is a lot more bonded to other horses than she ever has been before.  But she has been completely awesome for me so far on the trail, up until last night anyhow.

I don't really know where to go from here. I'm definitely going to work on getting her western outfit all set up and she is due for a trim soon.  I'll probably spend a bit more time on some ground work stuff.  I am really hoping this is a one-off ride and I don't need to be afraid to ride my favorite horse.

If we have any more rides like that one, she is going down the road to meet trainer RK (Henry's trainer) if he'll take her or she's coming to the property where the boys live for some Coach D rides/lessons.

Sigh.



47 comments:

  1. That is really fucking scary and I am glad you are both ok :(

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    1. It really was :( But it could have gone much worse, so I guess I'm grateful for that!

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  2. i'm sorry, that sounds horrifying!! hopefully lke you say, it was just a total fluke :( she's so young and green, and is usually such a sweet reliable girl. maybe she just had the wind up her butt? or a serious case of the fall friskies?

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    1. I am still pretty rattled, it was scary as hell! It's really out of character for her, but I will definitely be on my toes for the next few rides. Hopefully it never happens again...ever!! :)

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  3. If it makes you feel any better at all, Boca did this to me once. My rock-solid, go anywhere trail horse, THAT I RODE IN A PARADE WITH LIGHTS, SIRENS, FLOATS, MINIs PULLING CARTS, A MARCHING BAND, ETC one day randomly lost his shit over cows. In a field. Oh and did I tell you we had been cow sorting in the past??? Yeah. Tail in the air like an Arabian, shitting himself, and spun into the road in front of oncoming traffic.

    The good news is, it was a one time thing and never happened again. Just a WTF day.

    Hopefully this is Mystic's One Bad Day. If not, sounds like you have a plan in place to address it. Good for you!

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    1. Ok thank you, that actually does make me fee a lot better. Mystic is like the most chill horse I have ever ridden and I was in complete shock yesterday! I guess if it's only going to happen the once I can live with that XD

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  4. I'm so sorry you had that experience. I'm terrible at working through things on the trail, if I have to escalate issues to teach a lesson in the arena, that's okay, but throw in hard surfaces, barbed wire, holes, and traffic, and I end up walking on eggshells. Your story does sound really unnerving.

    It sounds like you have a good plan of attack going forward. Brush it off as a one-off thing for now, but make sure all your tack is good, and have a plan for if it's not a one-time thing. My only other suggestion is to keep her moving when you go on the trail if she's that tense. Make sure that you have control by doing circles, changes of direction, speeding up/slowing down, etc, but I find that getting a horse to halt completely and stand on the trail sometimes does more harm than good. Also that way you have a bit more control of which direction she goes if she does spook. Good luck!

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    1. Yeah so many variable to worry about on the trail! I think when vehicles started coming I lost a lot of my composure and relaxation :( I agree, I don't think coming to a complete stop was a great idea. I think I'll try to do more large circles next time (although I hope there isn't a next time!)

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  5. That is really unnerving and it doesn't take much to lose trust in your mount...Don't fret too much just yet. She is still young and some times these sort of days just happen, not that its fun for you. With it being a first, there are soo many variables it would drive you crazy trying to figure it out so try not to overly think about it.

    My best advice, and the hardest thing to do is to wait it out and go on business as usual (its so hard because you want answers now - I am the same!). Go out and do what you normally do and if it continues then you can start eliminating factors.

    Major hugs to you and I am glad both of you are ok. You will figure this out and it will make the two of you stronger.

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    1. Thanks for the hugs and wise words! I'm hoping to ride again this weekend (weather permitting). If I can get a good ride or two in the books I will feel a lot better about all of it :)

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  6. That's terrifying about the van! I don't blame you at all for feeling rattled. Horses, just like us can have bad days. The weather is changing and I know with mine that can lead to more spooking and freshness. Maybe give her a chance to get the freshies out before your next ride either with a lunge or romp in the field. If you're feeling apprehensive, it might not hurt to try and get Coach D to sit on her and give her a confident ride.

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    1. It was so scary :( I hope it was just an off day/weather silliness issue. There will definitely be lunging in our future!

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  7. I am so very glad that everything was alright. That is a horrible situation to be in and your are totally justified in being scared. My only advice is take plenty of time to get your confidence back and don't feel the need to push through your fear. *hugs*

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    1. Thanks, it was very terrifying. Going to take some baby steps for sure until I feel safe again :)

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  8. Man, I'm so glad you're okay! That sounds terrifying. I will admit that I refuse to ride on roads. If I have to be on a road as part of a trail loop I get off and walk. I know some riders think it's unnecessary, but I just don't feel safe (after hearing a couple of stories like yours). *hugs* I hope you start feeling a little less rattled as the week goes on - it's such a shitty feeling to have a scare and lose some confidence in your horse.

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    1. I felt really glad I was wearing my helmet as hitting the pavement seemed like a real possibility. Nothing wrong with hopping off to walk, better safe than sorry for sure! I think that will be me for a while now.

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  9. Awww I'm sorry you had a bad ride!! They can't all be great, and the situation with the van sounds scary!
    Hopefully it was just a one off bad ride out which is enivitable when it comes to horses. Hugs

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    1. I seriously thought that was it for me for a moment there! Trying just to write it off as a bad day and hopefully there aren't anymore.

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  10. My rides are ridiculously silly right now too...obviously not the same level of scary but one of the normally very well behaved babies I ride had a moment of spooking at the manure pit outside the area and ran into/over and demolished a nearby oxer and all the associated groundlines and fill. Then spooked at that. I posted yesterday about Bridget's insanity too. It's the cooler weather, I think. Can you longe a bit before heading out?

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    1. Oh geez! Spookiness is in the air right now I guess! That sounds scary too. I think there will be some lunging for sure in Mystic's future haha!

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  11. Grateful to hear you both were okay in the end and that nothing worse ended up happening ): I think your thoughts about a bond deteriorating because of lack of time are worth considering- I've noticed the same with my mare when I boarded her almost an hour away and my work schedule made it impossible to drive to the barn during the week. What I ended up doing before our trail rides was a quick groundwork review. Quest is smart so she gets bored and then frustrated doing the same thing over and over again so I don't over drill. All I am looking for from the review is a quick reminder "Hey, I'm here and you need to listen up." Maybe that could be something worth trying with Mystic too

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    1. Yeah I think I will be putting some time in to re-establish our bond and her respecting me a bit more. It's a little tricky as I know the lady I board with wants to ride when I get there but I think even 10/15 mins of extra handling/groundwork would be a good start. I'm going to make time to see her more often too. Try to nip this behavior in the bud! Thanks for your wisdom, hopefully me and Mystic will be back to normal soon :)

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  12. That would be terrifying! I'm glad that you're okay. It probably was a mix of cooler weather and young brain. There could have been some predators around too.

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    1. It was terrifying for sure! I hope it's not a re-occuring problem as I'm pretty sure that aged me like 20 years D:

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  13. Oh man, that is NOT a fun type of ride and we've all been there. Glad you are both OK, despite being rattled and upset. Hopefully this was a one time thing!

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    1. It was so bad! :( Yes we are both lucky that we weren't hurt. I sure hope it never happens again!

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  14. Oh. My. Goodness. I would have responded in all of the ways you did. All of them. This post resounds so strongly with me because of that! I hope she's less witchy very soon. Things WILL get better.

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  15. Oh man that is scary, glad you're ok. Lou does the same thing to me occasionaly where her brain just quits the building. The lines of communication just disappear. I'm not near a good enough rider or trainer to ride through it so I will ask for the simplest thing (usually some relaxed walking & trotting in big easy circles) then quit & wrote it off as a bad day.
    With her it's caused by her seperation anxiety, & removing the cause of the problem (ie: Whinney, who she gets hyper attached to) is the best way to prevent it (& by that I mean paddocking them separately - out of sight & hearing).

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    1. Yeah it was so scary! I think the next ride we will exit the property away from the other horses (where we can't see them) and hopefully Mystic will behave like a proper horse again. I suspect some subtle separation anxiety is one of the culprits.

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  16. Wow scary! I'm glad you are okay! She is young and mix fall with the excitement in the day of a new horse and then her maybe deciding there were trolls out there was all just too much! I am dealing with fall friskies myself at home and it sure makes things interesting! My quiet little herd in the backyard has turned into firebreathing dragons running around and 'playing' a lot more.

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    1. It was so scary! I would expect more of that crap from Apollo (who is naturally a more hot type of horse), I'm just kind of shocked as she has always been so quiet. :( Hopefully she got her sillies out and is done with that foolishness :)

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  17. Aw, poo.

    Sorry to hear about that.

    Sometimes babies like to go stupid for no reason in particular - hopefully that was just the case and she will be better behaved next time.

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    1. It was not a good day :( I hope it was just a baby brain moment and I never have a ride like that on her again!

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  18. That's really scary! I'm glad everything ended up OK but wow. Hopefully this was just a one off type of thing and you won't have to deal with this again! My one guy is completely unflappable while my old semi retired guy is usually OK but occasionally pulls enough crap to scare me... Go figure...

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    1. It was very scary :( I would have expected this a bit more from my older gelding too actually, he's quite a dramatic guy sometimes haha. Hopefully Mystic is back to her usual good pony self soon :)

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  19. Well, I'm glad you're alive and nothing actually happened, but that's very scary. I hate riding on the road for that reason.

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    1. Yeah I won't be riding on the road for a while! It definitely could have been a lot worse of an outcome, so I'm grateful for that at least.

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  20. It's always scary when you feel like you have no control. Glad you're both okay though. It might have been just a bad day with cooler weather and something got her nervous. Hopefully, it was a one time thing and she'll be fine the next time out.

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    1. Yeah having no control and seeing those headlights coming towards me will haunt me for a long time! Hopefully it's a one off.

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  21. My heart was thumping in my chest reading this because I too had this ride once. On Lily. When I had had her for less than 6 months. Like Mystic, she was also very green, and had bonded very strongly with the horses in her field. Due to the boarding circumstances, I also was not the center of her universe anymore; it was the boss mare in the herd. All of these fed into her behavior on this one particular day. It was an enormous setback for both of us because, like Mystic too, she had always been such a good, quiet horse on trail prior to that event. It was so bad she almost fell on the pavement with me on her.

    Don't let it discourage you. *hug* Herd dynamics feed soooo much into their behavior! And I think your plans going forward are all very solid. You got this. ❤️

    Note: your thoughts about dusk + overcast day are spot-on! Horses see great at night and during the day, but that gray time of dusk and dawn are iffy for them. They really don't see well because there is no contrast. When I took jumping lessons, they often ended up being at dusk during the winter months and there were significantly more refusals and run-outs when the light was dim, regardless of each horse's normal performance over fences. So this could very well have fed into Mystic's behavior, but I do think you're right that she needs to re-establish her bond with you: she should still be able to function mentally even when the light is dim, to check in with you for guidance. You're on the right track!

    I'm so glad you're both okay!

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    1. I am definitely not the center of Mystic's universe anymore, I have some work to do for sure :) I wish I could have gone out and ridden the next day but sadly I wont' get out there until tomorrow. What did you do with Lily to get her focused more on you rather than on herd dynamics? :)

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    2. It was a long road with Lily. Circumstances changed after that event in such a manner that I returned to the barn where I had boarded at previously, which allowed me to do everything for Lily again. But I encountered the same problem again when we moved to MD and Lily was at a full-care barn that only offered stall board (12 hrs out, 12 hrs in). My one responsibility was to ride her, and so I was soon seen as kind of the enemy that would pull her away from her limited time with her friends. She would run from me in the field and lose her mind if I happened to be riding her at turnout time. It was awful. And then she injured herself (3 years ago) which had me going to the barn twice a day to work with her/treat her. My role changed to that of the person that took her out of prison that (her stall), and soon I was getting nickers of greeting for the first time ever! I had strict orders to drug her before riding once we started under saddle rehab work, and that's how I got brave enough to start taking her out on the trail by myself. I slowly weaned her off of the sedative until I was riding a sober mare that was on stall rest at a relaxed walk on the trails, something which had seemed an impossible feat prior! After that, I found her a barn that offered field board (I know you already have Mystic in this type of set-up  ), where she could be outside all the time with friends and there was no routine other than the one I provided her. It seems backwards for a horse that used to be so herd-bound, but it worked: since she was outside with her friends all the time, it lost its novelty. And while she would periodically get attached to specific horses in her herd, it didn't affect her relationship with me. (Along the way, I also discovered that she does better in mare-only herds, or if there are geldings, they need to be of the completely asexual type that won't mount mares. She gets hyped on hormones if there are geldings that tease mares in her field.) I made a point of going out to visit her even when I didn't plan on riding her, which was sometimes a hike after work, since the barn was not en route home. But this also helped: I would show up in the field and she would come to me of her own accord and I would groom her without putting a halter on her and sometimes give her a treat or two. Miles on trail under saddle did the rest. She was a peculiar horse in many ways because we did SO much ground work, and while it made a huge difference in her confidence in me on the ground, it did nothing for her confidence in me under saddle. I literally had to just go out and ride to get her to trust my direction with me on her back. Lily still gets infatuated with certain horses, and if she gets attached to a buddy horse at an endurance ride it can sometimes be a challenge to get her to relax and eat, but she defers to me first. She'll leave the object of her infatuation in her field to come to me, and if she is stressed at an endurance ride, she will usually settle to a degree for me and only me.

      Basically, it took following my gut, lots of riding, turning my presence in her life into a positive disruption of her routine, and time. And determination! Most people would have given up on Lily a long time ago. She is an unusual horse. Gracie is more typical about every 6 months or so, I need to take some time to re-establish groundwork with her or she gets pissy under saddle. Groundwork is Gracie's re-set button: it makes her respect you BOTH on the ground and under saddle, and also helps her bond with you as her person. But Gracie is a different personality as well: she is very independent in the herd and while she makes friends, she doesn't get attached to them to the point of distraction. She loves people too much!

      I don't think you'll have anywhere near as long or complicated of a journey with Mystic as I did with Lily. I love all of your ideas for moving forward, and they are exactly what I would do if I had your same options! Start with the groundwork review and take it from there. :)

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  22. Oh my gosh, that is so scary! I'm so glad you are both okay.

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    1. It really shook me up! We are okay and I think I've found the solution now too :)

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  23. Oh man, I'm so glad that you're okay! That is so scary!!!

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    1. Me too! Yes it definitely was not a fun day :(

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