Thursday, March 25, 2010

Life's funny

When I first realized that I was "afraid" of Denali I didn't tell anyone. I would go to the barn and groom her and when asked if I was riding I'd give an excuse. I was full of them, and they all fit the situation. It's been a year. It's getting old. I'm getting old and it isn't going to get better.

When I went to the barn on Wednesday someone (sorry I can't remember who) said that I need to throw the switch back on. I laughed, but they're right. I still remember the few short moments that lead up to this. Hilariously, none of them involved riding and all of them happened in a three week period of time.

Day 1 back in the United States (actually Day 2, but first full day....rambling sorry) and Ophie's mom drove me out to the prison that my horse was being kept in. O's mom was trying to explain to me what the place was REALLY like. She didn't own Ophie at that point, and wanted to leave, but couldn't...not yet. Denali was the thing I dreamed about for 5 months. I fantasized about her, I couldn't WAIT to see her. I hadn't heard a lot about how she was doing due to our lack of phone. I had gotten e-mail tid-bits here and there. I was beyond BEYOND excited to see her. It had been 5 LONG months and I longed for her smell, for her little quirks, to be with her again. I ran to her stall, ignoring the fact that the barn was a piece of shit.

I opened her stall and she looked so different. Her eyes were angry, and it almost looked like no horse was behind them. She was eating and lunged at me when I went into her stall. I was stupid and jumped back out without reprimanding her. I was shocked. One of the people at the barn stood there telling me that she had lost a lot of weight due to the stress of the snow storm that Seattle had last year. I couldn't check her that night because it was really late, and I didn't know the barn well enough of where I could take her to check her out. The next day I went to get her, opened her stall and she turned and double barrel kicked me. I was still totally shocked, but hit her butt with the end of the lead rope. She turned and I got her lead rope on her. We walked out of the stall and she tried to take off running. I pulled back, and she started to rear up. I yanked her, and she came down and then started bucking around me. She was wild and unruly. I kept thinking that this wasn't what I signed up for. I started backing her down the aisle way towards the round pen. I couldn't let her walk forward, she's freak out.

I somehow got her into the round pen. I was sweaty. She was sweaty. It was 10 degrees and January. It was MAYBE 50 feet from her stall. I somehow got her blanket off of her. I don't know how I did it. One of my friends held her, but it wasn't easy. She kept moving. When I got her blanket off I was shocked. She had no muscle tone. Her neck looked horrible, she looked horrible. I started to cry. I could count all of her ribs (easily, not TB counting) and the guilt set in. I should have taken pictures, I should have done something. I didn't know what to do. I knew I needed to feed her. I assumed that she hadn't been fed, her water had been frozen over. It was a horrible, HORRIBLE three weeks. She took out the arena wall, she broke out of her fence at night, ate 8 other horses breakfast and I got into it with the owner because she wanted me to pay for it (I asked her to fix the fence at least three times) I couldn't let her run anywhere because there was no real turn out. I moved her then. We found my current barn and I'm not sure where we'd be without my trainer. I need to remember this when I get frustrated with her. She came to my barn and loaded my horse. I was crying too hard, I couldn't do it. I was terrified of her. I have referenced this experience several times in this blog, but those three weeks totally changed our relationship. She was depressed, angry, and sick. I was excited and then all that excitement was quickly deflated. She's back to normal. She's happy, she's healthy, she's normal. I want to feel the way I felt about her on the way out to that hell hole my first day back in Seattle.


Anonymous said...

That's a very sad story - it sounds like she's coming back and so can you, I hope, with the help of your trainer. Give it a try as see what happens.

Rachel said...

When is the last time you have ridden her? What does her Leasee do with her when she rides? I know you got her at an auction and I'm just curious as to her level of training.

Laura Maynard said...

I've only recently started folowing your blog but that is definitely a rough beginning and plenty of reason to be wary of Denali. I'm glad you are both happy with the new barn. Just take it day by day, happiness in the saddle will come. Maybe you can spend a relaxing time with some grooming, tack up and walk one lap of the ring. Each day add an extra lap and before you know it, you and Denali will be having a blast working toghether.

Oh, and I'm falling your breathable hind boot search. My mare really needs to go out with turnout boots but our last pair wasn't breathable enough and were too snug; caused a tendon injury which took a long time to heal. Good luck!

Denali's Mom said...

Rachel, the last time I rode her was a few weeks ago. The day I came off. I got back on and rode after I came off, but my back has been healing and so no riding yet.

Her leasee is awesome. Denali has a solid walk, trot, canter (although if I remember correctly, she needed some work on the trot/canter transition) and Denali gets ridden 5 days a week. That's great for her mentally and physically.

I'd say she's beyond green broke now, but not broke. (is there something in between?) If I was going to sell her (which won't be happening) I'd market her for an confident intermediate rider. As long as you don't take her crap she's fine.

It's ridiculous really. I'd ride any horse before, no fear (this is right before Ms. Denali came into my life.) A friend brought home a little arab from the auction that she knew nothing about. I hopped up and told her what buttons he had and what he didn't. Sigh.... I like your idea Laura, actually I asked Denali's leasee if she'd lunge me on Denali, lol. I just need to start riding again. I would bet if any of you saw her now you'd think she was totally calm. I need to see her through those eyes.

Drillrider said...

It can be really hard to gain confidence again on a horse that you have fallen from.

At a clinic, a trainer talked about fear and riding. Her recommendation was to go to the "point of fear" and then stop. Do that each day and pretty soon the "point of fear" is further and further ahead.

Also, I would have someone just walk Denali with you on her first....take baby steps to overcome your fear and take it slow because another fall will just set you back again!

And DO NOT let anyone force you to do anything you are not comfortable doing. I let horse trainers make me do things in lessons that I wasn't ready for and ended up in the DIRT!

Drillrider said...

Oh.....also, I've heard trainers say over and over again....most bad behavior in horses is because they are over-fed and under-worked. Start lounging Denali more and make her work and if she is on alfalfa that can also make her "hot".

I have a mare who gets REALLY hot if she gets too much alfalfa. Some horse people will tell you it is not true, but one day my husband gave her only alfalfa before a drill team practice and she was "HIGH" the whole night!!

Not sure what you are feeding her though??

Denali's Mom said...

She's on Orchard Grass/Timothy mix. I don't like Alfalfa because it does make her really hot/stressed. She gets worked 5 days a week, soon to be 6. I just need to sit on her back and be lead around the arena. Lol, like a pony ride.

Frizzle said...

Do you get Practical Horseman? Jane Savoie has an article in this month's issue called "5 Ways To Build Confidence." I haven't read it yet, but I do generally like Jane Savoie.
And I'll bet a really good sport psychologist could help you overcome your fears. Either that or tossing back a few stiff drinks before ya hop on! (No wonder so many horse peeps are drinkers, lol.)
Don't know if ya read my comment on your last post, but I had some supplement suggestions for you. :-)

Story said...

I'm finding that the longer I go without riding my mare, the more I don't want to and the more I look for excuses. It becomes a terrible cycle. I can very much identify with how it feels when your dream horse does everything she can do to not be your dream! But I go out to the barn and spend time with her and try to bond with her, play things by ear and try to do things at my own pace. I dressed to ride this morning. We'll see where the day takes me!

RandomBucknellian said...

Sometimes it's so much easier to deal with horses that aren't our own. I guess we're afraid of being judged, and if we don't ride the horse and make excuses instead, there's nothing to be judged about. My boss is scared to ride some of her own horses, but rides green-broke pain-in-the-ass horses in lessons on a regular basis and does very well. She has excuses to not ride them (they're boarded at home), but she just got a ton of new sand in the indoor (no dust), it's the time of year before all the pollen comes out (so no asthma), it's warm enough that the ground has thawed, the horses have lost enough weight to get back into work (fatties, lol), and the chiropractor and massage therapist have been out, so I'm seeing more riding in the future.

Sorry, went on a bit there...

I guess my point is that we're so afraid of marring our relationships with horses that may be with us for a long time, that we only do things that we're 100% comfortable with doing. Like half of those who do Parelli... they don't ever ride their horses, they just stick with doing what they do well and aren't afraid of doing, which is usually doing groundwork and trying to get their horse to love them. The thing is, you may get very good at playing games with your horse, but you're not going to progress unless you're willing to step out of your comfort zone. Sometimes this bites us in the ass (like your fall), but the important thing is to set both short-term and long-term goals that are achievable. Set some easy goals at first, like "I want to be able to trot around the ring two times with a nice bend." Don't create goals you aren't going to be able to accomplish, like "I want to be doing Grand Prix shows by the end of the year," because you'll just get dejected and get stuck back in the rut of only doing what you're comfortable with.

Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger said...

Time..I think for me and Laz (b/c I know that fear you are talking about-mine comes with I have a hard time trusting he wont kill me for no good reason other than my past w/ other TB's). The more time you spend with Denali the better you will know her. On the ground, grooming, walking with lead rope, pony rides whatever it takes, you WILL get over this hump of fear. It just takes time and work and you are already on your way! :)

Drillrider said...

Another thing you might try to ride some different horses that are "safe" to build your confidence (if there are some available).

I would definately start with sitting on her and having a pony ride. Baby steps!

Beth said...

Denali's Mom~ I really get where you are coming from. Which is why I have a blog about over coming fear in riding. (

I used to ride any horse too. Then this and that happened. I aged. Long story short I have confidence issues and decided that I was just going to get over it and ride my horse. I came off and broke my wrist. I share that only because I think that sometime we feel like we have a horse so we should ride that horse. But sometimes I think we need to try a different route.

Well now I am working with a great trainer. He basically lets me walk around on his well broke quiet horses. As I get more confidence I will trot and ride other horses and eventually I will start riding my horse again.

I am also working on a relationship with the horses I have. I am doing training on the ground, I hope in a few weeks to start ground driving. I do clicker training, and stuff.

A book that really REALLY helped me is Jane Savoie's It's Not Just About the Ribbons. It helped me in SO many ways.

Drillrider said...

Ditto what Beth said. Find a "bombproof" horse, ride that, work up from there, work with your horse on the ground in the meantime.

Everytime I have a wreck on a horse it shakes my confidence and I have to take a step back. Hopefully, it is two steps forward and only one step back!!!!

Teresa said...

I was thinking of you today!
I love my greenie to death but every single time we try for a canter we have a rodeo. Why? Because he figured out pretty darn quick that'd unseat/scare me enough to quit asking. I've been making piles of excuses not to ride, and it is to the point where I was so down on everything that I was just going to put him in the pasture and forget the whole riding thing.
I booked a clinic months ago and had to ride today. No excuses, and trust me, I tried to think of some! And she made me canter him. And we worked through it, by the end we even had a brilliant moment where we miscommunicated but he went out of his way to get back under me and kept me safe.
Long story short, we're going to keep working on it. I realized today that I CAN do it and I'm not hopeless and he's not really out to get me, he's just picking up on my insecurities. Not saying everything's perfect and all happily ever after, but I think it was a bit of a breakthough and there might be some light at the end of the tunnel now. Keep at it with Denali and don't be embarrassed to talk about it and let your coach know what's up. I learned today that I need to be pushed outside my comfort zone to make progress, but I'm sure everyone is different.Good luck!