Basa’s First New Steps

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Equine Author

Susan Hopf

After all that happened to her, regardless of the specifics, my lovely TB mare turned from a talented riding partner into an evil four-legged creature bent on revenge against the human race. Running away from me and everyone else in the pasture, biting, kicking, extremely uneasy, at best, anytime she was handled if you were lucky enough to catch her in the first place with limbs and flesh in tact that is. She started attacking and dumping her food, losing weight and continued to make it clear, in no uncertain terms, that she had had it with people and their strange ways.

The one and only thing I attended to, strictly out of having no choice, was her badly damaged back. The muscles directly under the saddle area were swollen, hot and too sore to touch. My equine chiropractor was not able to get close enough to do a thorough exam, due to the hostile reaction of the horse, but the swelling and lack of movement around those muscles was enough for the diagnosis a severe strain. I was instructed to perform ice massages twice a day. A paper cup filled with water and then frozen is used to massage the affected area. Needless to say this presented a huge challenge since the mare had already made it quite clear that touching her was not an option.

Cold hosing the area managed to serve the purpose for about two weeks and with some improvement I decided to try the ice massage again success!! The pain had apparently been reduced enough to create less reactivity in the mare. She was still hostile but with time and patience she accepted and then grew to enjoy the massages. The other side of this treatment regimen was to include heat prior to working her. Since working her was not in the program at that time the heat was not applied until the time when the weather grew cold enough to warrant some assisted circulation to the area.

Given that she was supposed to have been all settled into her new home unfortunately my time was committed elsewhere and I did not have the extra hours in the day required to explore the great mysteries of Basa’s damaged psyche. So except for the above ministrations to her back she scored herself a major vacation and wound up with the entire winter, spring and summer of 06/07 off nice life if you can get it but she was undoubtedly not enjoying her life all that much fine with horses but still not thrilled with the bipeds of the world.

Once the weather started to cool into the fall of 07, and my time constraints were lessened, Basa’s needs became paramount. The time off seemed to serve her well. She allowed me to catch and groom her once again and seemed to be regaining some of her old personality. Her back was healed and all of her groundwork was in order. So it came as a big surprise when she reacted so badly as the saddle was first re-introduced big explosion big set back and a big decision on my part do I proceed or do I give up and make the tough decision to put her down; or live with the guilt of re-homing her knowing how unhappy she was as well as passing along such a dangerous animal to another.

This is where we left off with the last article and my decision was to forge ahead and do my very best to make this horse once again a happy cooperative partner. But since the training of the past would not suffice without a great deal of consternation on the part of this mare I needed to re-think (and re-think and re-think) how to go about restoring our working relationship.

We started with some round pen type exercises. Free-longeing and moving the horse around the ring with body language went very well. As a reward I sat in the middle of the arena with a bucket full of carrots and apples and waited for her to come to me for an hour or more each time. Day one it never happened day two the same day three she made it half way over and changed her mind day four we were both rewarded.  A good start. Another week of this and she was no longer pinning her ears and gnashing her teeth at me when I approached her in the pasture.

This was the beginning of many small successes and my hope was renewed. Next time we will explore how I used this renewed trust, along with some moderate innovation to bring her confidence in humanity back to a working level.

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