I doubt that I'll ever completely understand what set her off yesterday. I think she just overloaded from a combination of hormones, the anxiety she experienced when working with the pole, the fact that we worked in the morning instead of the afternoon, Lily's nickering and bellowing, spending time in the paddock with Maisie - I can't remember the last time she was in there - the proximity of horses she's rarely close to - Charisma in her dry lot and Noble and Fritz in the small grass paddock (she's often aggressive towards other horses). Who knows? I think the circuits just overloaded and her body expressed it. When I work with her in the future, I'll try to be more deliberate and careful about changing things for her more slowly - she's a very anxious and easily stressed horse. To be on the safe side, when the vet comes the week after next to do veterinary health certificates for Lily and Norman (a clue to a future post!), I'm going to have her also draw blood so we can check some of Dawn's hormone levels - there are several conditions that can cause mares to display unusual aggression, including stallion-like behavior. I don't expect the blood work to show anything, but it's easy to do so why not rule those things out. I'm also going to start Dawn on U-Gard in the event that she could have ulcers - she's a little touch sensitive on her sides.
[Update this PM: Juliette of Honeysuckle Faire (see comment on previous post) had an interesting suggestion of what might have affected Dawn - an insect sting! It's certainly a possibility.]
My older daughter and I went out to lunch yesterday, and we were talking about Dawn - I highly value my daughter's insight into horses. She had worked with Dawn some while my younger daughter was in Germany for several months last year. She said she had experienced a couple of occasions when Dawn was apparently just fine and then would lose it for no apparent reason. She said that Dawn is a horse where sometimes you get apparent softness on the outside, but she isn't soft on the inside - there's anxiety and stress underneath the apparently soft behavior. (Read my post of several days ago concerning Mark Rashid's new book on the difference between lightness on the outside and softness on the inside.) It's hard to get her to soften emotionally and really bring that softness through from the inside. Dawn sometimes doesn't want to engage with people - she's one of those horses who sometimes "goes away" - her eyes get an abstracted look and she doesn't look at you. She also doesn't trust easily. My younger daughter gets back from her school trip tomorrow, so she'll take up riding Dawn for the summer. Then Dawn and I will start our work again in the fall when my younger daughter goes to college. I'll need to remember to take things very slowly and carefully with Dawn to reduce opportunities for stress and anxiety.
Maisie got her front shoes on yesterday! Hurrah - now maybe we can start doing some work again, on soft surfaces only at first. She was better for the farrier than normal, which makes me think that part of her difficulties may have been chronic low-grade laminitis. She's in steel Natural Balance shoes, which have worked well for her in the past. I'm going to start her back on U-Gard - she's showing some of the pain behaviors at feeding time that she used to show - kicking and body-slamming - and it's likely the medications she's been on have irritated her stomach.
Fritz continues to work on his herd-boundness, and is making good progress. I keep him in the small grass paddock for the morning, and then he goes out to join the other geldings. He's gone from running around the small paddock, screaming (day 1) to just screaming (day 2) to calling occasionally (day 3). By the weekend, he may be ready to go out in the regular order.
I mixed things up with the geldings this morning - I thought Fred would benefit from Joe's steadiness, and he did, and that Scout would be able to accompany Blackjack without trying to nip him or fuss on the lead (we've been working with success on both these issues), and he did! That left Noble without a partner, and as I can trust him to lead well with any other horse, even one he doesn't know well, I led him out with Misty. I kept Misty's nose slightly behind Noble's in the event she was at all concerned (to prevent kicking), but she was fine. She had to wait at the gate of the gelding's pasture while I let him go (waiting is sometimes hard for her), and then I took her out to the mare's pasture.