My history with Maisie started in the summer of 2002. Even though I was an experienced rider, I really didn't know very much about horses - I certainly didn't understand very much about the ways horses can be uncomfortable, due to things like saddle fit, muscular/chiropractic issues, etc. I knew about making sure a horse's teeth were done, and basic things like worming. As soon as I got Maisie, and I mean immediately - I think I got to ride her once or maybe twice - she incurred a low suspensory injury on her right hind. Then we got to enjoy about a 6-month period of stall rest followed by hand walking - although sometimes the walking involved all four feet leaving the ground simultaneously even with sedatives. Then there was some turnout, and then I started riding her again. For a period of about 3 more months, she would appear to be sound and then I would start riding and she would be unsound again, followed by more rest, and then repeat.
Finally I was riding again. But she really didn't move all that well - and I didn't have much of a baseline since I'd ridden her so little. She went around on the forehand, leaned on the bit and wanted to rush, and would buck if you attempted to slow her down. Even though she seemed to be a sweet horse inside, I couldn't work with her and I began to really hate her. I only began to understand what was going on with her when I took her to a Mark Rashid clinic in an attempt to solve her problems, and he showed me her serious soreness by mirroring the footfalls, and watching her move from behind to see how her back and hips were moving. (See my post "Dawn Steps Up and No Slow Steps" if you're interested in reading more about seeing lameness and soreness.) He said that there wasn't anything we could do from a training point of view until her soreness, which may have been due in part to compensations in her body for the earlier suspensory injury, was fixed. So he refunded our money - all of it - and I took her home.
After a few false starts, I found a good chiropractor. Over the next year or so, we worked on getting her fixed. There was a lot wrong from stem to stern, with her most serious issues involving her back and sacral area. It's really no wonder having the farrier work on her feet hurt! The interesting thing was that, although we had succeeded in getting her pretty well fixed up to the point that a lot of her issues went away and others could be addressed by training, she still was not good about having her feet handled. She's one of those horses that, once she learns something, she's really learned it - so perhaps she had it in her mind that the farrier hurt, even though it probably really didn't anymore.
Through training, I got her to the point that she could at least tolerate the farrier - she still was far from perfect but the farrier wasn't at risk working with her. But then something very interesting happened yesterday. The farrier came, and Maisie was good for him! She only tried to take a front foot away from him once, which was a record, and didn't give him any trouble with the hinds at all. I had given her some bute before he came, as I always do, so that wasn't it.
I think she figured out some things. One, I have been really insisting on good behavior, since she isn't really sore any more and it's just a training issue. Second, she may have finally caught on to the fact that it doesn't really hurt any more - last time the farrier was here, when she was getting over her laminitis attack and got her shoes back on, she was on Banamine so she probably felt no body soreness when he worked on her. But I think something even stranger may have happened - I think she felt so much better after he put her shoes back on last time he was here that she may have changed her mind about him, and may now think of him as a "good thing". Three interesting observations I made yesterday: first, she usually wants to paw when he's not actually holding a foot - she hardly did this at all; second, she usually head-bobs a lot to express her displeasure and has a sour expression on her face - this was completely absent; and three, although Dawn was screaming so loudly for her you could hear it from 100 yards away, Maisie didn't call back or look as though she wanted to get back to the herd.
It'll be interesting to see what happens next time the farrier visits!