Now here's the difficulty, and what has been keeping me from being comfortable with blogging - I was uncomfortable blogging honestly about what we're going through with Miranda, because I felt that some very hard decisions may be required, and my daughter's the one who's got to make them. I didn't (and don't) want my daughter's decisions about the horse to be second-guessed by anyone, including me. I also didn't want to blog without being as honest as I could be - that's how I try to blog. So my daughter and I talked today and she's comfortable with me being completely honest about where we are and may be going with Miranda. It's well within the realm of possibility that the outcome will not be happy or nice, but it may be necessary. We're reserving judgment until my daughter gets back at the end of the month - she knows the horse better than anyone and also knows how much she's personally willing to struggle with this, and also what the horse can stand in terms of its own mental comfort.
Just as I was thinking about these things, by coincidence Mugwump Chronicles had a post on angry versus fearful horses, talking about the truly angry horse. There's a lot of interesting information and many interesting comments on the subject - check it out. Here's what I put in the comments to that post about Miranda:
Is there a point at which a truly angry horse should be put to sleep? Particularly one who has been "fixed" by careful, patient handling and retraining, but then all of a sudden the wheels just fall off - and not due to anything much having happened - just snap, like that, one day the horse was fine (and had been so consistently for 8 months)- easy to handle and ride, engaged with people and other horses, and one day later, back to the enraged, checked out horse she started out as a year ago. All it took was someone going in her stall who apparently startled her - the horse kicked her and reverted to the rage state - nothing bad (from the human point of view) happened to the horse. It seems that all the work and training didn't penetrate to the inside of the horse, but just was on the surface - and there was some signs of this - the horse expressed some anxiety under saddle by constant bit-chomping. We know this horse's entire history, and there is no evidence of abuse or mistreatment. Can some horses just be miswired? The horse was also heavily imprinted (not by us) and we think it may be the case that it was "over-imprinted" to the point its sensory system was overloaded. That's what the horse seems like - unable to bear touch or close human presence, like it's overwhelmed - but it's rage, not fear - in fact the horse has no normal fear responses even with other horses and is "pasture dead" - other horses can kick and bite it and it doesn't move much or respond.
Some more info about the mare - my daughter's had her for about a year - and over that time has brought her back from a horse that was alternately crazed and violently aggressive (you had to have a weapon in hand to even approach her) or completely checked out and unresponsive. Over about a 5 month period she was worked with every day until she was acting just like a normal horse - you could groom her, feed her, ride her and all was OK - other people could even feed her while she was loose in the pen, which had been her biggest problem. And she began to come out of her shell - nickering, and the beginnings of some responsiveness to other horses. Under saddle, she was always perfectly behaved - no bucking, bolting and rearing - in fact she was easy to ride. She's been to a number of horse shows and has performed very well. Along the way she was treated for severe ulcers (we thought that was the cause of her behavior but I increasingly think the ulcers were just a symptom of the underlying issues), and has had extensive chiropractic and dental work. All of this good work stuck for about 7 months. Then, when stressed just a little by my daughter having to leave for a month, and by an incident where our barn lady went into her stall and either startled her so she attacked, or she just attacked - I don't know, the wheels fell off. She's not all the way back to go - she can be haltered and led and minimally handled, and will allow her face and neck to be rubbed when she's haltered without showing any aggression.
Who knows what's the issue? I suspect a sensory processing problem, where physical pressure - either touch or too close contact - just overwhelms her and she blows. It may have been caused by excessive imprinting, or she may have come that way. Or she may have been an anxious horse to start with and imprinting make her initially easy to handle but then she couldn't deal with adversity - some horsepeople I trust think this can happen.
The big issue for us is whether she can come back - I think she could for my daughter - but my daughter does not want to keep her forever and the question is will the work ever stick or will the underlying problem reappear whenever she is not with my daughter or otherwise stressed. She has been evaluated by some very experienced horsepeople we trust a lot, and my daughter's effort with her is a last chance for the horse.
I'm trying to take this one day at a time, and not think beyond that. It's very hard to spend a lot of time around a horse whose behavior is so strange and dangerous. I've dealt with many aggressive horses in my time, but this feels very different in a spooky kind of way - almost like the horse isn't living in the same reality as the rest of us. Please try to be patient and compassionate as we work this through - there aren't going to be any easy answers, and it may be that my daughter will decide it just isn't worth it to go on, particularly with the physical risks that are involved in handling the horse.