Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Set Back

It's clear that the incident in the stall with our PM feeding lady has really set Miranda back. She's reverted to the angry, aggressive horse of many months ago who only wants people to leave her alone, and thinks of all people as the enemy. She no longer nickers to me, and in fact, looks right through me. She still halters and leads well, which is a blessing. On the cross ties, when I remove her blanket and groom her and pick her feet, she is displaying many aggressive behaviors - angry glares, head shaking, bared teeth and swinging her butt as if she wants to kick. It's clear that her trust, which was slowly rebuilding under my daughter's consistent care, has been seriously damaged. But I can't undo what has happened and can only work with what we have now. I'm hoping that being in an outside paddock will help her calm down some. I'm going to grit my teeth and make sure I lead her in once a day to groom and pick feet, even though I have to do it ever so carefully to avoid reinforcing any negative behaviors she has, or getting hurt myself. I'm also going to be sure that I'm the person who feeds her consistently every morning and evening, although evening feeding isn't my job - I think this consistency can help to build trust. It's clear that Miranda has been overwhelmed by the new situation and people, the fact that my daughter, whom she had grown to trust, has abruptly disappeared from her life, and what has happened. It's pretty discouraging, and I'm just hoping to recover some ground before my daughter gets back at the end of the month. She left me a horse who was recovering and making good progress, and now she's back to being a basket case. I keep telling myself to breathe and take one step at a time, but it's hard - sorry for the whining!


  1. That's not whining, that's simply venting frustration. I'm sure by the time your daughter gets back Miranda will be the same horse she was when she got there and maybe even better. We never know what will set them off again and how long it will take to regain trust.

    Donnie still has episodes where he is skittish about his halter being put on. He did last week and was basically running around the stall avoiding it. This week he was laying down in his stall at night check and took his carrot while reclining. A new thing he's never done before. It seems his trust is there but sometimes he just forgets himself and reverts. It never lasts long though, so this is why I think Miranda will be fine in a few days.

  2. These are setbacks horses like Miranda and others that have been treated poorly will always have. I have been able to overcome plenty with my mare...but the wrong personality around can make her crazy...even when I am taking a lesson!
    That is not is being honest! I am soo glad she is there with you now Kate. !!

  3. PS...
    I love your new husband walked into the room and asked me if,
    " those were the ears of a Young Horse"..made me crack up!!He laughed too, after he said it!

  4. Man, that just sucks!! Both for you and Miranda. I really feel for you both.

    Have you tried any Tellington Jones TTouch with her? You could do that when you bring her in to groom. She has a great new book out: The Ultimate Horse Behavior and Training Book.

  5. You are the kind of person who will do your best to work this out. Miranda is very lucky that you are there for is your daughter.
    I have full confidence in you.

  6. I know this sounds "new age" to many people, but I find it really helps to talk to a horse like you do when you are explaining something to a toddler. Talk to them as if you expect them to understand plain English. Tell them what is happening, and why, and how if they work with you it will be easier for them.

    For Miranda, tell her *why* you keep her in the stall. Explain it just like you would explain to a toddler why you are moving to a different house.

    Have a heart to heart chat with her about kicking. Tell her why it's important that she not kick at people. Explain that you know she's frightened, worried, defensive but that she doesn't need to kick out and that it won't make things better. If she starts to act like she wants to kick but then pulls herself together and doesn't kick, tell her you are proud of her, just like you would praise a toddler who almost hit a playmate, then stopped.

    I bet part of why you need to keep telling yourself to breath is because you aren't breathing, because *she* isn't breathing. So tell HER to breath too, again just like you would talk to a toddler. If you can get her to breath more deeply or sigh, then tell her "good" and walk away (release). Good luck!

  7. Poor Miranda. Some horses just do not adjust well to new situations. She actually sounds a bit like my Spider. I think you're on the right track with consistency and turnout. She'll get there, she just needs time to settle down and figure out the new routine. Until then, feel free to whine all you like, it's very therapeutic!

  8. Oh, I'm sorry for the frustration, but vent all you must. Set-backs are normal, and usually recovered from faster and easier than previous work. Your patience and attention to what Miranda is telling you will get you both trough this.

  9. Ditto to all of the above. It's not easy, but you are doing all the right things, for all the right reasons - hang in there things will turn around.

  10. You are not whining ! poor Miranda ! she will settle again , just hang in there ,it takes time and even without the change there are going to be times that she backslides .This wont be the last time sadly , but every steop ahead ,even after a glich gets you that much further in the long run

  11. It's okay, Kate! She may just be having a bad couple of days. EvenSong is right, setbacks don't take as much work as the first time. She'll be all right -- just maintain the same patience and expectations as before, and I think she'll come back around.

  12. I think horses are very smart and have excellent memories, so, at the very least, I think she'll remember your daughter immediately and take up where their relationship left off. I also think, with all your horse sense, she'll come around under your care before the month is up--which is a very good thing because it sounds like she needs the comfort of a good leader right now. I think she's in a new setting and feels like she has to take care of herself. My mustang, Beautiful, kicked her caregiver when I was out of town--hard enough to send her to the hospital, but she is actually a very nice filly (as I always point out in my blog) and, under normal circumstances, NEVER offers to kick. Entering a horse's stall--one who is scared--is a real threat to them.

  13. You are very brave to take her issues on like that! I don't want her to hurt you but you're right - leaving her alone is not gonna make her better.

    Those ears are Noble's, right?

    Cutest ears ever! I think we should have a cute ear contest, excluding Noble to give others a chance.

    I think Baasha's ears alone are why he's a gelding, hehehe, so he wouldn't be entering any cute ear contests.


  14. Thanks, everyone, for your good wishes. And yes, those are Noble's ears - as lytha points out, he has the cutest ears in the universe!

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  16. Aw, that is a bummer about Miranda and the incident in her stall. It sounds like your daughter has done a wonderful job with her! I bet she goes back to herself with your daughter. Is there any way for just you to be her primary caregiver while at your barn? Sounds like she was starting to trust you and maybe needs stability. Everything will work out... :)

    Do you think that Fritz's nervousness might be because of Miranda's arrival? Maybe he is feeding off her nervousness about being stalled? Just a thought....I am sure you have already thought of that. :)

    Hang in there! :)

  17. You know, I am re-reading Rashid's "A good horse has no color" today (so much food for thought) and then I read your post.
    You have some similarities there.
    Check it out Kate, if you have the book.

    As you say, there has been many new things lately, and perhaps she just couldn't hold her act together anymore? Maybe to back off her a couple of days would settle her down?
    Just a thought.
    Your strategy to keep her outside sounds good.
    I am convinced that you'll sort it out with her, Kate. Good luck!

  18. So sorry Miranda's had such a setback, but all the good work your daughter has done will not come unglued entirely.

    My PJ took forever to get over his bad handling, and we had some setbacks along the way as well. However, each time, it took less and less time for him to come back around after something upsetting happened. The good handling had as deep an effect as the bad handling had and soon became the stronger, motivating force. I'm sure the same thing will happen with Miranda.

    Things Take Time!

  19. Kate,

    My comment was lost, somehow, but I just said that as Mayor of Set Back City...

    I feel your pain.

    But as you've taught me, setbacks are part of the good work.

    I wish you'd reconsider posting about Miranda. We learn so much from the thoughtful approaches you take to these interactions.

    But of course if someone is uncomfortable about the discussion, it's understandable that you'd leave it out.

    Just don't think of it as self indulgent, please. It's part of community to share the good, bad and the ugly.

  20. oh man that's tough. Someone reminded me when I had training setbacks with Kazam (not anger, just anxiety), to realize the horse is teaching you something. we may not always know what it is right away! but they do teach us.
    - The Equestrian Vagabond


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