3 case studies address horses’ fears

As a follow-on to last week’s blog, 10 Tips for Working with A Fearful Horse, I collected three very different case studies of fearful horses. With each, the treatment was slightly different, adjusted to the situation and the fear the horse was experiencing.

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There are more fearful horses to work with these days than bold horses. It is actually easier to work with a bold horse, because you don’t have to work so hard to get forward movement. Plus, there is not the tendency to walk on eggshells around them, and keep telling their stories, which really they don’t need. They rely on your confidence and leadership to gain confidence themselves and find their own leadership. While reading about these horses, think about what similarities there are between these horses and their situations? They each feel a sense of fear, not feeling met, perhaps grief, and behavioral problems.. Here are some examples of fearful horses and how their fears were addressed.

Amy and Fear of Being Asked to Do Anything Amy had a paralyzing fear of being asked to do anything. Amy is one of those fearful horses who does what she’s asked but without joy. She wants to get it over with as quickly as possible but she wants to make sure she does what you want so you leave her alone. With liberty foundations, she was perplexed at first because no one has asked her to do anything so easy before. Yet she still didn’t want a human walking behind her and she didn’t want to move without a halter on her. There was a rushy quality to her movement, like she just couldn’t get done with whatever activity fast enough. Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 10.48.14 AM Getting her to move was a challenge. Putting bits if food out ahead of her helped get her feet moving. There was no pressure and she became interested in this activity. I could feel the difference in her demeanor – curiosity heightened, the beginning of engagement with me. Then she went to the beginning of being walked from behind and walking side-by-side. For many people, this behavior would go unnoticed because she was not acting out. Her fear wasn’t bothering anybody. She did as she was told, which is what most people want horses to do. But to me, that rushy quality makes her potentially unstable and untrustworthy, so I would want that smoothed out and for her to feel calm and at ease with me before I asked her to do any real work.

Amber and Expectations Amber is a pony who flipped over repeatedly when hitched to a cart and injured

Marta walking with Amber
Marta walking with Amber

herself. In fact, when she was asked to do any “work” she would get into sudden panics. She was also deeply bonded to her mini friend, Cocoa, and could not bear to be away from him. When the trauma is so deep and so reactive, all real activity of trying to “get the pony to do something” has to stop and with Liberty Foundations, we go back to the basics. This pony also had trouble engaging with humans. What we do is go to no expectations. We worked with the pony and mini together, until Amber was comfortable being separated from her friend Cocoa. She demonstrated a strong connection with all the people she worked with. Amazingly, she worked with nearly everyone in the clinic.

From no expectations we can gradually add some practices that will enhance her curiosity and ability to engage with people. From there, perhaps she will be able to do more activities later on, as the fear falls away and is not driving her every move.

IMG_1487Nova and Fear of New Home Nova experienced fear of her new home and sorrow that ensued because she was no longer with the horse she loved. You may think this is a stretch in anthropomorphism, but all the pieces came together to show a picture of a mare who was deeply depressed, which her trainer and owner also felt was the case. She is normally a well-adjusted, forward moving mare who is very happy.

The place she moved to was one that held some traumatic memories from years before. She was separated from a gelding she loved. Who knew how deeply she was affected by the separation until this move took place. As a result she became fearful under saddle and difficult for her owner, Cindy, to manage. Cindy, in turn became frightened and stiff in her body, which made matters worse. I did a bodywork session on the mare and found areas that were troubling her. It was during this time that she also shared the information about her feelings for her old companion horse.

We worked on the problem from several directions. First, the bodywork. Second, Cindy and I discussed various Liberty Foundations that would help her. since they had taken a clinic with me before and understood the work. Now they really had a good reason to want to return to it to work on their relationship. The main thing here was to break the fear cycle the two of them had gotten into — very easy to do when you have been injured by horses and can’t tolerate dangerous behavior. I also recommended flower essences.

Before those were given, however, Nova began to settle down. She had a couple of good trail rides. I went out two weeks later to do another session and a short trail ride with the pair, and they were much better. The mare was far better physically and mentally. Because Nova’s situation was one that couldn’t be changed — the other horse couldn’t come back, she needed to get used to the new place and drop the old energy surrounding it — it was important that we work with what is, and recognize and acknowledge her pain around these things. We had to also recognize what her owner was going through – she had also changed her life and was doing the best she could with the new setting and circumstances. I really felt that once Nova felt met in these needs, then she could relax and then settle down. Nothing was so scary anymore. The same for Cindy: she could relax which then relaxed her horse. Her horse needed to be able to rely on her when she was frightened or challenged, which happened.

Their relationship was restored. What often happens when people become frightened or are uncentered, the horse feels she has to be the whole herd and take care of everything. This is a pair who always enjoyed a good relationship from the beginning, so it was troublesome to find things just weren’t working between them. Once all these things were addressed, the dynamic duo were riding off into the sunset.

Horses do well with direct questions about how they are doing. They enjoy visualizations. Animal communicators will describe images horses have shown them and feelings they get from them. It’s possible for all of us to experience this, and to give some of this to our horse. The best way is to open yourself up to them and not impose thoughts or ideas on them beyond their capacity. Sitting with the horse can often open up information that you never expected or dreamed was there. People want to know things that may seem silly to a horse, but if you remain open in a meditative stage the horse can show you so much and help you grow your understanding of them.


(copyright: Susan Smith, OrthoHorse)

Services: Bodywork (Ortho-Bionomy for people, Equine Ortho-Bionomy): private sessions,  tutorials, phone consultations, Horse & Rider sessions, distance healing communication and gift certificates

Some Don’t Like it Hot – These Liberty Coaching clinics will take place in the cooler morning hours over the summer. If you want to host a clinic in your area, contact me to make arrangements. Prices will vary according to location and travel. susansmith@orthohorse.info 505-501-2478.

Liberty Coaching: clinics, mini-clinics, workshops, private and semi-private sessions, tutorials, consultations: by appointment:  505.501.2478 or emailing susansmith@orthohorse.info  Scheduling now. Contact me for details.

Starting July 22: First Horses at Liberty Foundations Online course. In this class, comprised of four calls complete with lessons, you will learn the fundamentals of how to work with a horse at liberty, inspired by herd behavior. The way that horses interact with each other maintains cooperative relationships, safety and survival. No restraints are used – the horse becomes a willing participant. Contact me if interested. Cost $300. The class runs through September 3.

The Course: Included in the course are the four webinar calls (if you opt to take the entire class), email access to the instructor for questions, an ability to post your own videos for discussion, teaching videos and photos with discussion. A class will be posted on a private page of my website before each call.

Cost: The course can be taken in two segments: Calls on July 22 and August 6 for $150, and Calls on August 22 and September 3 for $150. $290 if you sign up for both segments. There is a PayPal button with all these options available on my website home page www.orthohorse.info

The second segment may be valuable for continuing students as well as new students. The advantage of taking the entire class is that you will get the flow of the six Liberty Foundations from start to finish, and also benefit from the videos and discussion of the last part of the class.

The class will continue for two weeks after the last phone date (September 3) to give people a chance to submit videos and comment on them. There will be a private Facebook page for student discussion for each segment of the class.

Those who take the first segment only will be able to send in videos two weeks after the last of the first segment calls (August 6) but will not have access to the materials shared in the second segment and thereafter.

I conducted a free Liberty Coaching Call on March 12. If you did not have a chance to listen, here is the link: http://www.susith.com/orthohorse/freehorseatlibcall.mp3

July 22, August 6, August 20, September 3.
Payment via check, PayPal or credit car

July 23 – Trail Riding Class in Cerrillos in July. Learn how to apply some Liberty Foundations to your trail riding experience for a safer, more connected ride, what I call the “centaur relationship” with your horse. The class will involve some ground, dimensional and saddle work, and a short trail ride. This clinic will fill up fast so let me know if you want to participate. 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m

Combining cumulative knowledge from over 18 years of endurance riding, Liberty Horsemanship and Ortho-Bionomy bodywork practice, Susan Smith brings a unique perspective to getting a horse and rider ready for the trail – in mind, body and spirit.

September 27-28 – Spirit Horse Ranch Two-Day Liberty Foundations Clinic, Oklahoma City, OklahomaEngaging the Hearts and Minds of Horses. Susan Smith and Ruella Yates, co-teaching. Contact me or Ruella at 405-771-4274 (ruella@libertyfoundations.com)

December 13-14 – Horses at Liberty Weekend Clinic, DeLand, Florida Bring your Horse into Deep Working Connection with Liberty Horsemanship. Instructor: Susan Smith. Contact Anne Daimler tdaimler@cfl.rr.com (386-822-4564) Susan at susansmith@orthohorse.info (505-983-2128 or cell 505-501-2478) 9:00-4:30 p.m.

Susan is a member of the Independent Liberty Trainers Network. libertytrainersnetwork.com/


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