Sunday, October 5, 2008

What Can Happen

Now that I have a few days distance from it, I can write about what happened with Siete on Thursday and Friday. It doesn’t seem as horrible now as it did at the time, so I’m trying to get a more philosophical perspective on it. Here’s the story:

Thursday afternoon, before my husband was rushing out of town to work, I begged him to help me put “soft” boots on Siete’s back feet. The vet really wanted me to use the poultices on both feet at the same time. So, I put together these very nice little booties of duct tape, vet tape and Animalintex. I discovered that the sound of duct tape being pulled off the roll is one of the only things that has ever spooked Siete. We managed to tape one bootie on her back right foot. It was getting late, there was a train to catch, and most of us were getting very testy and tense. Suddenly, my 94-year old mother waltzes out of the house waving carrots at us, wanting to “help”. I yelled at her to go away. Siete saw the carrots and reared up trying to show her enthusiasm. Yes! Carrots! No! Booties!

The battle began. I wasn’t about to let her have the carrots after she behaved so badly. There was no way that the other bootie was going on her left back foot. She was really mad at us. My husband was pretty steamed too. He managed to get her back in her stall, but she reared up again when he was in there with her. She freaked out rolling and struggling to get the duct taped boot off. Finally, she managed to break through the bottom of it so that it was wrapped around her ankle like a bracelet. It was a nightmare. Fortunately, no one was hurt. I drove my husband to the train station and decided to leave Siete with the bandage around her leg until morning. My mother refused to believe that she had done anything wrong. She called me a control freak.

Friday, when I was all alone with the horses, Siete was a perfect angel. She stood still while I took a scissors and cut the bandage off. I finished all the hoof related doctoring that needed to be done. I did some groundwork with her, and she responded like a good girl. Then, it was noon, and Silk wanted to come in from the pasture for her lunch and a siesta. The horses were at the gate. As usual, Silk stood ground tied while I led Siete out first. Again, my mother appeared out of the blue, shouting that someone had called while waving a cordless phone and a handful of carrots at me. Siete noticed before I did. I yelled at Mom to go back in the house, but she’s almost deaf. She was determined not to be dissuaded from her mission. Siete was prancing like crazy. I was turning her in circles. My mother was feeding carrots to Silk. I couldn’t see letting Siete have a carrot while she was so riled up.

I managed to lead her into the barn. Amazing that she went with me. Again, once inside the stall, facing the back, she tried to rear up. I just lost it, yelling at her and jerking the lead rope as hard as I could. She stopped, snorting loudly and I was able to turn her around so I would eventually be able to get out of the stall safely. I didn’t really want to reward her by letting her go eat out of her feed bucket, so I made her stand still and wait. She wasn’t happy, but she didn’t try to push me out of the way. I counted to thirty and then let her eat.

I was shaking when I got out of the barn and went back to Silk who was still standing patiently at the gate. My mother had huffed back into the house, angry at me. After leading Silk to the barn, I stormed into the house and had a big argument with my mother. She has no clue what she did wrong, and I realized that there’s no way that I can make her understand that she must not do that carrot waving thing again EVER!!!

So, I’ve waited until my mom was napping to bring the horses in for the last two days. Fortunately, she usually takes a siesta herself every day. I’m going to try to sit down with her and explain why what she did was dangerous. Unfortunately, it’s like trying to talk to a child. She is so stubborn that she can handle herself around the horses and mad at me that I don’t allow her to help me anymore. The reality is that she has very fogged vision from her macular degenerative disease and refuses to wear hearing aids so she can’t hear what anyone says. I appreciate that she wants to keep pretending she’s fine, but it terrifies me that she - or one of us - will get hurt.

Siete’s feet are doing much better, and she’s not being a punk. I understand why she reacted the way that she did, but I don’t want her to think that she can behave like that. I must work on her stall manners. I pride myself on having horses that are safe to be around. It’s amazing how fast that can change and a bad habit can develop.


Cactus Jack Splash said...

It is amazing how a quiet/gentle horse can be turned into a "werehorse" at the site of treats...had that problem with Jack this week. He ended up kicking my husband.
I am glad all of you are okay

billie said...

Wow, Victoria - sounds like you have had a very intense two days. It also sounds like you kept calm and worked through the issues as they happened. I've never really dealt with a rearing horse (except when the pony was not so helpfully loaded for us the one time last year) so I'm not sure how I would react. I hope I'd be as calm and assured as you were.

Hope today is calm and easy.

Victoria Cummings said...

Cactus - I'm glad to know that I'm not alone. I hope your husband is okay - Even the most gentle horse can get excited and you have to stay alert and present when you're around them.

Billie - Thanks for thinking I was calm because i was scared and angry and frustrated - I guess that's what the distance of a day or two before I told anyone gives me. Rearing is a major life lesson for me - I'll post about it tomorrow. I have actually reached a point where my heart no longer pounds when it's happening. I find it requires going to a very different place inside myself - one that is also required for earthquakes and helping someone who is having an epileptic attack.

FishermansDaughter said...

I've had similar things like this happen with horse/kid interactions and after the fact manage to view each incident as a "gift" pointing to holes in training - both kids and horses! Taking into consideration the thousands of ways our horses manage to damage themselves, desensitization to the sound of duct tape ripping has become one of my standards. Good luck and stay safe.

billie said...

Your actions were calm - in my opinion in the moment as you described it, the loud voice and jerking the lead rope was a quick and immediate response to a horse out of control, and sometimes it does take that level of "loudness" to stop the escalation.

The fact that you counted to 30 and stood quietly with her to maintain control and teach her something positive was a wonderful way to end that little scene, imo.

I think feeling anger and fear and frustration with horses is not as big an issue if we're able to control our actions. And if we don't try to mask those feelings. The horses (at least in my experience) seem more bothered by humans feeling one way and acting another than when our inner and outer selves match up.

It sounds like yours did - but you didn't go haywire. You handled it.

I am not rough with my horses. But there are occasions when I do react loudly and quickly, just as you did, and I trust that my gut sense in the moment is telling me what I need to do to get the attention on me again.

I'm eager to read more about what you have to say about the rearing.

Victoria Cummings said...

Fishermansdaughter - Siete is so calm and never spooks, so I didn't even consider that she might react to the sound of duct tape. You're right - these kind of things are painful but definitely a gift.

Billie - LOL - I was mad and frustrated by my mother, not my horse! I was scared about interacting with Siete, but really she was just telling me how upset she was. If she'd wanted to hurt me, she could have and she chose not to - She was surly like an angry teen-ager, and I think that you're right that she knew I was being totally honest when I disciplined her. I use her mother, Silk, as my role model in these instances. SIlk never lets Siete forget who the Alpha mare is.

billie said...

LOL, I totally misread that!

But I am sure in the same scenario I'd be angry at my mom and not so much the horse. :)

I call Salina's big loud response her "monster mama" one - when the geldings don't listen to the softer signals, she goes for the big guns! Never making contact, but boy does it look like she's out for blood.

I have often said I wish I had ears to pin. We humans are limited in our nonverbal language. :)

Janet Roper said...

Wow, Victoria, you had your hands full in every sense of the phrase! I commend you; you did what you needed to do during the situations, then stepped back to reassess, and made some positive changes for all involved. Kudos to you! Don't forget to take care of yourself during this stressful time.
Janet & Shiloh

allhorsestuff said...

Hello there,
I just found you this insomnia eve...wandering around and I am so glad that I did.
Your mom! I have been having family issues lately,so I won't go there. The last time my mare reared, I actually kicked her in the rear with the side of my foot...she looked so shocked and has not done that again!
It does remind me of not so much the treat frenzie as when I had my mare at a stable that used to "Fast" the horses.Too long a period in between feedings. When I tried to walk her across the, right, it was dangerious at best, to ask her for anything of the sort but head down and cram grass in the muzzle!
Glad to find you, think you are handling things the best you can.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I think you handled things very well. Your mom means no harm, but her stubbornness could have gotten you hurt, I'm glad you are waiting for her siesta now before dealing with the horses. I'm sure Siete will respect you more now because you didn't let her get away with rearing and acting out. Take care of yourself it seems like you have a lot on your plate these days.

Nor’dzin said...

I do shout at Red sometimes and always wish I hadn't afterwards - but he is a big lad and can be very rude in the stable. It is so important to keep safe. I empathise with your elderly mother complications. My mum is 92. We shall always be their little girls, even though we've actually been their carers for years. I hope life becomes a little easier soon. Sending you warm wishes from Wales.

Pony Girl said...

Victoria, that is quite the few crazy days! I applaud you for handling Siete so well...I know the feeling of walking away from your horse shaking, that rush of adrenaline coursing through your veins. I think rearing up on the lead is very scary....I don't know how those Arab halter horse handlers can deal with those horses rearing and prancing all over at the end of the line.... Your little mare has been through a tough month and at times has probably just reached her threshold for all the extra medical fuss. And the carrots didn't help. Hopefully, you can sit down with your mother and explain how important it is that these things don't happen, from a safety perspective. Did she see Siete rearing up? Your mom should be able to understand how that could be a dangerous situation for you in a stall. Hopefully, patient reasoning will work with her. Hang in there!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

It's hard to educate people about horse behavior whether they are deaf or not. My husband used to come out and throw hay to the other horses when I was working with one horse. The horse I was working with always got out of control. People also think that dusk is a good time to call, but not for horse people. Dusk is when we are out at the barn. Someone inevitably calls while I'm working with the horses, and my husband or son come out of the house with the phone in their hand. I tense up because I know it's just a campaigner or charity, and I get angry that they are taking my few minutes a day I have to spend with my horses away from me. I have had to really work hard to get my family members to tell callers I am not available and leave it at that. I have also had to work hard to get them to stop coming out to feed the horses when I'm working with them. It takes a while of retraining, but it can be done.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

That is just so frightening. You are not only strong and brave, but an anchor for your horses, too.

I'm sorry you've had some problems with your Mother not acting appropriately around your horses.
I can't remember...Is she visiting, and for how long?

I hope things get back to normal around there soon. But no matter what comes your way, I know you can handle it. And so do you :)


Strawberry Lane said...

Victoria, I'd say you deserve a medal. You had a lot of things to handle and you did it! It is for certain that problems never arrive alone, they seem to gang up on us!

As for your mother, humm 94 years old? I'd say she truly doesn't understand and she perhaps thinks that when there is a problem ... carrots will solve it.

Forgive me for being amused at your description ..."walzes out of the house waving carrots." I do get the picture.

Is it possible to hide the carrots from mom?

BTW ... horses are always angels when we are alone with them. It's all about center stage with them.

Ground manners ... wow, that's an everyday reminder "job". But I'd say you won the battle.

Also, many, many thanks to you for your comments and support to me with my rescue horse. Each day is a gift, and he is going to make it.