Easy is 7-year-old, Oldenburg, Big Bay horse with a white blaze and soulful eyes. Although he is young, he has a history of championships. He just recovered from an injury and is back showing again. Easy’s trainer booked an appointment because at their last show, Easy’s whole demeanor changed. He was spooking at the jumps and lunged pretty hard before his classes. Another concern was if Easy dipped his shoulder after a jump, trying to throw his rider. His trainer feared the behaviors may carry forward and his owner would want to sell him.
Equine professionals often reach out to me. Horses suddenly become spooky and dangerous in the show ring or around the showgrounds and I am a last resort in figuring out what has changed and how these horses can be helped. Often, it’s pain. These are high-level athletes who need chiropractic adjustments, massages, better saddle fittings and supplements. If the trainers and riders are cutting-edge, then these horses are already getting these treatments regularly. Other reasons for changes in behavior are abuse from riders and/or handlers or some type of post-traumatic stress response.
I could tell by Easy’s trainer’s questions on my intake form that Easy was trained and cared for in a consciously kind way. In relating some of the questions he’d want to ask, he wrote, “Are you OK?,” “Is there something I can do to help?,” “How can I make you happier?” In other cases, I’ve received questions that convey anger, such as “What the hell is wrong with you?,” “Stop doing” and “Do you know this is your job?”
Just because a horse has pain in his body doesn’t mean he will act spooky or dangerous. Sometimes they are more lethargic, depressed or tender when you put on their tack. When an animal is spooked, they are not able to think clearly. They are in a state of mind of fear. It is my job to get these horses to understand how to self-soothe with a rider atop them, how and why it’s important to pay attention to the rider when they are in a state of stress, and the consequences of throwing and/or injuring a rider.
I was in awe of how much Easy loves his trainer, John. He told me, “I love it when John rides me. I get in the groove. I feel good in my body and I can stretch out. But other times, I get this poking sensation on the right side of my jaw. Then I get a massive cramp in my hind end. When that happens, I get angry and worked up. John is really clear in his head with me. I always know what is coming next. I?m so grateful for that.”
When I asked Easy why he was so spooked at the last show and why his demeanor changed, he said, “Because my horse friend died there. I might get sick. I don’t want to get anything contagious.”
John gasped and said, “Wait, what?” He took a moment to think and then shared that exactly a year ago one of their horses got sick and died at that very same show. Easy remembers this: He remembers the fear of not knowing what made the horse sick; he remembers the suffering of his friend and his friend dying. He had been carrying that confusion for a whole year. I explained to him that he has vaccinations, that he is not going to get sick at shows, that his friend is in Heaven and that it is safe to go to that venue.
Ever since our talk, Easy is much calmer.
These animals are deeply conscious beings. Just like people, they mourn, need situations explained to them and want to know what is happening next. Open your heart and mind, talk with them, and trust that they will understand.