Monday, July 9, 2012

Thunder is the new fireworks

The weather forecast showed sun for the entire week and no chance of rain so I was being careless about leaving things outside.  Luckily, my husband brought the Andirondack bench into the garage that we need to prime and paint instead of leaving it on the back deck like I was going to (assuming it wasn't going to rain).  Apparently, at around 3am we had a huge thunder storm and it rained like crazy.  I am a little sorry to have missed it but I woke up at 2am and even though it was peaceful and quiet and I sleepily thought "I'm so tired - I don't want to wake up if the husband starts snoring so I'm going to pro-actively put in ear plugs."  Apparently, that was enough.  Somehow my daughter slept through it also.  But then I guess she's had practice sleeping through loud booms the last week with the 4th of July and all.

Despite the heat and sun Toadie was all wound up yesterday when I brought her in from the paddock.  I'm certain it was because by the time I got back to the stable to bring her in she was alone with Sonny - a newcomer and a very high-strung Arab - and they were both feeding off of each other's anxiety about being alone in the paddocks.  Then when I brought Toad out to bring her in poor Sonny had an enormous panic attack and started screaming and running around like a mad man.  Since we had to walk alongside his paddock to get back to the barn this sent Toad into a frenzy because she was sure that monsters would get her.  She still does not have the trust/bond with me to focus on me to calm down as opposed to flipping out in her own head.  I don't know if she'll ever have that but after less than a year I guess I'm not surprised she hasn't developed it very much yet because she had five years before that to have a life with no sense of a herd leader to protect and guide her so under stress she goes to her default of "I'm all alone! No one will help me! Must panic!" when super-stressed out.  I'm hoping we can work together to develop that trust and bond over time, but we'll see.

It did not help that the paddocks are right by the owner's house and the wife of the couple opened the door to come outside and her dog ran out and started barking at Sonny because Sonny was screaming and racing around his paddock.  Then the owner started screaming at the dog, and also screamed a few "Oh no! Oh no! Something is wrong!" or something like that.  That was just too much for Toad and she decided it was time to bolt away and run like a crazy thing in no particular direction.  Unfortunately (or fortunately?) for her I still had the lead rope in my hand so she bolted, then had to swing around when she got to the end of the lead rope and gave me this look like, "Crap! Where did you come from???"  I told her to "Quit!" and "Calm down" in as quiet and firm a voice as I could, then tried to coerce her back behind me.  She thought I was trying to push her into danger so she danced around like a lunatic until I turned around so now she was behind me, and led her back towards where we came from and turned us around so now she was behind me again facing the barn.

I started to walk again but then; the dog barked again, the owner screamed something about everything being out of control again, Sonny wailed and started scooting and bucking and rearing behind us and Toad tried to bolt again.  Stopped by the lead rope once again.  Stood staring at me wild eyed like "You're one of them! Aaaaaagh!" so not knowing what else to do I figured I do the equivalent of slapping a hysterical person and smacked her with the end of the lead rope across the shoulder (not very hard but enough to get her attention) and said firmly, "Quit! You need to be polite. You're not in danger."  But instead of getting her attention back to focusing on me like I'd hoped, she completely freaked and reared straight up in the air so she was standing as tall as she could on her hind legs.  All the better to get a look at the hysterical carnage behind us.

The she landed and tried to bolt, I held onto the lead rope and told her to quit and calm down and she tripped over a stump next to the trail and that was the end of that - she just started running in circles around me while I held onto the lead rope.  After a couple laps she finally stopped and I went up to her and massaged her neck and talked quietly to her about how she was not in danger but that behavior was not acceptable and she needed to get it together.  We started again walking toward the barn and this time even though she was prancing and shaking she at least followed me without any more antics.  She was very relieved to get in her stall.  And after I brought Sonny in and went back to pick out Toad's stall she was nice and relaxed and very polite again.

I feel like I must have done something wrong that it escalated like that, but I can say the one thing I am proud of is that I didn't yell or scream and I actually stayed calm the whole time.  The owner's wife came down to the barn once Toadie was in her stall and was all shaken up and said, "Wasn't that terrifying?" and I said, "No, I'm used to her.  We have an agreement that she is not allowed to step on me or stampede over me." (which actually isn't totally true - when she's freaking out I don't think she's completely learned to be cognisant of where I am but we're working on it and I'm getting more practice watching her every second to stay out of her line of fire).  The owner's wife looked a little surprised I wasn't shaken up and said, "You're so good with her!"  I don't feel like that's true or she wouldn't have freaked out so badly to begin with.  But I was proud that I kept my cool and didn't blow up in anger or freak out from fear.

Anyway, then it was time to go get Sonny.  I had been told his owner was coming back soon, but he was still out in the paddock alone completely panicked and he's new to the barn - I think he's only been there a week - and he's been very anxious about the transition as it is.  So, I was worried if we waited until his owner got there to bring him in he'd hurt himself.  I'm pretty sure she would not appreciate us leaving her already anxious horse alone in the paddocks panicking, so I went out there to see how that would go.  The girl that was at the barn who'd talked to Sonny's owner just said, "If you bring him in Star said to make sure he walks slowly."  That's the other thing, he's recovering from founder so I thought all that tearing around wouldn't be good for him.

I was dubious after my bout with Toad that I could handle him while he was in a state of panic, but at least he's a hand or two smaller than Toad.  He was drenched in sweat from fear when I got back to the paddock and was shaking and running in circles.  So, I grabbed the lead rope, ducked under the electric fence and figured I'd just take it a step at a time since I didn't know him.  If he freaked out to the point where I felt in danger I'd just leave him there.  As soon as he saw me he did a fast frenzied trot straight toward me which was a little nerve-wracking. I held up my hand quietly said, "Whooooa" which always causes Toad to slow down and walk toward me instead when she comes barreling at me like that.  Didn't work with Sonny but thankfully he did skid to a stop right in front of me.  He was shaking all over and when I picked up the halter to put over his head he threw back his head and screamed which was so loud and high-pitched I wanted to cover my ears.  But I got the halter over his head and he did very well following me to the barn.  He was shaking and dancing a little but he didn't bolt or scoot or anything.  I have to admit as I was putting him in his stall I thought to myself, "I wonder if Star wants to trade horses?"

No comments:

Post a Comment