Isn’t that how you feel when someone says you have to start over. It can be heartbreaking.
You think about all the work you’ve done on this one project, or that you’ve had this one job for over a decade, or maybe you have to move after you’ve spent half of your life fixing up your current home and all the memories you feel you’re going to lose.
But do you?
Don’t those memories go with you? Don’t those lessons you learned, doing that one project or that one job for so many years, stay with you? Isn’t your life more fulfilled with those experiences, good and bad?
I think so.
And isn’t life just a series of lessons and a journey/adventure that we go through as we age?
Don’t ALL our experiences make us who we are and mold us into becoming a better person?
I think so.
I also think that the opportunities to start over and learn something new, something exciting, something needed, is a necessary part of life that helps us grow, learn, and become better human beings.
However, I do understand that it can be hard, it can hurt, and sometimes in life, and in training horses, we have setbacks. And we can feel discouraged to say the least. But maybe if we “Change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.” I really love that saying and say it to myself a lot.
Another good saying, I heard growing up was, “Change is painful, but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you’re not supposed to be.”
My mother used that one when I was feeling sad and hurt. I didn’t really understand it then, but I do now.
And I think most of the time we don’t realize it was time to move on, or we needed to grow, until after we’ve been forced to move on. Then we look back and realize it was a good thing. That whole “hindsight is 20/20” idea.
These are all things I tell myself when I have to move on, I have a setback, or if I have to start all over again. It’s like my mother whispering in my ear to try to make me feel better and help me grow.
Well, let me tell you about my latest setback…
If you’ve been following along with the Stallion Series you know I’ve been training two wonderful Arabian Stallions that had been left alone for years and had issues because of it.
One was absolutely wild and crazy and unmanageable. That was Danny. The other one had abandonment issues and was always on guard ready to pounce at any moment with a powerful explosion. That was Kit.
But after 21 sessions with each, 21 days, these two stallions are now ready to start training to ride. Kit, my special Black Arabian Stallion, is just a cuddler now who is willing to do anything and everything with me.
As a side note: I just heard that with the passing of one of his uncle’s, Midnight Hisan, Kit is now the only remaining Black Arabian Stallion, of the Bahim Hisan line, in the world. He has been a true gift as an addition to my herd.
Then there is Danny, who had every issue imaginable when I first started working with him. Now, he is friendly, loving, can be haltered and led, is good around other horses, and actually likes to go out and do things with me. He is still very high strung, but he is also very willing and thoughtful now.
The last two things I have been working on with Danny are his fear of water and his absolute terror of the farrier. When it comes to water, he is even afraid of the rain. I’m not sure why, but he hates water. He will drink from a water bucket, but that is as close as he gets to the water.
The fear of the farrier is deep-seated with the trauma and drama he’s been through. Because it is such a chore and so wrought with terror, his owner has her farrier come out only once a year. And the vet also comes out to sedate him so he can get his feet worked on.
I was told that the vet would give Danny a shot to drug him up and then the farrier would do his feet as fast as possible while Danny fought and kicked out. It became very dangerous for everyone involved, even the horse. This is what I was told, I never saw it myself.
So, during the 3 weeks of training Danny, I worked intermittently on being able to touch his feet and pick up his feet. For anyone who has seen the series, it was all about where he allowed me to brush. And I did this subliminally as I worked on other issues at the same time.
It took me a while, but Danny finally trusted me enough to pick up his front feet, but not his back feet, not yet. I was almost there.
During this time, I also had my farrier out to meet Danny and they interacted twice. We were set up to have him brush Danny, and hopefully get to his legs, the next time he did my horses feet. The last time he was out Danny did let him touch him and pet him without running off or freaking out.
Things were progressing well and Danny was ok with me and starting to be ok with my farrier, to a certain point. We were allowing Danny to get there at his own pace when he trusted us.
Now let me back up a few weeks…
A few weeks back I decided to clean out the fish pond and change out the filter. I stepped down from the rocks on the side of the pond into the pond and on to the black liner. The pond had only been in for a few weeks and this was the first time I was going in to change the filter.
Well, Gravity Works!
One foot stepped into the pond while the other foot was still on the rocks on the side of the pond. The foot in the water hit the liner and kept on going. Wheeeeeeeee!
I’m sorry but my body was not designed to do the splits. But, that is just what happened. And boy did that hurt.
So, that accident took me out of commission for a few weeks. I had torn my Adductor Muscle and the doctor said I needed to stay off my feet and take it easy for the next 6 weeks. Of course, my first thought was, “I can’t do that, I need to see my horses.”
Well, I could stand ok and I could walk around a little, but I couldn’t put much weight on it or move too quickly. And I definitely couldn’t use that leg to steady myself if I lost my balance at all. I couldn’t even pick up my leg to get dressed, not an inch. So, no driving, no walking, no riding, no walking down to the horses, and definitely no walking with the horses.
I was bummed.
Needless to say, the only thing I really missed was my horses. It only took me three weeks until I couldn’t take it any longer and I decided to gingerly and carefully walk down to the horses. I had to see them.
And this week I even chanced going into the pasture with them and hanging out close to them. They were careful and so was I. I still have trouble with fast movements and balancing myself. However, I did get to see them all and it made me feel better.
Jazz and Apollo and Kit were thrilled to see me and happy as usual. They came to the gates and nuzzled in and we shared some scratches.
Danny however was very pissy and gave me the evil eye when I went to his paddock gate. He didn’t even come over to greet me. It was very strange, even for him. So, I knew something was wrong, I just didn’t know what. I assumed he was upset that I hadn’t been out to see him for a few weeks.
Well, I didn’t have long to wait until I found out why Danny was so upset.
My farrier came out to do Jazz, Apollo, and Kit’s feet. And while we were standing there with the first horse, Jazz, he told me that Danny’s owner had called him and asked him to come out a few days ago to do Danny’s feet. Oh boy!
I was shocked since I had always asked her to let me know when she scheduled the vet or farrier so I could be there to help.
She had not only scheduled the farrier, but she also scheduled the vet. She had to call my farrier because her farrier refused to do Danny anymore since the last time he got kicked badly and said that Danny was too psycho for him to work with.
My farrier, Scott, said that he thought I would be there and was surprised not to see me. But, he figured he was ok with Danny, as he knew his history and he had been able to pet Danny without incident the last time he was out.
And I believe he would have been fine, except…the vet.
Scott didn’t realize that they were going to drug Danny. The vet got there right after he pulled up and the vet proceeded to chase Danny around and around and around trying to catch him.
Then he just tried to get close so he could put the needle in him. That didn’t work either. Danny wasn’t letting anyone get near him.
The owner had sent out her brother Johnny to hold Danny for the farrier. So, her brother tried to catch Danny but that didn’t work either.
After watching this fiasco, Scott quickly realized that Danny was way too traumatized and freaked out and was no longer safe to work with. He told them he would be back the next day to try this on his own.
So, they all stopped and left for the day. The next day, Scott thought he would be working on Danny by himself and that Danny would be his normal “ok” self with him. However, the vet and Johnny showed up again. They actually had gotten to the farm before Scott showed up.
The vet gave Danny a tranquilizer that he put in his morning feed. And when the farrier came out the brother had Danny haltered, drugged up and ready to get his feet done. Scott told me that he was so drugged up he could hardly stand up. He was not happy and neither was I when he told me.
Luckily it was Scott who came out to do Danny because Danny knew him. Danny had met Scott twice, trusted him slightly, and liked him. At least I knew that Scott was doing all he could for Danny and tried to help as best he could.
At this point, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to know anymore. All I wanted to do was run over to Danny and apologize that this had happened to him. I felt so bad that I didn’t know and I hadn’t been there to protect him.
I think the farrier saw the tears starting to fill up in my eyes, and he said, “It all worked out and Danny was a good boy for me, but…”
Oh boy, I didn’t like that “But…”
My farrier said that he had done just what I had taught him to do with Danny. He took it slowly and gently. He actually had brought Danny his favorite treat too since he wanted to apologize for what the others had put Danny through the day before.
Then he scratched Danny’s neck, pet his shoulders, and talked to him calmly as he touched his leg and picked up his front foot.
He said he showed Danny each item before he brought it near him so Danny could approve it first and it was all going well. Even with Johnny holding the lead and standing there, Scott was able to keep Danny calm.
Until he got to his back feet. The farrier said that he could tell Danny really didn’t like the owner’s brother. So, Scott kept trying to tell the guy to stop talking and to stop moving around. He knew all that over the top, loud energy along with him not paying attention to what was going on around him was really bothering Danny.
By the time Scott got to Danny’s back feet, Danny had had enough of the brother. And Danny had to say something.
When Scott picked up Danny’s back leg Danny kicked out. But it wasn’t at the farrier. Scott knew that Danny was just kicking out of frustration and irritation and he wasn’t bothered by it. He said it wasn’t even a real hard kick, it was more of a push.
But, before Scott could pick up his leg again, the brother gathered the lead rope and whipped Danny on the butt as hard as he could and started screaming at him, as he continued to hit him. Johnny just exploded in a fit of rage on Danny.
That was it!
Danny had been patient, was trying to work with the farrier the best he could and this was just too much. I would have had it at this point too if I had been Danny. He reared up, pulled away from the brother, and ran off kicking and bucking.
The farrier said he just quietly picked up his stuff and started walking back to his truck without saying a word. He was so upset, but it wasn’t his horse and Johnny was there as the owner. Plus, he told me that he knew it wouldn’t have changed the way Johnny handled horses. “You can’t fix stupid”, he said. Scott wanted out of there, just as badly as Danny did.
The brother then yelled at the farrier and told him to come back and go get the horse. The farrier told him, very firmly, that he wanted no part of his attitude and his behavior with the horse and that he would not be back out to do Danny again unless I was there and he wasn’t.
I thought, “Good for you. I’m so glad you stood up for Danny because I wasn’t there to do it for him”. And I told the farrier that I knew nothing about the visits being scheduled or else I would have been there to help. He knew that. But now he also knows what the brother is like around horses and he won’t be working with him again.
It reminded me of what I tell people when their horse acts up and gets aggressive. “You don’t have to fight back, you have a choice to walk away and that says volumes. That tells your horse that you don’t want to be around him/her in that state and if he/she wants you around, he/she needs to stop acting that way.” And it works every time.
So back to the present moment…
After the farrier was done with Jazz, Apollo, and Kit we both went over to visit with Danny. Danny looked pretty upset still and was more sad than mad. But, he came over to the gate and allowed me to pet him as well as the farrier. And after about 10-15 minutes he seemed to be a little more upbeat.
What a setback!
All that trauma and turmoil sent Danny spiraling out of control, bringing up all his fear memories of how humans have treated him. He didn’t know what to do or who to trust at that point and I hadn’t been there to help him. I then became the ‘bad guy’ in his mind.
It was like someone had put a pin in my balloon and taken all the wind out of my sail. I felt so bad for Danny and so bad that I wasn’t there to help him. The energy around Danny was so different now and he had gone back to not liking or trusting humans again.
All that work, now gone. We were back to square 1. It was so disheartening to see Danny like this.
The next day I went down and sat with Danny in his paddock and he would come within about 12 feet from me, but he never came up to me. You could just feel his fear and distrust. I had now been dumped back into the category of “all humans” and I knew it. He was not happy.
I had to start all over again. Ugh.
Do you know the old saying… ”When one door closes, another one opens”?
Well, that is exactly what happened on the second day. I went to go see Danny and he came up to the gate to see me. Then when I went into his paddock, with a chair, and sat there for a while just watching him, he finally started to soften up.
And after about an hour or so, he came up, snorted all over me, touched me with his nose, and then put his chin on my head and relaxed. You could even hear a sigh of relief coming from him.
I was so happy that he remembered that I was one of the good guys who has always helped him, not hurt him. His trust was coming back and this time it happened much quicker than the first go around. Plus, this time it was much deeper. I could feel in my heart how much he had just connected to me. Wow!
Danny has actually been gentler and lower key with me in the last two days. He just can’t seem to get close enough right now and I’m glad my presence is reassuring him.
I’m still not ready to take him out or even put a halter on him because of my leg injury. But for now, we are enjoying each other’s company and growing deeper in love.
Starting over was a good thing!
My take-aways from this experience:
- I guess starting over wasn’t as bad as I originally had thought. Our connection seems to be even stronger now and our heart-felt understanding even deeper.
- Sometimes there really is a silver lining in the event of a setback. At least there was in this instance.
- Starting over can also be a blessing in disguise that helps us grow and become more of who we were meant to be. Possibly even knowledge that will help us later on in our journey. “One more tool in our toolbox.”
- How we handle a setback with our horses is just as important as our training. Did we lose our cool and over-react like the brother did or did we stay calm, cool, and collected and handle it with grace as the farrier did?