A few days ago Top had a very bad day. He hasn't had one of these for quite awhile.
I felt like I was watching him shake apart and there was nothing I could do to help him.
This wasn't all Top's doing. I hold a great deal of responsibility for his meltdown.
He really hadn't been worked in a couple weeks. Things have been so hectic lately he just hasn't gotten out like he should. He was worried and puffy getting tacked up. These are some photos from his bad day.
It took awhile on the lunge before he even was present. When he was present it was shaky at best. He had foam between his cheeks within ten minutes. Not work sweat, but brain sweat.
I should have just quit when he was going sort of decently on the line. Called it a day. Gave him some treats, groomed him and put him up.
I was feeling the pressure of time and not getting him out enough and though I should ride. Felt obligated too. Even when I was questioning if I should. Even asked it out loud. If I am second guessing getting on a horse that much...I need to not get on.
Well I got on him, and my stirrups were at jockey length. Really not a good thing on Top. He felt like a coiled spring under too much pressure.
Blueheron was there. She was trying to adjust my stirrups while Top was whipping around, slamming into her.
One of my students asked if I was moving him. Uhm, no. He's just doing it himself. Finally got my stirrups down a bit, but not far enough.
I swear, I am going to whack the next person that uses my saddle and doesn't put my stirrups back.
He just couldn't get it together. I guess I have too good of a front. Nobody realized that he was so out of control and I had no way too salvage the situation until I said, "Grab him, NOW!"
He was kind of shifting, scooting. Rocking back on his haunches like a dog sitting, head up in the air, trying to whip it around to see me. He'd get a glimpse...settle for a nano second...spring back up. It felt like we were headed out over the rail and I had no way to get ahold of him. He'd stuff his head to his chest, and sling his body to the side...no contact in the reins.
Blueheron got a hold of him, and I got off as quickly as I could without flat bailing. Figured that would of just cinched his meltdown, I think he would have crumbled if I'd panicked.
He did get in trouble. He was blowing over me on the ground. I took him out to go find the monsters. Told him, "I am way scarier than any monsters out here." So we went for a walk. We walked with intent..."Lets go find the monsters." We went to every place that seem scarier to him...look for the bogeymen. "Nope no bogeymen." After about three of his omg scary spots he almost seemed embarrassed and quit. He did have one moment where he went to run over the top of me, and I kicked him in the chest to keep him from flattening me. HOLYCRAP...who knew Top was a full contact sport. He quit. He seemed genuinely shocked that I'd kicked him. Not more worried, but kind of ashamed. It seemed like slapping a hysterical person to snap them out of it.
I took him out the next day. He'd lost 2-3 inches in girth size in a 24hr period. He was much more himself the next day. Kind of subdued, almost fragile. He got treats, lots of praise and pets. I put one of my old students up on him on the lunge line. She was a witness to the previous day. Kind of in shock at his behavior. Her quote was, "That is the scariest thing I've ever seen." He did really well with her on the lunge. I did not turn them loose. She noted, "As long as he can see you he's fine." They'd be on the circle around me, and he'd look at me, checking in...'Am I good? Am I doing it right?' He did quite well, and we ended on a good note. Hosed his legs off. Groomed him well, more treats and put him back in his pen with a snack.
This horse can make me feel so sad. I can't imagine what it must feel like to check out in panic like he does. I'm glad these episodes are becoming few and far between. In the moment when he's checked out he's a danger to himself and those around him. We're going to work on this. These is nothing so scary or bad that is going to come for him that I wont stop before it gets to him. That's what he has to believe. He was starting to believe it on our walk. Now we have to reinforce it with repetition. He almost has to believe that I am scarier/meaner than anything else out there, and I'm on his side.