Thursday, January 7, 2010

Top's Bad Day

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 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.


blueheron said...

Seeing Top have a melt down was pretty scary. Seeing him have a much better day the next day was reassuring.

I've seen you take horses on "bogeymen hunts" before, but this was a very serious hunt. He had a lot of 'em. I remember the moment when he got kind of embarrassed. I could almost hear him saying, "Okay, I get it. No, there are no bogeymen. I'm sorry. Can we stop now?" I think that was a turning point.

He's such a sweet boy. But when he checks out, it's deep.

fernvalley01 said...

We have all said it , but it bears repeating .So glad that Top landed with you ! He has found a safe place , can you imagine what would have happened in different hands ?If someone borrowed my equipment and left it where it was literally unsafe for me ,I would be pissed as well

GoLightly said...

Great post, and great work, HP.

"Put stuff back the way you found it!!"
I'll make ya a sign.

Hugs and calming scritches, he is so photogenic. Hurts, thinking that someone looked at that face and..
How could someone hurt his mind so bad?
Makes you wonder, for sure.

blueheron said...

Some people seem to think that horspoor's tack is community property. Is that a side effect of being a trainer? I remember the morning of Top's bad day, the tackroom was open when I got there. Everything was there, but gotta wonder who was using the saddle. They left it with one stirrup the right length, and one 4 or 5 holes too short!

blueheron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
horspoor said...

Okay, and even the one that was closest to my length was still a notch too short.

Padraigin_WA said...

he's a beautiful horse, HP. He looks 'on the ready', though, in the photos below, worrying about something that's just not right. Maybe his past? He needs you to show him that life is good, and that it will only get better as long as you keep saying 'stick with me, kid'.

Cut-N-Jump said...

He is quite the handsome boy. And to think that someone could do unspeakable things to the extent of brainfry, well there's just no justice in this world for some.

If you are ever second guessing getting on a horse to that extent- gotta go with what you know and just keep your feet on the ground. It's what I do anymore. No horse is worth literally dying over just to ride them. None.

We have had our share of horses that 'check out' and the last one being a little Arab mare named Lana. Looney Lana was more like it at times. She did really well the one day under saddle and as JR was climbing off she checked out.

Her eyes rolled back and went blank, just like her brain. And she went to bucking like mad. He's half way off and the horse flips out. There's timing for you.

We never could determine what triggered it either. One time this, another time that, third time around it was something else.

Glad to hear you made it through it all in one piece.

kestrel said...

Oh hugs HP, what a sad and scary deal. So glad you're okay, and that at least this time Top had enough marbles left to start to get the program, so you have made INCREDIBLE strides. Just makes you want to go people hunting, doesn't it!?

nccatnip said...

HP- I know you know your stuff, I just wonder if an animal communicator is in order. I do not know if I really believe, but at this point, could it hurt?
I'll even send you a few bucks toward the cost and call it an experiment for S&G if you want.

Dena said...

HP you know my feelings on this. I applaud your commitment to Top.
But as it isn't possible to know his schedule for checkout is it ever really possible to be prepared for it?
At this stage I am with NCC. And no I don't think that is weird or hoaxy if it is a real and truly gifted individual.
Good luck Girl.

bhm said...

Poor Top. I'm so glad he's with you. You have an excellent handle on him and read him well.

Julie said...

Poor Top.. It is hard on both of you when he thinks the "Equi-Eat-A-Me" is after him!

Enjoyed my visit to your blog!

horspoor said...

I'm going to try and get a post together soon. Had another EQ today. I wonder how much Top moved his pen this time? lol

TCavanaugh said...

While I am just a backyard girl, and not intelligent enough to comment regarding Top's behaviour. I just wanted to say I love your blog.

Jen Marie said...

Just found your blog and I love it! i feel your pain about letting someone borrow your stuff and having it come back to you much different then how you left it
I worked with a TB that came to my barn that sounds very much like Top. One minute he would be completely fine and the next he was flying around in panic mode until you got off. Then he wouldn't let you get more then a foot away from him because he was so scared of what ever it was.
What really helped us with him was to regularly turn him loose in our arena where he always worked and just explore things with him and after he was comfortable with that we would set "monsters" in certain places and have him check them out and make sure they were ok then work in the ring with these "monsters" he did awesome with it, as long as you were on the ground with him the first time he investigated it. Sounds like what your doing with your boy so I'll tell you, it really does pay off! keep up the great work!