Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Behavior Boot Camp

Rehab with Casey is becoming increasingly stressful. At this point, she seems completely sound and, due to getting her hocks injected, she's feeling great. She also has tons of energy that is just bouncing all around inside her. She's still on the vet-set schedule of only being allowed to trot 10 minutes per day, but that's nothing for her, she's not even breathing hard after that.

The vet gave me Ace to inject Casey before riding her because he knew the challenge that rehab would pose, but at this point Ace doesn't really seem to be working. Or rather, it will work one day and the next day it doesn't seem to have any effect. I have heard that Ace can be addicting, so wonder if perhaps she's becoming addicting and would require more and more Ace to have the same effect, but I'm unwillingly to give her that much Ace.

As the Ace faltered in its effectiveness I started noticing Casey's behavior really escalate. Casey loves to roll in the indoor arena, so one day I let her roll (while on the lead rope so that she wouldn't think it was a free lunging session). She rolled, then got up and shook and appeared to be calm. I opened the arena gate and started through and she charged in front of me and kicked at my head, very nearly missing me. It seemed to be really targeted and malicious, which shocked and scared me, because Casey is not that type of horse. After that incident I decided to not let her roll in the arena anymore (at least during rehab).

After that incident there were other signs that the Ace wasn't working. Another bad incident was when the farmers in the field next door were cutting and baling their hay. I took Casey into the outdoor arena, planning a normal ride, when all of the sudden Casey seemed to lose her mind. She bolted away from me, but I managed to keep hold of the reins which were hanging from her bridle. She trotted in circles around me and wouldn't calm down, just getting more and more upset. I tried everything to calm her down, and while I could get her to stop and stand next to me for a few seconds, it wouldn't last long. I knew that I needed to get her back into her paddock, but I couldn't get her anywhere near the gate. I really didn't know what to do, so I texted my trainer to help me. She came out, I was able to give the reins to her so that I could grab the lunge line and open the arena gate, and then we were able to put the lunge line on Casey's bit so that we could get away from her without losing control. My trainer then was able to get Casey back to her paddock (but man it was a struggle).

At this point I knew that something had to change, because Casey was starting to become dangerous. I talked to the vet and asked him for a different sedative and he gave me a tiny amount of Dormosedan. I also talked with my trainer and expressed my concerns. She thinks that Casey is acting this way because she has a ton of energy and is pushing limits to see what she can get away with. And so I put Casey in boot camp. I put a chain on her halter so that I can have more control if I need it. I also started carrying a whip with me so that I could tap her on the shoulder if she started trying to push ahead of me when I lead her. The problems I am having with Casey are mostly related to ground manners so I am really working to reinstate correct ground manners in her. I'm being super strict and she's not getting away with even putting a single hoof in the wrong spot.

The first time I used the Dormosedan did not go well, but it was mostly my fault. I was really afraid of giving Casey too much of the stuff (because it's really powerful) and so I gave her barely any. It was the worst ride I've ever had on Casey, because she was straight-up evil. She was trying to run ahead and ignore all of my aids, and when I applied pressure to the reins she started really fighting me. She then had a full-out temper tantrum where she bucked and even gave a small rear (the first one I've ever seen out of her). I almost came off, but managed to stick on, and then spent the next twenty minutes working Casey through her crap. It was a lot of circles and bending. She was being totally awful, but by the end of the ride had gone back to her normal, opinionated, but ultimately good, self.
The rear
And bucking
But by the end she was going like this

The ride taught me a lesson and so I've used the "correct" amount of sedative since, thus avoiding a dangerous situation. That, plus behavior boot camp, has really helped and at this point Casey is being very respectful and not-at-all dangerous. In fact, she's been really great lately, super responsive both on the ground and when I'm in the saddle. But it's still stressful.

This whole situation really just sucks because it's not really anyone's fault. It's not my fault that Casey is acting out, but it's not her fault either, because she's just struggling with not being able to get her energy out. Even though I logically know that though, it's hard not to cast blame. I logically know that I don't let my horse get away with bad behaviors, but when she is acting dangerous it feels like I've let her down somehow. I also sometimes can't help myself from casting blame at the horse. I feel like she should know better, even as I remind myself that she doesn't have the logical brain of a human. When I'm being really irrational I want to blame others, but there is really no fault anywhere. But casting blame is my coping mechanism, because really I'm just sad and stressed by this turn of events. I feel like my relationship with Casey is being damaged, because I'm losing trust in her. This is part of why I haven't been writing here as often, it's hard to admit to the general public that things aren't perfect.
She's cute, but has been a terror lately
Even though rehab right now is really rough, I still want to focus on the positives. Casey is responding really well to boot camp and she hasn't acted in a dangerous way on the ground for at least a week. She acted badly under saddle just five days ago, but since figuring out the sedative amount she has been great under saddle. Even though she acted in a way that I assume was meanness towards me on several instances, overall she is still my same sweet mare who loves cuddles and scratches and cares about me. She also is rocking her trot stride adjustments, giving me both balanced collection and powerful extension. I think she really enjoys this which makes me happy because I want her to feel like she gets to do fun things during our rides.

Kisses for the horsie
The saving grace of this whole situation is that I know it's not permanent. Though rehab feels like it's lasting an eternity, I only have three more weeks until the next vet check (and I'm hoping the news will be good). In the meantime, I try to just appreciate the little happy moments that I have with my girlie, because even though she's acted in ways I never expected she would act, I do still love her with all my heart.
Cuddles from today

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