Keep on Keeping On

It’s been just about a month since Bear’s injury diagnosis. Things are proceeding along much as one might expect. The journey toward wellness continues.

Bear’s spirits are good. For a horse on stall rest he’s bearing up well (ha!), content to play tug-of-war with the hay in his nibble net and indulge my own boredom-alleviating practice of teaching him tricks.

I miss riding.

This week he learned how to smile on command. Perhaps it would be more correct to say he developed an obsession for it. Why? Because now he smiles, whether I ask him to or not, for the explicit purpose of getting a carrot. Even if I simply stand in front of him and look like I might say “Smile!” he stretches his neck, tilts his head, rolls his eyes and grins at me expectantly. He’s such a ham.

I try not to encourage him too much. On the other hand, his cheerfulness leads me to believe that, in spite of his confinement, he’s a happy boy and pretty content with his lot as it stands.

This is such a relief. A lot of horses are not so sensible under such circumstances.

Still, Bear pushed his luck a bit last week.

Let me explain …

Bear’s been good about following me around on our walkabouts in the arena lead-rope free. Turns out he lead me right into a false sense of security.

A week ago Friday a pall hung in the air with the news that Wendy, the barn manager, had been thrown from a horse the evening before and broken her wrist and fractured a bone in her pelvis. Such news is always disturbing. It’s a reminder that in spite of everything we might love about horses, there are inherent risks to being in their company ~ whether on the ground or in the saddle. Naturally, my thoughts were with her somewhat, leaving me feeling a little distracted.*

Still, I had Bear to think of too, so went about the business of bringing him into the arena for his walkabout. Just because of the unsettled nature of the day I decided to err on the side of caution and keep him on the lead rope while we walked around the cold arena.

As he was being sensible I decided to unhook him. He followed me around and, as usual, left a special delivery which I would need to pick up. While I walked to the far end of the arena to fetch the bucket and fork he wandered away by himself for a moment. No big deal. He was quiet and would, I knew, reconnect to supervise my cleaning efforts.

Usually he follows me and the bucket and fork back to the muck skip in the corner, but this time he wandered off again, sniffing at jumps or anything else that happened to capture his attention. Then, without warning, he dropped and rolled flopping back and forth and really grinding his day sheet into the sandy footing. This was accompanied by the obligatory grunts and squeals of delight which made me feel good for him. It had been weeks since he’d been able to give himself a good, self-administered back rub.

Of course, I watched admiringly and smiled as he launched back to his feet and gave himself a good shake. The next moment my look of admiration quickly changed to one of horror when, with a squeal and explosive expulsion of gas, Bear leapt into the air like a Lippizaner doing airs above the ground. I was even more horrified when he did it again … twice! He looked ever-so pleased with himself, snorting and blowing, ears pricked, eyes bulging, head periscoped and searching, I dare say, for the next opportunity to elevate my stress hormones.

“Bear! Stop!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. The vapours of my breath filtering through the freezing air; my heart racing. “Stop it, Bear … you’re not allowed to do that!”

He stood stock still. His majestic head held high; his nostrils snorting their own vapour in a kind of triumphant fanfare. Holy crap, what a magnificent animal. He turned and looked at me with the noncommittal air of someone consumed in their own moment. Concerned that he might try something stupid like that again I knew I had to do something to get his attention back on me and de-escalate his energy.

As horses read, and respond to, the energy in their environment it was clear to me I needed to de-escalate my energy first. I started focusing on my breath, deeply inhaling and exhaling in a way that would allow him to sense the retreat of my own upset energy. I did this for several breaths and, while doing so, made a conscious effort to relax my whole body, softening my core so he could read my body language to say it’s okay to come down now.

His response was almost immediate. He soon lowered his head to level, indicating the intensity had passed, and began to lick and chew to demonstrate some relaxation.

“Good boy, … come on, Bear, come be with me,” I encouraged in a soft voice that reflected my more relaxed state. I continued to breathe audibly.

He began to amble in my direction.

“Good boy … nice and slowly now …”

He stopped and sniffed at the cavelletti some 10 feet from where I stood. While he was thus distracted I quietly walked over to him and stopped a few feet away to acknowledge his personal space. He stopped sniffing and turned to face me, acknowledging my presence. We honoured this reconnection together. It was a sweet moment.

Then, without any further effort on my part, Bear wandered over to me and put his muzzle against my chest as if to apologize for his lapse in judgement. I stroked his neck and attached the lead rope to his halter, and we started walking again. It was then that I had a good long talk with him about how inappropriate his actions had been, and impressed upon him that since I am not allowed to ride him right now he’s not allowed to go leaping around as if nothing is wrong with him. It sends the wrong message and, more importantly, it could set his recovery back weeks.

I couldn’t stay mad at him for long. Still, since then his walkabouts have been limited to the lead rope.

What a twerp!

End note …

There have been two snow days this week (including today) where I haven’t been able to get to the barn to see my boy. Lovely Sarah has been pampering Bear for me on these days which is amazing as this allows me to rest easy that he will be okay in my absence. 🙂

And this past Friday Bear had his third of three shockwave treatments. Now we have a month to wait until the next ultrasound which will tell us how the injury is healing. In the meantime, we simply keep on keeping on.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

*Wendy is on her own brand of stall rest right now, and appears to be doing well.

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

 

 

6 thoughts on “Keep on Keeping On

  1. Nothing like a surprise. I hope Bear was paying attention when you talked to him about not doing those airs above ground for awhile yet. Maybe he’s getting too many carrots.

      • Surprise him with a couple peppermints or an apple. There was a little three color pinto mare, named PeeWee, who I used to ride years and years ago. She adored carrots, until I gave her a peppermint candy. She would follow me around with her chin on my shoulder, until I’d give her one and she’d come running when I called her from the pasture. She wouldn’t do that for anyone else. I wanted to buy her but couldn’t afford the board.

      • Such a sweet story. I certainly understand the disappointment of building a relationship with a horse you know can never be yours. Done it a hundred times over. Thanks for telling me about PeeWee. Sounds like a sweetie. … Bear, too, receives a broad array of goodies. Peppermints, wintergreen mints, stud muffins. I had to remove apples from the list (which was too bad because he loved bobbing for them in his water trough) after a couple elf near misses with colic. Too acidic for his system, I guess. He now gets daily doses of aloe vera juice to keep his digestive system happy. … Not spoilt at a;; … 😉

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