“Thank you so much for yet another enlightening experience. We are wondering how many times people's animals have tried to tell them something -- only to then be whipped into submission. I really feel like we are both becoming more attuned to our animals and learning to trust them when they tell us that something is not right. We have you to thank for that!”
When I worked with Miki and Steve, their youngest horse, Toby, was acting out very badly in the trailer – to the point of having recently fallen down inside it. He was hurting himself and damaging the trailer, and they were very worried because nothing they’d tried so far was getting him to stop.
He’d been a good loader and traveler when they got him and nothing they’d done so far was helping. If they couldn’t haul him, then they were in a bad situation. That would mean they couldn’t take him to the vet, they couldn’t go to trail rides or for lessons or shows. And, he was ruining their expensive trailer – not to mention the bodily harm he was causing to himself. Plus, he could seriously injure them while they tried to work with him, creating a very dangerous and frustrating situation all the way around.
They’d been hauling Toby with their paint horse, Rooster. Toby would go in first because the front slant load area was smaller and he didn’t have as much room to hurt himself. But it didn’t stop him trying. While Toby squealed and jumped and kicked, tossing himself from side to side, Rooster would calmly stand there, acting like he didn’t know what all the fuss was about.
When I tuned in to find out, from Toby’s viewpoint, what the problem was we learned some surprising things. We learned that the actual trailer and being hauled wasn’t the problem. We learned that he didn’t suffer from motion sickness, and he wasn’t having trouble getting on or off the trailer, or balancing himself in the trailer while it was moving. We also learned that he liked going places.
So what was wrong? It turned out that the apparently calm horse, Rooster, was actually instigating everything by telling Toby that he was going to attack him and that he shouldn’t be there. Rooster wanted their other older horse, Benito, to go with him – not Toby.
Jealous of Toby, Rooster often threatened to attack him in pasture. But out in pasture, Benito would intervene and Toby could easily get away from Rooster. Toby, when caught in such a tight space inside the trailer with no chance to get away or protect himself, would go into a frenzy trying to defend himself. Then, Rooster would just quietly laugh at him. Because the telepathic communication between the horses was silent, the humans weren’t aware of what was really going on. So we made some corrections.
First, we told Rooster that as long as Toby wasn’t happy and peaceful, that Rooster wouldn’t get to go out at all and instead they’d take Benito. So we made it very important to Rooster that he adjust and be responsible for his own behavior.
Second, we checked the status of who should be in the front of the trailer. Even though Toby was 3rd horse in the herd, he felt he needed to be in the trailer’s front stall to feel as safe as possible.
Third, I suggested that the owners relocate Toby’s and Rooster’s stalls in the barn so they were next to each other and to Benito. This meant they had to learn to be more comfortable in closer, more confined quarters, and Benito could supervise their interactions. I also reminded Toby that Rooster was laughing at him when he acted out so foolishly, and that Toby wasn’t being very smart. And, we know Toby really is a smart horse.
“I have to tell you what happened on Sunday when we took our horses, Toby and Benito out as planned. We loaded Benito first, Toby last. Initially Toby was fine going out with his "protector" Benito. He kicked up a little fuss in the trailer when we arrived, but nothing like he does with Rooster, our other horse.
On the ride back Benito refused to be loaded first (he NEVER refuses to load) so we put Toby in first and Benito walked in quite willingly second. Toby started making a small fuss - again not nearly as bad as he does when Rooster is around and I think Benito talked to him because he calmed down quite a bit. I must say that Rooster was most displeased that he had been left behind yesterday. He kept looking at me and telling me that I'd taken the wrong horse out!”
I promise you, what your animal does makes perfect sense to them! Our job is to listen to them so we can learn about their experiences and discomforts and then take appropriate action. People and their animals just don’t always communicate very well.
Most of my work is about fixing problems, helping people and their animals build happy, solid relationships. I’m offering a series of Pet Tips designed to help you better understand your animal friends, communicate better, with exercises you can practice, learning how to deepen your connection and love for each other. The Tips are free with no obligations or strings attached. Just go to my website and sign up! It’s that simple!
If your horse friend is performing badly, give them a chance to tell you why!
I love to help people with their animal's, so if you need some help, please contact me! I’ll look forward to hearing from you.
Val Heart, MBA, PaCBP – Specializing in the Human Animal BodyMind Connection, working with chronic pain, illness, trauma, resolving health & behavior challenges for humans & animals. Speaker, Teacher, Columnist, PaRama BodyTalk Practitioner, seen on TV and heard on radio. Empathic Animal Behaviorist since 1993, offering help with Performance, Competition, Behavior, Health, Training, Euthanasia. Workshops, TeleSeminars, Free Pet Tips and Newsletter.
© Copyright. All Rights Reserved. Val Heart & Friends.