Monday, November 14, 2016
The Plan (such as it is, subject to change)
Here's where I'm at:
1) I really, genuinely like this horse and I'm (still) not ready to give up on him.
2) This year was really, genuinely awful and I don't want to do it again.
From where I sit, it looks like Courage is advancing well in his dressage training. On the days he shows up to play, he works hard, tries hard, and is definitely making progress. His body is changing. His muscles are changing.
Those days are great.
But there are also days where he flat doesn't show up to work. Doesn't want to play. Can't deal with life. Not just "a little bit doesn't want to" or "needs to go for a hack"--we're talking completely unmanageable, borderline dangerous, brain checked out, not coming back to earth stuff.
Everyone is going to have bad days, but for this to be worth it to me, the bad days need to be less frequent and they need to be less dramatic.
See, here's what's really interesting to me about this. For all his antics, Courage is never trying to get rid of me and he's really never trying to get away. He's massively claustrophobic, yes, but he's also terrified of freedom. He may leap and rear and bolt on the lunge line, but he never pulls away from me. He may break free at the trailer, but he immediately stops and wants to be caught.
That grabs my attention. This isn't a horse saying EFF YOU HUMANS. It's a horse with some rather severe emotional issues, but still issues that might be overcome-able.
And again, while I don't enjoy the leaping/bolting/flailing, I can and will ride it. We changed disciplines and trainers and everything for him and I don't resent him for that. Those things are fine with me, but I also need him to work with me on this.
The dressage training is definitely helping the good days, but I'm not sure it's improving the bad ones and I question trying to ask a pressure-averse horse to accept more pressure on days when he's already peaced out. If I show up and it's clearly a "not" day, saying "go sideways and step underneath yourself" doesn't seem to improve anything.
So I need a different approach. Something that addresses Courage's emotional instability and claustrophobia and teaches him different responses.
Dare I say it? We're officially in search of a good local cowboy. There will probably be a round pen. Pool noodles? Balloons? Flags? God only knows.
This is not something I undertake lightly--Courage is at best a fragile horse mentally, and I am not going to risk having him fried by someone who doesn't understand what we're after. I don't care if he can walk over bridges or get in the back of trucks or have guns fired off him or whatever. I don't need razzle dazzle and pizzaz.
I'm in search of someone who can get through to my man C-rage on an emotional level and help him learn some coping skills.