Thursday, November 15, 2007

Trying to Get my Breeding Business Back on Track - Training Young Horses _ The Fall Part 2

Part 1 of The Fall

With the final sideways jump of the young Arabian horse, there was no saving me. I landed with a thud, smack on the back of my helmet underneath the horse with the right side of my neck striking one hoof of the horse. My right elbow somehow took an enormous impact as well. The horse was still in motion and tore off down the arena away from me as I just laid there.

I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. And as usual, I couldn't see because my glasses were long gone. Mariah caught Reflection and Rachel raced towards me as I tried to figure out how I was. The back of my neck specifically was throbbing but really everything seemed to hurt.

Once I could catch my breath, I rolled over and began feeling for my glasses. Fortunately they were close by although buried in the dirt. Rachel helped me to my feet and tried to brush me off but I'd hit so hard the dirt was ground into my clothing. Besides. the pressure of brushing the dirt off seemed to hurt everywhere.

I limped over to get the long lines and then went back to get the horse. There was no way I was willing to end this session here. Once I'd attached the long lines, I again put the horse through his paces.

The young stallion settled quickly and seemed to be OK so I decided to get back on the horse. But this time I left a line on him with Rachel at the other end. The horse let me get on as quietly as he had the first time. He even let me use the mounting block. My plan was just as a couple of simple circles on the lead and then we would quit for the day.

Something got him! I have no idea what or why or where, just something got him. Just a few steps into the walk, the horse threw his head into the air with his eyes bulging and nostrils flaring and took off again. He hit the end of the lead and popped around spinning me right out of the saddle. I swear I was in the dirt before I'd even processed his head was in the air.

This time I landed on my right check and then spun backwards onto my back. Again I laid there on the arena floor, shaking my head and wondering if everything still worked. I didn't appear to be hurt any new locations with the exception of the new bruise where my pocket knife had been slammed into my skin. But all the original injuries now screamed even louder.

Again I got to my feet trying to figure out what I should do. I finally settled on getting on the horse in his stall. At first the girls walked him around in the arena until he was quiet. Then Rachel and I took him into his stall.

Rachel held him as I tried to put my foot into the stirrup. But just the movement of the stirrup by my foot wigged the horse out again. He panicked and was literally bouncing off the walls.

Fortunately Rachel was able to stay out from under his feet but I was not so lucky. My foot got caught in the stirrup and I was pulled every which way with the frightened horse. The horse fell a couple of times and I went right down with him. At one point we both landed in his big water container on the floor breaking it.

Each time the horse fell, he managed to catch my right leg with a hoof as he pushed himself to him feet. If he crashed into the near wall, I was the buffer between the horse and the wall. All the while my mind was churning trying to figure out how to free my trapped foot. Finally I managed to get enough behind the stirrup to take the pressure off and my leg popped free but not before I was badly beaten.

Rachel managed to get the horse quieted and we tied him to the wall. Then I went outside the stall and collapsed in the dirt. I got up for a brief instance to throw a horse blanket down for me to lay on. Even though I was dripping with sweat, I knew the cold dirt would throw me into shock if I had just laid there.

There was no way I could find a position that didn't hurt. My head was spinning. I was seeing stars. The places on my leg where Reflection had stepped were screaming at me. I knew I had to lay there or I would pass out. I didn't want to scare Rachel and Mariah anymore than they already were so I just laid there, trying to figure out if I needed 911 or not.

This may not make sense to most of you, but those of you who read my other blog might understand Doctors and Dentists and Such are only a last resort for me. I have to think I'm really going to die or forget it. There is no way I'm going to a doctor for merely falling off a horse.

To be continued............

After the Fall

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  1. What a bad wreck! I'm glad you weren't hurt too seriously and I hope you continue to heal up quickly.

    I can only imagine the work it's going to take to change Reflections mind about being ridden at this point. Horses are so strange sometimes, you never know what will set them off or when...

  2. So I was reading Horses for Life, an article about fear and training the horse. It said this:
    The concept of fear has been studied and reported on by Australian Equine Behaviour Centre.

    “The flight response involves the animal's entire body. Behavioural scientists describe all levels of fear as the HPA axis (the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis). This unwieldy name suggests the origin of the flight response - the brain and the adrenal glands. A structure deep inside the brain called the amygdala, sorts out stimuli as to whether they are fearful or not. Fearful stimuli receive special recognition by the brain in terms of remembering - unlike other information, once learned, fearful responses are not forgotten.”

    From a trainer's perspective, knowing that once activated, this fear response is not forgotten only impresses upon us more deeply why we must be so careful, so gentle, so carefully take our time with each and every horse, with each and every step of training. Carefully ensuring that we do not activate the fear response. We do not want to activate the fear response even once, as once activated, it might be there forevermore.

    One-trial learning

    "While most things we try to train the horse to do involve a number of repetitions, unfortunately the flight response can be learned in just one experience.”

    Which truly, if we think about it, makes sense. “Patterns of escape that result in surviving a predatory attack need to be instantly recorded for later use - there's little room for trial and error when you are lunch for a lion. It is for this reason that during training, when it comes to fear behaviours, the best solution is to delete the fear and give it the least chance of practice. “

    Thus error-free training is something that we should be striving for.

    It may also explain in part why the prospect of re-training is so fraught with difficulties and limitations. Once a mistake is made, will we be able to take it back, if in the process we have invoked the fear response in our horses?

    This just resonated with me after reading your story. I hope that you and Reflection will be OK.

  3. You are one brave girl ! After reading what happened to you, I think I'll just clean the barn tomorrow and forget the riding.

    Get well !

  4. You are one tough cookie Mikael! How much time passed before you were able to get back in the saddle? Ouch.

  5. OMGosh! That's scary! I'm so glad you're still alive! HOLY CRUD!! ((HUGS!!)) and I hope your injuries are doing much better...I can't imagine how bruised and beaten you looked after that!!

  6. Wow. I think the stall incident is by far scarier than the two falls you had in the arena. Not that falling is good, but in the closed space of the stall you could have really been hurt.

    Are you sure you're okay?

  7. My goodness. Now I understand the reason you took a few days to relay your story. I am sure it has taken more than a day just to figure out what went wrong and why.

    I am hoping you are starting to feel better.

  8. OM Gosh MiKael, definitely could have been really really bad especially in the stall. I will make a point to never mount a horse in a stall if it ever crosses my mind!

    I hope you are feeling a whole bunch better today but I have a feeling that you are going to be stiff and sore for a while. Are you sure you dont need medical attention, I know your fears but that was a horrendous crash.

    ((((((Gentle Hugs))))) dont wanna make you hurt more!


  9. Ouch ouch OUCH! Dang, MiKaela, you're one tough granny! I know about that foot hung up thing because that's what happened with Sunny back in August. Although nothing nearly so explosive as you just went through. Thanks for throwing a scare into me what with the new one I've got to go climbing on board at some point...yeah, thanks...