Caring for each other
If you follow me on social media or via this blog, you know I had a riding accident a few months ago. The accident, thankfully, did not involve Rudy.
I was trail riding while on vacation, the horse spooked, I ended up in the unfortunate position underneath him, and he trampled the inside of my left leg. I miraculously walked away with bone bruises and a lot of soft tissue damage. This outcome is beyond lucky.
I'm twelve weeks from the accident, and I still have a way to go before being 100% healthy. My ability to work with Rudy was severely restricted up until recently. I spent the first four weeks of the injury hanging out with him in his stall. While some might argue this is not a smart place for an injured person, there were no other options.
From the moment Rudy saw me hobble down the barn aisle to his stall, he made it clear he understood I was injured. Over the weeks since, he's been nothing but a sweetheart. It's safe to say he was taking care of me.
He was careful whenever I was with him, and he never bumped me. He groomed me almost every time I visited since the injury. And he's engaged me in multiple deep-eye stare sessions. Rudy does this when he wants to communicate a message. He also often engages me in the "eye stare" when I verbalize something important, something heart-felt, or emotional.
This whole time I've felt he was watching over me and doing whatever he could to help me get better. I found it quite remarkable, and it confirmed the level of the bond we have between us.
Earlier in the year, he had gone through a hard time. I can trace the beginning of his problems to the fall of last year. As the weeks went by, he got worse.
He was excessively spooky or edgy. His body and mind were tight nearly all the time. His performance under saddle had become problematic, especially for me. He developed steering problems, particularly going to the right.
There were times I rode him when he refused to turn right; he'd pop his left shoulder out and drive us into the arena wall. He did this to his trainer as well.
He developed a new behavior that I called giraffe. Giraffe is what it sounds like; he'd throw his head in the air, evade contact, his entire body felt hard as a rock, his back was hollow, and it felt like you were riding something that could explode at any moment.
Next came the biting—one of the things I loved about Rudy is that he wasn't a biter. Yet, he had started nipping me frequently. He didn't break the skin, but he made contact with my hand or arm repeatedly. I tried a few different tactics to stop this behavior without success, including no longer giving him treats from hand.
Things went from bad to worse when he started refusing bodywork. I had always touched Rudy a lot, in part because he wanted it. He'd ask me for scratches and lined his body up in front of me for a massage. During this time, when I made contact with him, he'd almost always move away from me, often with a big tail swish.
A parade of equine experts worked with us; the vet, saddle fitter, farrier, and chiropractor. These visits resulted in no change in him, and they found nothing out of the ordinary.
During the lowest period, there were nights I crouched in the corner of his stall and cried. It seemed my sweet, charismatic boy was gone. His personality was completely different, and I didn't know why or how to help him. All I could do was hang out near him and tell him how much I loved him, that he was beautiful, and that I was trying to help him get better.
Feeling as though I was out of traditional options, I decided to start researching animal communicators. I had two recommendations in addition to a friend sending me a link to a program called the Trust Technique (https://www.trust-technique.com).
I used all three and found each one uniquely helpful. One communicator gave me insight into Rudy's pain in his body and the severity of the discomfort. This information gave me a roadmap to start unwinding his physical problems. The certified specialist in the Trust Technique was instrumental in helping me understand what was going on with Rudy emotionally. Her read on him was that he was overloaded emotionally.
At her recommendation, I stopped riding him. Instead, my assignment was to spend time with him and observe his emotional state. And no matter what his emotional state, my job was to stay calm and nonreactive. I was allowed to praise him when he was relaxed or lowered his emotional state from heightened to calm(er).
Over several weeks, there was less biting, he started allowing me to touch him, he was also doing better in his training sessions, and he was slowly becoming less reactive when I was with him.
Rudy is a sensitive, intuitive horse. We've come to believe that the changes brought about by COVID acted as a trigger that sent him into the emotional and physical spiral.
Meanwhile, I was so focused on helping Rudy that I was doing nothing for myself. I needed to do some self-care to be at my best for him. It was the "you can't take care of someone else unless you take care of yourself" lesson.
The injury has forced me to prioritize myself, and this has been good for Rudy and me. We are both doing better physically and are emotionally and mentally less stressed. The past year is a reminder of the importance of self-care and the interconnection with all living beings.
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Written September 8, 2021