“I am afraid my wife won’t come home one day from the barn. I just want her to get rid of that dangerous horse”, Wendy’s husband said to me as he pulled me aside. “I’ll do everything I can to help” I replied trying to reassure him. Wendy first contacted me explaining that her horse had become violent for no apparent reason. She explained that she’s been checked out by veterinarians and trainers, but no one can figure out what’s wrong. Wendy went on to explain that every time she visited Paige, her six year old Paint mare, Paige would charge, rear-up with striking hooves and gnashing teeth chasing Wendy out of the paddock and arena. Wendy was broken hearted over this unexplained change in her mare – she had rescued Paige at the tender age of 6 months old from an auction and they had been best friends and riding companions for the last 5+ years, enjoying trail rides and various styles of riding. But suddenly, without explanation Paige had become dangerous whenever Wendy tried to work with her. What happened?
I have a lengthy intake form for every new horse that comes into my barn which consists of questions ranging from medications, feed and supplements, to recent vaccines and injuries old and new. As Wendy and I sat at my dining room table going through the intake form nothing out of the ordinary was coming up. There were no injuries, no recent vaccines or medical issues and no changes in feed or supplements. Paige’s overall physical health was good, so I asked her “were there any changes in Paige’s lifestyle before her behavior changed”? “Yes” Wendy said, “I moved her to a new barn which she was struggling fitting into the herd and then a herd mate died three weeks later”. I asked “did Paige seem to be sad or depressed”? “Yes she was” Wendy went on “and then I left for three months to take care of my mom in Hawaii who was dying of cancer. When I came back Paige had changed and I don’t understand why”.
I put my pen down, leaned back in my chair and gently said “I’m so sorry you lost your mother, but you need to apologize to Paige. You abandoned her in her time of grief where she didn’t fit in except with one horse that was now gone. I need you to go out to the barn, put your left hand on her forehead and your right hand on her neck and tell her you are sorry that you abandoned her. Explain to her what happened and that you had no choice at the time, but that you now understand her anger and that you are going to make it right with her. Use your words since the vibration from your words will tell Paige everything she needs to know. Once you do this I can undo the habitual behavior she has wrapped herself in”. Wendy and I walked out to the barn where I stopped at the door and left Wendy to her task. Wendy did just as I told her without question, we hugged goodbye as I said “I’ll call you soon”.
In dealing with a charging horse I knew I best practice first short circuiting Paige’s brain by twirling a lead-rope in one hand and shaking a flag in the other. Horse’s see independently out of each eye feeding their brain information separately which has helped them survive in the wild for thousands of years. If Paige charges me violently it is my intention to short circuit her brain by overloading her with two conflicting images, then gaining control of her feet all within seconds! I stood in my living room practicing twirling and shaking until I had it down – it was like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time, but my life depended on me getting it right!
The next morning I set out to do a Wholistic Joining with Paige, lead-rope in one hand and a training stick with a flag in the other – not my usual tools for a Wholistic Joining…… I opened the stall door and Paige came out meandering about the arena checking out the various buckets and gates familiarizing herself with her new surroundings. I kept a watchful eye as she pranced about and shied at times from the scary wheelbarrow and horse eating tractor gate. I took a deep breath releasing it slowly as it was now time to start moving her feet launching into a Wholistic Joining. The very moment I approached her to move her feet she came charging at me rearing and striking with an open mouth, teeth bared. I stood my ground waving the flag and twirling the lead-rope hoping this worked – to my relief she stopped in her tracks and in a split second I growled loudly and ran towards her shaking the flag and twirling the rope. She turned and ran off as I chased her a few steps moving her feet, then turned and walked off keeping her in my peripheral vision. She turned and looked at me, then came charging again only to be stunned with two images she couldn’t process, the twirling lead-rope and shaking flag. Paige stopped abruptly at which I growled gruffly running towards her chasing her off again, then I turned and walked off. Paige stopped running, turned around and looked at me puzzled, then dropped her head in submission, licking her lips (a sign of thought) – in that moment I knew she understood I was her herd leader. I approached her gently, my eyes cast down, countenance soft as she buried her head in my chest with relief as if to say “finally I have a herd leader”. I stroked her neck and praised her – explained what had happened to her and how sorry Wendy was all the while comforting her in her grief. Paige blew a big sigh and signaled that she was done terrorizing and was ready to be a part of the herd again following me at liberty around the arena.
Wendy and Paige were reunited without incident and came back to my barn two years later to participate in a clinic together. It was a deeply touching sight as Wendy and Paige rode with no reins through a labyrinth and bridge crossing now bonded as ONE.
Specializing in problem and dangerous horses Missy Wryn is an internationally recognized Gentle Horse Trainer and member of the Association of Professional Humane Educators. Missy’s Training the Whole Horse® methods & techniques and the creation of her widely popular All-In-One Bitless Bridle have been featured in media such as Alaska Airlines Magazine, and the movie Brother In-Laws. For more information visit Missy Wryn’s website at MissyWryn.com or call toll free (888) 406-7689.