I was finally able to halter and move Casper to the Arena on 3-23-2020. We’ve made great progress. Yesterday I was able to offer a series of acupressure points, via the tip of my wand, and Casper is letting go of tension – many ‘lick and chews’… While still terrified, he is making exceptional progress. It will take time to get his emotions sorted out. Trust takes time…
Progress with Casper- walking straight forward on a lead rope. Don’t all horses do this? No… In answer to a question… This is about PTSD, severe – no trust when interacting if he is haltered, very little ‘try’, or curiosity, he becomes frozen in ‘brace’ – his brain telling a body part to move, gets disconnected, he CAN’T move…
Thanks to clicker training and waiting for him think and respond, this is the first time he took more than 2 steps forward – in a straight line, when asked via a lead rope. His response at the end – going internal, is him coming off adrenalin. Our continued connection – without me asking anything of him – was simply me standing there supporting him, like another horse would, while he released his stress response. The lowered head was awesome to see…
UPDATE: And this morning, Casper walked right up to me – nose about a foot from my chest… The next hurdle is to stand by his side without his spinning away. Then lay my hand on his shoulder while I stand at his side… The other hand on his back, then haunch, without him twitching and moving away… Finally, I would like to lead him to a paddock that has shelter and water. This has not been, and still isn’t possible. My wild horse. Finally Starry has a mate. He and Casper/Jasper are good together. After Mikaila met the love of her life – Yuri, she pushed Starry – ‘the other gelding’ out of the picture… We’ll see which group Rose fits best with… But for now – the last 3 days – particularly yesterday, was a milestone…
Casper is smart, aware, well mannered and behaved, but self preservation is on high alert at all times. He despises being touched, and only allows his nose to be close enough. He politely takes treats, and the majority of our daily work is at liberty with rewards. 10 years old, untrusting, he is careful to not allow me to touch him, his face neck, or anywhere; his skin flinches when I’ve taken an opportunity to touch his rib or haunch. We made a lot of progress regarding trust, when I add up the little things… But I couldn’t halter, lead, touch, brush, or ask the farrier to trim his hooves. I made several attempts to halter, each time Casper said No, No, No…
Due to upcoming bad weather, I asked my farrier to help as he takes a long rope and catches the horse quickly. Judging by Caspers response to being caught, my instinct to not try was spot on. Casper turned into a wild, not even remotely tame horse- he fought to get away and he did twice – from an expert. We got a halter on him and tied the farriers rope on to the end of my 12′ lead… 20 minutes – life changing. Casper has been wearing this for 4 days now. I work with him 2-3 times a day for short sessions, the progress has been huge in just 4 days. Because of the connection he and I created, he has not pulled away from me. I stay under his brace every minute. It will only damage him more if I over face him. Being an arabian, or ?, his stamina to circle me in a round pen for 2 hours with me just standing there was an answer before I even asked a question or lifted a finger, the week I adopted him. I could tell he had been whip trained – he is a master at facing up. Even at liberty he wouldn’t walk behind, beside or in front of me. He didn’t show curiosity, unless we were clicker training.
Every ‘thing’, every ounce of progress we make is absolutely thrilling, and the next time I approach him he is 10 times more trusting. Today he followed me via lead rope, and he walked straight ahead… We truly can’t understand the trauma that has occurred, or the self preservation that goes into allowing someone to lead us when we have a halter on our head… I wish he could still be a wild horse in full control of his destiny, but in todays world as a horse, his life would be traumatic and short lived. All I can do for him is honor his spirit and work with him in his range of acceptance. In turn, he needs to follow my lead and allow me to care for the issues that need maintenance and care. We progress… and I love him unconditionally.
Casper Day 34… Trust. Confidence. Connection. Casper is very responsive and a clear communicator. I am demonstrating how to support and guide him. His over sensing (self preservation) is a lot like my dog Auzzie. Yes, it is about working with the physical -asking for step forward, step back… but the bigger picture of awareness for Casper is spiritual, emotional, – Can I leave, do I want to leave? How can I pay attention to details when I need to watch everything else going on? He is curious, and the treats and chewing allow his body and mind to keep releasing nervous energy (TMJ motion – the most proprioceptive nerves in the body run through the TMJ) so that I can ask for calm and he can give calm. The more I am able to get him feeling calm, the more he will seek that place in himself, because it feels good…
Preparing an untouchable horse to stand still and allow me to touch his face. Haltering him is impossible unless forced into an area he can’t escape.
Getting close to him has taken time. Casper will stand and face me, will take treats, will allow me to touch the end of his nose. I move to stand beside his neck or shoulder and he moves away… I’d like him to be OK with being touched and handled.
The work I am doing is Equal Partnership, and he is beginning to connect and become a partner. When I ask too much, he leaves, when I get too close, he leaves… but today – 18 minutes total, he didn’t feel the need to leave.
Haltering is the intent, when he allows me to put a halter on, I will be very pleased, snow storms and below zero temps will be coming soon, I would like him to be with the other horses.
Casper Day 7 Day 6, I moved Starry in with Casper. Starry is my 20 year old gelding, he lost his mate in 2017. He lives with 2 mares and a gelding, but he gets pushed around and feels disconnected. He is an amazing guy, but lately he has lost his sparkle. I’m hoping he and Casper end up as best buddies.
With a new horse in his round pen, Casper is thrilled… We had gained a good connection, yet after 6 days, he remained untouchable, in his mind and senses. The first goal in our partnership is to stand close to him and have him feel comfortable with this. We’ve achieved this. Next is to develop trust, and with his permission – touch him, groom him, lift his feet for the farrier.
After trust is developed, another goal is to be able to move him from the round pen to a sheltered paddock – closer to the house, off the road. A bad storm could hit anytime, and his comfort is my concern. Bonding with Starry is helpful as I will lead Starry where ever I want them both to be, and Casper will follow, he will not run off or leave.
This is an immediate relief and gives us time to follow the right path. Casper is highly sensing… his level of trust is minimal, and must be gained one step at a time. Over faced, he will back track. Yes, there are ways to ‘train / desensitize’ him, but those ways don’t honor and enhance his spirit, intelligence and integrity. Casper is special, slow and sure will win his heart forever.
In this video – Caspers level of comfort is less than it was before I moved Starry in with him. He is grateful for companionship, but is more hyperaware of everything around us. His ears are moving faster, in all directions than when it was just him and me. I took this opportunity to demonstrate his body language when I acted rudely, then how he changed when I gave him more space.
Casper Day 2 Building trust one step at a time. He came right up to me first thing and bumped his nose to my hand in a clear Mutual Greeting! (High Five) Lots of Mirroring – I felt and followed what he did, where he went and in turn he followed me too. He met my dogs – all is well with that. Did I mention this guy is amazing?
Casper Day 3 This time Casper met my cat and revisited the dogs. We started off with just uncovering his hay. I went out several hours later and gave him his morning meal, with cut pieces of carrots and I brought a jolly ball. We started off clicker treating – touch the ball and get a carrot. The reasoning is – to play with me – get close to his face, take a treat from my hand. He is so polite… More play, More mirroring… I asked several times if he would allow me to remove his halter. No… This evening I took him a bucket of water, and asked to remove his halter. He stood still, looked left, looked right, looked left and stood there, I touched the halter, he was uncertain, but I touched the strap, he stood still, I undid the strap and took the halter off… No treats, No Coercion, No Compliance – just trust… Magical…
Beginning of connection 12-7-19 I am now owned by 5 amazing horses. I love and care for them, day after day, year after year. Last week I fell in love with #5 – Casper – by the look in his eye.
Horses abandoned to live on their own, on land… Then they needed to be removed from that land – a private case, not BLM removing horses from Public lands. A rescue organization stepped up – took them all to their facility. The horses were brought back to health and given amazing care. Thousands of hours of care, love and patience. These rescue organization women and their team are astounding humans – offering their heart and soul to horses in need. The last of this group – Casper, had been at the rescue a year and a half – all the others adopted out. While caregivers fiercely bond to horses, life is taken up by many horses and a mission. The most difficult part of being a rescuer is knowing they are the middle of the horses life plan, with the awesome responsibility to keep those special ones long enough to find the perfect placement. Casper needed his forever person, and his forever mates, and things came together perfectly for us all.
When I looked in Casper’s eye, at his facial expression, mannerisms, I saw a sensitive soul – his communication is clear, every action speaks volumes. Many people who adopt horses have a job for them to do, an idea of how they should behave. Some/ most horses want to have a say in how their minds and bodies are used. Horses have every right to be treated as a partner and with decency. Humans are fully capable of listening to horses – and working in ways that enhance, not kill their spirit.
I know I have the patience, training, education and empathic nature Casper needs to connect to and gain trust. Also – most importantly – I have a lack of a goal for his ‘usefulness’ in what he will do for me. My goal is to see him blossom, and let us know how/ if he wants to fit in, share his gifts, interact, share his curiosity… I so strongly felt this adoption was the right thing to do, without considering family naysayers and friends who would say “How many do you ‘have’ now?”. We don’t “have” each other – we are here, and we seek how our lives are better together, than not.
Understanding that my life goal is saving every wild horse on the planet… this is a whole ‘other’ story… Casper created a spark in my mind… What I can do for each domesticated horse is really simple. I offer a perspective that gives horse owners, caregivers, horse handlers and the public who simply observe horses – simple ideas, communication hints for better understanding each other. I am highly empathic, I’ve done bodywork with horses since 2003, having studied constantly – almost every modality, I have lots of tips to share for others from brain science to connection, along with courses showing light touch and horses responses you can do with your horse.
I create online courses teach to evaluation areas of discomfort, and how to release tension. As far as the body work I do with horses – it is a high level of care – find primary cause of body’s issues and fix them- realignment. I’ve just completed Renee Tuckers program – Tucker BioKinetic Technique – Six of us have completed the last course – TBT Multi – Layered Alignment Course.
Casper has inspired me, I look forward to him connecting and meeting the other horses. His nature is sweet and pure. I now plan on creating online courses to teach horses’ communication and behavior. Casper’s communication is so clear – he will be the best teacher, along with my other horses interactions too.
Brenda Westwood – Horse Sense Healing is a graduate and a coach for Melisa Pearce. She has workshops as well as women groups here at Greater Good Ranch. Horse Sense Healing email@example.com (406) 257-0008