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Lessons From a Broken Body

I want to write these things down to let them go, I’d love to just focus on the positive with my boy… but he told me it’s important to him that I bring his lessons forward to help others. The memories of the terror in his eyes as he broke halters when he first came to me. How malnourished and starving for connection he was when I met him.

I remember being scared of him. Scared to share space because he was so far out of his mind and body that I didn’t know who he was minute to minute, and neither did he. I remember still absolutely feeling the strongest love for him, it almost felt involuntary.

I remember him telling me he’d been abandoned, his person had health issues and couldn’t care for him anymore, but he never really knew why. I remember her driving two hours to come apologize to him, though the pain in his heart never left because it wasn’t just about her.

I remember him telling me he wasn’t balanced, and asking him to canter anyway. I remember people telling me what a beautiful mover he is, and all I could feel was his energy barely keeping things together. I chose to stop taking riding lessons, even though they brought *me joy. I wasn’t going to do that at his expense.

I remember making the decision to not ride him anymore at all.

He lost the ability to stand for me to trim his feet. He used to be sedated according to the people who knew him before. He couldn’t stand for the farrier without sedation. I took over his feet and used positive reinforcement to gain his trust. He was never unwilling for me, until the end when he simply couldn’t.

I sought out many bodywork and training modalities to find a way to help him feel more comfortable. I worked intimately with Tami Elkayam and Celeste Lazaris diligently following programs and would see marked improvement only for him to become angry and resist any program we followed, his body returning to its asymmetrical state. (If your horse makes big improvements and then reverts back with rest, there is a bigger underlying problem that you are missing).

Through all his pain and trauma he taught me about consent, and truly listening, changed the way I train my horses, and was so damn dedicated to teaching me that I couldn’t see how bad he really was. Sure on the outside he looks like a beautiful ,shiny, well kept horse… but I’m here to remind you that the mind, body and spirit all go together. If you are feeling something but not seeing physical markers, honor that feeling because horses are amazing at internalizing and pressing on. I’m also here to tell you that there should be no guilt for missing things that you didn’t see before, because if there’s anything I know from connecting to thousands of animals over the last seven years, it’s that they come with a deliberate purpose and they choose their time to go.

Neck pain can look like EPM, tangled feet, tripping, back soreness, it can look like fishtailing in the hind end, it can look like winged out elbows, it can look like spookiness and random fears, it can look like holding their breath, inability to shift side to side in their body, inability to hold feet up, fear of pressure, a dysregulated nervous system, a wide range of emotions within a short period of time, unresolved fungus and foot issues (indicating systemic stress and inflammation), digestive issues, nervousness when being tacked up, fear of pressure, resistance to bodywork, resistance to training, herd bound behaviors, aggression toward other horses, weight loss,and the obvious – muscle atrophy, hoof imbalances, changes in eyes, digestive issues, and inability to bend and flex. The path is not linear, but this is mine to share with you in hopes to help other horses who are moving silently in their partnerships through pain. 

(Tribute to Turk’s Solider Boy, aka Brogan) A Solider he was.


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