Q: To get to the places where I can ride my horse we have to go by an old pump house at the side of our road. Every time we go by there,
Bucky jumps sideways and spins around, then goes on. I've fallen
off twice when he's done it, and even though I hang on extra tight,
I'm afraid I'll fall off again. He doesn't act this way at any other
place. How can I make him quit?
A: What a frustrating situation! Did something once startle Bucky at or near the pump house? Was there a sudden loud noise? Did the door
fly open? Did a person unexpectedly appear? Perhaps the problem
comes from how Bucky sees the building. Horses' vision is very different
from ours, and he may perceive the pump house as something quite threatening. It's
also possible that it looks like (or smells like!) something from
his past that did scare him. No matter what caused his behavior originally,
it sounds like Bucky's jump and spin routine has now become a habit.
The flower remedies, as discussed above in this column, can
help Bucky let go of this annoying and potentially dangerous behavior. In
order to assist in releasing any past traumas Bucky may have experienced
concerning this or other pump houses, give the flower remedy STAR OF BETHLEHEM.
The remedies ASPEN and MIMULUS can be given for both Bucky's unknown
and known fears, respectively. To assist in breaking his habit of
reacting at this one place, you can give the remedy CHESTNUT BUD.
The flower remedy WALNUT can, by acting synergistically with the remedy
CHESTNUT BUD, help Bucky in letting go of his old behavior patterns
and adapting to new, saner ways of being.
Because you've had this experience with your horse so many times,
you now expect it to happen. Since you've fallen off a couple of
times, you probably have some fear, too. It's very likely that your
fear and expectations increase as you approach the pump house. When
you "hang on extra tight" you create more tension in your body and
mind. It's also likely that, the closer you get to the place, the
more you hold your breath. Bucky senses your tension and anxiety,
which gives added momentum to his undesirable behavior.
You can help yourself and your horse, too, with a couple of simple
techniques. First, it's important to replace your mental picture
of Bucky's jump and spin with a picture of Bucky walking calmly
and quietly past the pump house. Practice imagining his new behavior
a few times before you ride him. If the old picture keeps coming
back, distract yourself. How? Count backwards from 100. Sing a
song. Recite a poem. Count the number of hairs in his mane. Whatever
you choose to do, start doing it when you get on, and don't stop until
you're past the pump. And remember to breathe! Slow, deep breaths
will help you relax, and help your horse relax, too. If you begin
slow deep breathing before you mount, then continue as you ride, Bucky's
breathing may even start to mirror yours, helping him to relax. Combine
these techniques with the flower remedies, and your problem
could be history soon!
The information in this column is not intended to replace veterinary
care. For all conditions requiring medical attention, see your vet
Products in this column are included for the reader's convenience. However,
inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by either the author
or this publication.