Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Blanket Lessons

I scared Lena and myself the other morning, then had to spend half an hour (at least) doing horse therapy.

I had unbuckled the rainsheet to adjust the cotton blanket underneath - which was slewed sideways about a foot - and accidently dumped the rain sheet over her head as she stood, head down, eating her grain. She flipped up her head so the rainsheet was still around her neck, then ran around her paddock, sliding in the mud - the sheet flapping and flying around her legs - finally sliding to a stop in the front corner of her paddock and banging her nose on a fence post.

The other horses all watched, concerned, and I heard some of my fellow barn-mates come out to see what the commotion was - but all my attention was on Lena.

I stayed out of her way and talked to her until she stopped, then - hands shaking and heart pounding so much I could barely get the front buckles undone - took off the ruined rainsheet, all the while talking to her in as soothing a voice as I could muster.

THEN I had to get her to hold still while I got the cotton blanket off. After that, I figured out that my jacket noises - fweety like the rainsheet - were scaring her, so we worked with that awhile. Carrots from the front pocket, plus me putting it on and taking it off about 74 times helped. Then I took her and put her in the cross-ties to clean up her nose (she scraped it a little, but not bad) and put her heavy blanket on.

She was mostly fine by the time I left, though there was still definite suspicion about the now-ruined rainsheet. I did wrap it around me, drag it around next to her, pick it up on our way to the cross-ties, put it over my head, etc., to try to desensitize her a little immediately.

I knew if I didn't spend the time with her right then, it would be worse later. Plus, I felt bad for scaring her and wanted to work through it with her myself. I'm just really glad that neither of us got hurt.

I think it may take a little bit of additional work, though. Last time I took her (new) blanket off her, she was still a little leery of it sliding around on the floor, over her back, etc. Which means I did it more, of course. Steve says he hasn't noticed any problems and she may (!) just be pulling my chain.

That may be, but all in all it was a valuable lesson - even if it was a mildly terrifying one. I'm sure if I'd been around horses all my life, I would have known better - at least on a theoretical level. But I can honestly say I won't forget this lesson for a long, long time. Probably not ever.

I told someone it was like when something scary happens to your kid. You can't panic, because that just makes it worse, so you just try to get through it the best way you can to help them. Of course with a kid you can just pull them into your lap and rock them a little. 1,100 pounds of frightened spotty horse will not fit in my lap or I would have done it in a heartbeat.

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