Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mufasa Has a Meltdown

This evening, I started mucking the mares' pasture while Brett went up to the top pasture to bring Flash and Mufasa back down to their pasture.  He does this almost every day.  About the time I finish mucking, Brett usually shows up with the hay cart.  Lucy was pacing impatiently while I finished up and dumped the contents of the cart into the compost bin that Brett finished the other day.

I could see Flash in his pasture, but no Brett or Mufasa.  I started walking up towards the back pasture and soon saw Brett standing with the halter, and Mufasa running.  Not good.

Brett was frustrated.  He had been trying to catch Mufasa for a good 20 minutes.  He was tired and not happy about the setback.  Mufasa was running like a deer -- the bounding, not breathing running that indicates fear.  But fear of what?  Brett said Mufasa had met him at the gate, as usual, but as Brett started to slip on the halter Mufasa ducked and ran off.  Now Mufasa was in full panic mode.

I took the halter from Brett and walked toward Mufasa.  Brett walked over to the gate and watched.  Mufasa eyed me warily and then took off.  As his butt passed me, I swung the rope.  He stopped, turned and faced me -- but wouldn't let me get close.  He was clearly worried.  His shoulder twitched nervously.  I stopped outside his bubble and talked to him, breathing slowly and calmly.  He looked at me intently, tried to stay, but couldn't do it.

The interesting thing was that he ran to Brett.  Twice.  Brett didn't have the halter so he just stood and stroked Mufasa's neck and back; telling him it was okay.  The second time, Mufasa stayed while I approached.  I talked to him, praising him for being brave and staying, before slipping on the halter.  Brett led him down to his pasture, where hay and Flash waited, with no drama whatsoever.

Mufasa is an interesting nut to crack.  He clearly thought he was in trouble or danger or both.  Poor boy.


  1. Poor fellow! Horses can have PTSD, just like people, and he must have been having some sort of flashback. The fact he came to Brett even when he was very worried is a wonderful sign - he's looking to Brett for help now.

  2. something must have startled him and triggered his normal response. I suspect that it will take a while to go away (and may not completely).

    it's fabulous that he ran to Brett though.

  3. poor boy. sorry for the setback.

  4. When my horse was a weanling, he was shot in the hip by a deer hunter. He had a complete recovery physically, but he has a tendency to panic like that. Fortunately, he has learned to come when I call him, and he has also learned that the round pen is his happy place. When something scares or spooks him, like wild turkey or deer, he runs into the round pen and watches it from inside. So far, nothing has got him when he's in there.

  5. I spend a lot of time trying to read my animals minds. Especially Wilson who always has some phantom drama going on in his solitary pen. I enjoyed this story and as always the way you guys handled it.

  6. I think that what Kate said is true, some horses have a form of PTSD. My horse, Cowboy, acts like that sometimes, in different situations. It has gotten worse since he's gotten older. Once he's reassured I'm not going to hurt him (I never have and never would), he brings his head down and relaxes into me. One of his first owners had no experience and had kept him a stud, and from what I heard, punished him unfairly--like tying him up and then punishing him. Now, when he's tied, he acts like I'm going to hit him. His skin twitches, muscles tighten and flinch, head high, and ready to pull back. I have to go forward, retreat, forward, retreat and pet him gently. Eventually, the light comes on and we go on to have a wonderful day together. I don't know if a similar thing is happening with Mufasa, but maybe.

  7. I completely quit using the roundpen for this reason. Early in our relationship he tried to jump out with very little pressure. I managed to get him to relax at the trot but he never cantered well in there. Always looked like he was running away and changes of direction just made him panic. His balance was terrible, motorcycling around. So I quit the roundpen and have never regretted it. Horses have amazing memories for the good and the bad. The fact that Mufasa ran to Brett is a huge breakthrough. I actually think it is good that he didn't have the halter at the time.


Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.