Saturday, March 5, 2016

Carrot Attack

Thursday evening when I got home from work, at dusk, Brett mentioned that Tex had a scrape on his face.  It didn't look serious from what Brett could tell; but Tex wouldn't let Brett close enough to get a good look.

I grabbed a couple carrots from the big bag in the feed room and headed into the pasture.  Instead of coming up to me, as usual, Tex circled away nervously.  He stood behind Flash, resting his head on Flash's rump, and watched me.  I could see white around his eyes.

I waited and made sure that Tex saw the carrot.  He circled closer, stopping at a safe distance and then stretching his neck as far as it would go towards me.  His lips twitched for the carrot.  I snapped off a piece and Tex sat back on his haunches, then spun and ran.

You goofy horse.  It's a carrot.

He came back, cautiously.  Again the neck stretch and twitching lips.  He teased the carrot piece into his mouth, then pulled back and dropped the carrot.

Back he came, nabbed the carrot and crunched it down while I talked to him and tried to look at his face.  I was able to stand next to him and scratch his withers, then rub his neck, and finally his forehead.  He had a scrape above his eye and another, smaller one close to his ear.  Neither were bleeding.  I shook my head in disbelief as I walked out of the pasture.  Tex scraped his face on something and he thought he was in trouble.  And what the heck was the deal with the carrot?

Friday afternoon we brought the horses into the barn ahead of the whopper storm we are experiencing.  High winds, torrential rain and flash flood warnings are sounding on my phone every few hours.  It was already raining when we brought the horses in, water was dripping off of my hat.  Tex came over to me when we went into the pasture to get he and Flash but he was still nervous.  For the first time since early January, he pulled back when I put the halter on.  I let it slide off his face and hit the ground, as he ran backwards.  He immediately came back and stood quietly for round two.   I hung out with him a little while before putting him in his stall.  I waited until the tension was gone from his body.

Later, I started wondering if the sound of a carrot snapping reminds him of the sound of a whip.

I took two long carrots into his stall this afternoon.  I stood with him in the rain, in his run-out, so he wouldn't feel trapped in any way.  He was fine with holding the carrot in his teeth while I snapped off the end.  When he reached for another piece, I snapped it off in my hand.  He reacted by sitting and spinning and leaving; standing at the far end of his run with his head over the fence looking away from me.  I gave the piece of carrot to Lucy who had her head hanging over the fence into Tex's area, waiting for her share.

I continued snapping off pieces, at a distance, then feeding them to Tex.  I wanted him to understand that it was a carrot, not a whip.  He's still not sure but he's willing to give me the benefit of the doubt and I'll take that bit of trust as a start.

Thanks to everyone for their helpful, encouraging comments -- Kate, JenJ, Christian, Teresa and Linda.  I feel like pieces of the puzzle named Tex are coming together.  Understanding the why behind Tex's fear makes it so much easier.

7 comments:

  1. I'm just so glad Tex has you - you and your careful, quiet approach will do wonders. He's got so much try and every positive experience he has will build up his bank of happy, quiet, good things to counteract the dark things he remembers and is reacting to. After enough time and good experiences, he'll start to be able to insert a second - that's long enough - of thought between the stimulus that he's used to being scared of, and his startle/flight reaction. Once he starts being able to think and trust you to give him guidance, he'll start to let go of the tensions. But he may be like Red - lots of layers - Heather called it like peeling an onion. We'd work through his bracing/reactivity in one activity - say walking - and then have to repeat it all over again when we started a new activity, like trotting. But the more we did and the more good repetitions we had, the less reactive he became.

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  2. It sounds like you are so right about this. Very sad that he feels this way (and for good reason), but in time, I think you are going to win him over. So glad he is still part of your lives...he deserves a chance and the understanding you have given him.

    Hey Brett!

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  3. Glad your figuring it all out! Glad he has you to help him through this.

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  4. Would he bend to the right for a carrot? We do carrot stretches with all of ours and they love to bend for treats.

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  5. Always amazing to see what emerges from a horses mind.

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  6. Always amazing to see what emerges from a horses mind.

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  7. This hurts my heart that Tex is so scared!

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Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.