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Ep 56 // Equine Trauma: Prevention and Recovery

It is inevitable that at some point in your horse's life they will experience a stressful, or even traumatic, situation, such as trailering to the vet or evacuating in the event of a natural disaster.

In this episode, I discuss several steps you can take to help your horse recover from traumatic events, as well as share some practical ways to prepare your horse (and yourself) to prevent the experience from becoming a traumatic one.


Podcast Transcript:

[00:00:00] Welcome to Season Four of The Willing Equine Podcast, the podcast where we chat about all things horses and being the best horse people we can be for our horses. My name is Adele Shaw. I'm a certified behavior consultant, and my passion is for creating positive relationships between horses and people.

[00:00:28] So I had a really great topic, kind of, it wasn't an intentional suggestion, but I was having a conversation with the, with the client. And we were talking about a situation her and her horse had been in. And so it, it gave me a really good idea for a podcast episode. And so I wanted to chat with you guys about it, which, and the topic was about helping:

[00:00:49] 1. Prevent fear learning experience or what might be a trauma experience. So preventing a situation where a horse might actually walk away with a beyond like a fear and beyond just like a negative experience, but actually a trauma experience where they're storing it in their body. And it's going to take a really long time for them to recover from it and there are going to be triggers and just it's, it's a deeper situation, it's a really significant event that happens in their life that is so stressful and goes so deep that it's beyond just needing some basic counterconditioning and recreating some positive associations. And there's no real resilience there for the horse, meaning no preparation for the event. It happens and it is there and it's this situation that they will remember for a very, very long time to come and we'll need help coping with future similar situations because of this event.

[00:01:41] So preventing stuff like that from happening is the first part of the topic. And the second part is how do we help our horses recover from situations like this, that show up.

[00:01:50] So starting off at the beginning, preparation is always key. So helping your horses prepare for situations that might be stressful, that might be uncomfortable, might be painful and might be a really big deal to them. Preparing the horse ahead of time is ultimately going to be the most effective approach to helping your horse not have these big traumatic experiences in the future.

[00:02:16] Situations like, what I'm talking about are preparing your horse to know how to trailer and making it a positive experience, so that should a fire or a flood or anything like that show up, you're ready to move your horse. Or maybe they get injured or something like that, you're ready to move your horse and they have been fully prepared for it and this whole situation doesn't get started off, started off on the wrong foot, it was already on the wrong foot, but it doesn't get worse by the fact that we have to now trailer the horse and the horse has never been in the trailer or is really fearful of the trailer, and that just makes the whole situation worse. Um, some other preparation ideas might be preparing our horses to be able to stall, or be held in a pen, or being removed from a companion. That can be a really challenging aspect to many sudden events for horses, such as having a colic and needing to go to the vet, or maybe there's a fire or a flood or just you know, moving homes, even, just being sold to a new home, these events can become unnecessarily traumatic for the horse, because we did not do a good job of preparing them ahead of time to be able to spend periods away from their companions or um, are not prepared to be able to stall. This is something, especially if you keep your horses out and pasture 24 7, like I do. You wouldn't, you know, maybe you don't even have a barn. You probably need to practice this with your horse because it is just very realistic. It's very normal for a horse at some point in their life to have to be contained in a small area. This is just something that all horses have to deal with living in a domestic environment. There's no way around it there. I bet you, there are very, very, very few horses that have ever in their life, or just never in their life experience to being contained in a small area, it could be stocks. It could be a shoot. It could be a stall. It could be a pen. It could be a round pen. It could be, you know, a round pens getting on the larger side. But we're talking about like a small environment, especially if you have to evacuate and you need to go to like a fairgrounds or a vet clinic, or if your horse gets injured and they have to go to the vet, they're going to likely going to be in a stall that is around 12 foot by 12 foot, maybe smaller, maybe bigger.

[00:04:23] But preparing your horse ahead of time for experiences like this are really easy. It's really not that hard to do and not very time-consuming and could save your horse a lot of emotional stress and physical stress and avoid a lot of fallout that comes from not preparing them and not create, you know, building up a head of time being proactive and creating positive associations with that. And so an example of something like that might be you just get some cattle panels, you know, some 10 foot or 12 foot cattle panels, set four up in a square. And, you know, you start off with just a few minutes in the pen with some alfalfa or their feed every day. So maybe they feed, eat their meals in there in that pen every day. That's an easy way to do it. You just feed their meals in there and also helps with resource guarding and preventing other issues. So it's a really good setup idea anyways, for a feeding time. But if you're not going to do that in feeding time, I would just recommend setting up the panels and having your horse eat some alfalfa or some feed in there for at first, it's just a couple minutes and then it's longer. And eventually you're working up to multiple hours at a time that your horse is able to stay in this pen, completely comfortable. With some food you want to make sure they have forage available to them and have water, plenty of water access, but this prepares them, even if they never are going to be stalled and where they're living with you and maybe, and you don't have a barn, this is just something you can do ahead of time to really prepare your horse for this very possible and probable event that they will have to be contained in a small space. So things like that are going to be extremely important in helping prepare or avoid fallout from a very traumatic event later, we can help avoid traumatic events by preparing our horses for what is to come, and it's very probable to come. And you're not going to be able to avoid everything. You're not going to be able to prepare for everything it's just not possible. You could spend every minute of every waking day with your horse, preparing them as much as you could. And while you would be well ahead of everybody else, and you may never run into a situation that you hadn't prepared your horse for, there is still the possibility that something may show up that you didn't prepare them for. And that's just how it is. That's how life goes. And all we can do is our best. And that's all. we're asking for.

[00:06:30] So preparing ahead of time is really important. That's the first point I want to kind of drive home there is, preparation, preparation, preparation, and think of all the things that are more likely to happen to your horse, trailering, stalling, needing medical attention, so getting injections and things like that, oral meds, even like an oral sedative, you want to be able to easily do that. Can they be separated from their companion? These are all highly probable things to happen for your horse.

[00:06:56] Okay so moving on from there, the next thing you can do, if you are looking at a situation that could potentially be stressful, like having to transport your horse suddenly for a natural disaster, I would recommend having in stock, like in your tack room, in the barn in the feed room and just having a kit, something, you know, this is stored specifically for this, for an event that something like this happens is some way to be able to help your horse through a calming like a supplement or herbs or a paste or some sort of thing, like, I use different products that I keep on hand. I have a couple of different ones cause different horses respond differently to different things, but there's a lot of supplements that are on the market that are paste that you can give your horses that work within an hour or two and help just take the edge off. And those are something that are always good to have on hand. And I keep those around for any time I need to trailer my horses to the vet, or if I need to take them away from the companion, something like that, where maybe I've done a lot of preparation for, but it still has the potential to be a little bit of stressful. I make sure to give those, and if I haven't done a lot of preparation, then I definitely give those.

[00:08:03] And so that's like one thing you can have on hand, you can also have possibly some oral sedative. If you can talk to your vet about having something in just on hand is that should the situation arise, you have a way to sedate your horse so that is less traumatic. And this is really useful for - I've heard of people who travel a lot that transport their horses a lot, who are on the road a lot, having some on them should an accident happen and their horses are stuck in the trailer. Like in a, like they got in a car wreck with the trailer, should a situation like that happen that a sedative might be really useful. Again, talk to your vet. They would need to prescribe it. It's not something that you can just get over the counter and I'm talking about the actual drugs like dorm and other drugs like that. You just, you need to talk to your vet about that to get a prescription for it, to have it on hand. So that's something to consider. I have some that I keep on hand should a situation arise, where it is really important to sedate my horse. I would talk to your vet about the different options. What's most effective for your horse. What is the safest with the least side effects? What's the easiest to give, et cetera, et cetera. It's just talk to your vet about, about that. Something worth considering having on hand.

[00:09:05] The other thing I would have on hand is a more of a long-term calming agents, like some herbs or some supplements that you can give your horse for a couple of days to up to a couple of weeks, should they need to be temporarily housed somewhere away from home and it's stressful and they're not with their normal companions and they're not at home. This is something that all my horses that are new to my place. So when they first arrive at TWE, I always have something to help them. Things like chamomile and, and valerian root and there's other herbs, you should talk to somebody who specializes in this to make sure that you're giving something that is safe for horses and not just go off of what I'm saying, the names of the herbs that I'm saying, but there are different herbs that are really useful in helping keep our horses calm and help them settle into new environments and help avoid those high-stress responses to the environment and to things that are happening to the horse. And these are all things that are helping prevent a possible long term, you know, memory of a traumatic event and such like that. So we're trying to keep, take the edge off the horse can still possibly have a stress response without having a long-term trauma event that they're remembering. But the key here is just making sure that we help the horse come back down into a rest and restore state and not to get stuck up in their fight flight state and freeze state. We don't want to push them to that and then trap them there. They need to be able to come back down and self regulate and sometimes they need help doing that. And calming supplements can be really helpful for that. Herbs.

[00:10:37] Traveling with companions is something else that is really important. I almost never transport a horse without a companion, a horse that they know especially would be even better. And this helps also reduce that likelihood of creating a long lasting trauma memory, or fear memory, and helping the horse regulate their nervous system and stay calmer.

[00:11:00] So again, we're just trying to help them stay calmer. Always providing forage is also helpful, horses are more likely to stay in that rest and restore state that foraging state, where they can eat if they're provided food throughout the experience. So I, again, I, I rarely ever unless the horse can't eat because of a medical need they always have food with them.

[00:11:21] So we're walking around the vet clinic. We've got food, we're in the stall at the vet, we got food. We're in the trailer, we got food. We always have food because that helps our horses to regulate their nervous system and to keep themselves in a calmer state and to prevent those even bigger, more dramatic response to stressors in the environment and the whole event as a whole.

[00:11:46] So that's enough, something else that I always keep in, keep on hand. I always have it in my trailer. Should I just need to throw a horse in the trailer. Not literally, but quite, almost like I have a memory of, you know, when Tiger was having her colic episode, and you can go back and listen to her episode it's called 'Love Without Conditions'. When I knew I needed to get her in the trailer as soon as possible and get her to the vet, there was no time to do anything else. I just, I, well, I grabbed her out of the pasture and I walked her into that trailer and we left. It was as quick as possible. And I was very thankful that I had food in the trailer already prepped and ready to go. I keep my trailer prepped all the time and while she couldn't eat, because she was colicking, had she recovered from her colic episode or her surgery, she would have been at that vet clinic for a long time, and she, it would have been better for her to have her own food and to be able to heal as quickly as possible and keep the stress levels down.

[00:12:38] So keeping prepped stock for everything that your horse needs to maintain as much normality and calm and low stress response as possible is really important.

[00:12:50] The other thing we can do is try our best to remain calm ourselves. Horses are very responsive to their environment and to us, they're going to be responsive to other horses in the environment as well. So if they have another horse that's nearby, that is panicking and really stressed out, that is more likely to cause your horse to have a stress and panic response. Um, and if you were panicked and stress, then you're more likely to cause your horse to have a panic and stress response. So trying our best to regulate our own nervous systems and to keep ourselves calm, to keep thinking logically and rationally and not to be rushed, remember how we normally handle our horses. How do we normally do things, trying to do to replicate that? Try not to rush things or change, you know, everything that we're doing, just because we're in a stressed environment, trying to maintain some sense of normality is extremely important here. And this comes with trailer loading and all that too something that I practice ahead of time, and I think is tends to be overlooked is, you know, if you transport your horse with shipping boots on, when you practice trailer loading, you should have shipping boots on, maybe not right away, you know, in the initial stages you can practice without shipping boots, but definitely spend time practicing with shipping boots, so that, that doesn't suddenly change for the horse when it's time to get in the trailer.

[00:14:04] So trying to keep everything as normal as possible and practice ahead of time, what that normality is going to look and also, you know, practicing ahead of time, you could practice a rushed scenario. So let's say it is a natural disaster and you've got to get out of there quickly, you know, do your training ahead of time, keep everything calm and relaxed, only move as quickly as the horse is comfortable. But, when everything is done well, and it's, you know, quote 'perfected' and it looks just like, you want it to look now it's time to run drills. It's time to practice. What does it look like when it's a natural disaster, and we got to get out of here? And practice for yourself as well, like grabbing your gear, grabbing the food, grabbing the horses, you know, doing all the stuff.. Run some practice drills so that you have it down and your horse knows what to expect. And they also know that it's going to be okay when it, things are a little bit more rushed and when it looks a little bit different. So keep that in mind as practicing, when you practice ahead of time and you prepare your horse ahead of time to make it look like what it would look like in a, in a rushed situation when you get to that stage.

[00:15:06] One other thing that I always have prepped and ready to go is something that's high value for the horse. For my horses, a lot of times as alfalfa, they think it's amazing and they only get it a little bit every day in an enrichment activity, but you can also pack some other stuff, some sweet feed. I don't feed sweet feed and I don't recommend feeding sweet feed. However, in an emergency situation, I think, you know, a couple of handfuls is not going to hurt your horse. So high value stuff, especially some enrichment activities, things that will keep the horse busy can really help in helping avoid those big, you know, traumatic responses and the big stress responses and the sustained stress responses because we can help distract our horses from what is going on and the coming and going, and the, the more rushed nature of it, or being trapped in a box, especially if you're going to go to an environment where they have to stay in a stall for a couple of days and they're used to being out in the pasture, having hay nets and hay and forage available, and then a bunch of enrichment activities like prepped and ready to go is really going to help keep your horse active and engaged and seeking stuff and eating and just in general being more normal rather than just going from a pasture life with social interaction and seeking and grazing and all that to standing in a stall without anything to do for hours at a time. That's a huge change for your horse and more likely to be stressful to them if they're not properly prepared for it. And then also if they have nothing to do, we can take the edge off by providing them with a lot of activities to do.

[00:16:35] And then I also recommend whatever you prepare ahead of time. And again, we can prep feed, there's a lot of different things you can do for natural disaster type preparation. I'm not going to go into that too much here. But things like prepping feed and having it ready to go, having buckets, normal buckets that they're used to. And so they're ready to drink out, of having water. You can, you know, water containers. So they're familiar with the water. There's lots of different things and having a list and instructions on how to take care of the horse and what to do should this happen, or this happen, especially if you're not, you know, you know, unfortunately, sometimes what happens is we're not available, like we're out of town, like we're multiple states away or a country away and there's something going on and somebody else has to move our horse, having everything as prepared as possible to make it as smooth as possible is going to really help the situation. And again, going back to the preparations step of this is going to be having other people practice, loading your horse, not so much for the other persons unless it's maybe a spouse or something that you do want them to practice, that's useful. But I'm thinking from the horses perspective, getting them comfortable with other people, loading them into a trailer and taking them to a stall and leading them around is going to be really important to help avoid a more extreme stress response than would normally happen if it were you there. So those are some different ideas on preparation and, you know, preparing the horse ahead of time and also preparing the horse physically in the moment of the event.

[00:18:04] And then, you know, so we just have to do the best we can from that point forward, as far as the actual event goes, just try and keep them as calm as possible. Try and keep ourselves as calm as possible. Keep everything as normal as possible, but sometimes it happens where it's, it's just a terrible. It's just a terrible situation. It is very traumatic for the horse. It's traumatic for us. And now we have the horse back home or we have them in a new home depending on what's going on. And we have to deal with the fallout from everything that happened that we couldn't avoid not happening. And this is where it gets a little bit more complicated and it depends on the individual horse and the individual situation.

[00:18:44] But one thing I want to mention. That your horse is going to need time. It's going to take time for your horse to restore a sense of normality, so getting back to a state of homeostasis and being able to function normally, and not being on high alert or hypervigilant and letting go of that stress that they're now holding in their body. Horses are particularly good, and I don't know if this is a good or bad thing, but they're good at storing stress in their body. And so sometimes the effects of one stressful event, even if it was just a couple of hours or even just a moment in time, but sometimes it's something that's much longer, multiple days or weeks or months. Those things can take a very long time for the horse to work through and to get back to a state of being normal and feeling comfortable again in their environment, in their what's happening is their nervous system is telling them we're not safe. We're not safe, we're not safe. And we need to give them time to realize that they are.

[00:19:44] But also there's a lot of stuff that we can do to help them. One of the things I recommend is as best you can get them back to their herd that they're comfortable with, put them out with their companions, leave them with their companions. Try not to separate them at any point from their companions while they're trying to recover. So if you've got a horse that's out in a herd and they've been able to go back to their companions that they were with before, this is not the time to take your horse on trail rides out by themselves, or go on a hike down the road, or put them in the trailer and go to a neighboring arena to practice and do some exercises. It's just not the time for that. I would recommend staying as close to home as possible, staying with the herd. And if you have to move your horse, move them with a companion, they are going to need their herd mates to be able to recover. And they're going to need them to help co-regulate and to restore a sense of normality and to just feel comfortable again in their own skin and in their environment. So the herd, the social structure, the social comforting, and basically we can think of it as is a really important for our horses and is going to take time. I tell people a minimum three to six months, you need three to six months to help them to give them just a calmer environment where there's less disruption. We try not to disrupt it as much as possible. Try not to schedule anything that might be stressful during that time, such as going to another vet clinic, obviously you gotta do what you gotta do if your horse is injured or sick, but this is not going to be the time to go and do something that could be put off for another month or two. I don't know what that would be, but you know, don't go to shows during this time, try not to go to clinics, just trying to avoid disrupting their day to day life with another stressful event when they're already, still trying to recover from the previous one, that's going to be extremely important.

[00:21:35] The other thing we can do is bodywork and bodywork that is specifically targeted towards helping them let go of the stress and tension that they're holding in their body from this event that they experienced. There are different types of bodywork out there, something in an event like this that might be good are things like Masterson method or any type of just more subtle non-invasive, non-threatening types of bodywork. I love chiropractic and osteopathic work, often though. It's very intense. And can be quite uncomfortable. And so it can feel very threatening to the horse's body and to their sense of self preservation while they're still trying to heal. So we have to be careful with types of body work like that when a horse is trying to recover from an emotional, traumatic event.

[00:22:24] Now, sometimes these events are also physically traumatic and in a situation like that, your horse might really need something intense, like an osteopathic or chiropractic work or a deep tissue massage type work. That is absolutely possibility. It just really depends on what you're dealing with, and if you can maybe put it off for a little bit until you can help your horse a little bit more emotionally, and then you can start addressing the physical stuff, but it's hard because those are so connected, so you don't want to put it off for too long, but you could start off with something more subtle acupuncture and acupressure might be really good at this time. Different types of energy work and body healing type work, fascia release type work. There's a lot of different types of bodywork out there. I'm, I'm don't know all of them, so I'm not going to list all of them. This is not by any means a complete list, but it's just something to consider is types of body work that are really noninvasive and non-threatening to the horse. And the horse can be very calm and relaxed during the process, and then work up to the more invasive stuff if needed for that horse's particular situation and what happened for them.

[00:23:30] So bodywork is going to be really helpful in helping the horse let go of the trauma and the stress that they're storing in their body. Some of the stuff you might consider are things like essential oils and herbs everybody has different opinions on those things. I'm not going to go into them too deeply. I do not specialize in those areas, but there are different types of ways of helping horses from an external perspective, meaning things you can give them things, you know, different types of, treatments, things like that that can help them let go on their own, the stuff, the emotions that they're storing physically. And so those are just two thoughts of things. And herbs can also be very helpful, very powerful in this sense, especially if you need something long-term that's for helping keep them calm and keeping their stress responses down things like chamomile are very soothing. They can also help the stomach.

[00:24:25] Oh, and I'm going to go all the way back to the beginning. My very first recommendation. With preventative, I highly recommend in your preparation box, the box that is ready to go and uh, should an event or something happened where you need to transport the horse quickly or something like that is any type of stomach, like ulcer, preventative, and stomach support. So anything, you could use something like ulcer guard, like the daily dose kind of thing, as a preventative during this stressful event. But there's also some other options out there that have really good herbs in them and are just beneficial for helping horses, not develop ulcers during these really stressful events, because if your horse does develop ulcers, which is highly probable in high stress events they can slow down the healing process significantly and, you know, keep them from just returning to a sense of normality and acting normal because their stomach now hurts really, really bad. So put that on board with your box that has the other stuff in it, the calming stuff and all the feed instructions and all of that. I always have that ready to go and I put my horses, if I can, I put them on whatever I need to stomach wise a couple of days before the event, then I keep them on it during the event. And then I keep them on it after the event for quite a while. So that their stomach, if they did develop even a little bit of something, it helps it heal. And usually all my horses are, are on something long-term anyways. So that's not really an extra step for me. It's something that they're just on all the time, but it's something, if you're not going to keep them on long-term I would consider putting them on it before if you have the opportunity, and if you don't have the opportunity to do before, do it the day of, and continue on it afterwards until you feel that their body is healing and doing better.

[00:26:10] Okay. So that kind of brings me back to we're post event and we're trying to help our horse. Like I mentioned, stomach problems, ulcer problems are really, really, really common after big, stressful events. Very common. Most domestic horses have some level of ulcers and stomach problems and it just gets worse when they experience a stressful event. If they have, you know, having stomach pain, I don't know if you've ever had severe stomach pain, but if you have you understand what I'm talking about, how it just really makes you grumpy and you can't seem to be happy and in a good mood and dealing with life, you can't cope with life, right? So the same thing for horses, they can't cope with life if they're in a lot of pain, so body work, stomach support. All of that is really helpful for helping our horses get back to being more normal. And then again, like I mentioned, keeping their environment as calm and relaxed as possible. Not causing any big, stressful events, not choosing this time and to go to a show or clinic or anything that's voluntary. I'm not talking about emergencies, I'm talking about voluntary stuff or you sign up for it and, you know, just trying to keep it as chill as possible. You might even have them take a break from any lesson program you're in for a little bit. Maybe not ride them for a little while, wait till they're starting to feel normal again. And they look normal and they're acting normal and they seem to be in a good mood. And then that would be the time to start slowly bringing them back into work.

[00:27:39] I would also recommend during this time to do as much like positive relationship building exercises. So I love clicker training and positive reinforcement for this. You could train a trick, you could teach them to smile. You could do all there's all kinds of stuff. Teach them yes and no. Teach them to stand quietly with you. Teach them to back. There's all kinds of stuff you can do during this time if you don't want to go all in with like clicker training and positive reinforcement for everything, you could do it for very specific things. And that is so beneficial for the relationship as a whole. I can't tell you how powerful that is. Just spending a few minutes, you know, once a day or every couple of days, or even once a week doing a little bit of clicker training can make the world of difference to your relationship and every other aspect of your interactions with your horses will start to improve.

[00:28:25] So stuff like that is really good. Just spending time with them sitting out in the pasture with them, get out a book, read to your horse, sing to your horse. They love that kind of stuff usually. And, you know, staying in, you know, not trying to take them away from the herd. So you're going and spending time with them and their herd, where they feel safe, making sure that they have forage available to them all the time. I'm just trying to keep things as calm and as relaxed as possible. And just giving you both time to recover from the event to let them get back to where they feel more comfortable and more relaxed. And you'll start to notice, I guess I should mention, like, what does that look like? More relaxed, more comfortable in their skin, more of a state of homeostasis, more, a sense of normality for horse. Well, they should be able to comfortably sleep laying down on the ground. This is when they get the REM sleep, during stressful events and after stressful events, a lot of times they will feel, won't feel comfortable laying down to sleep. So they will be deficient in REM sleep and you can start seeing the sleep deprivation signs. Your horse should spend, I think it's about a 20 to 30 minutes a day laying down for REM sleep. And if they're not doing that, then they're not getting enough REM sleep. And I would say that I would like to see my horses lay down even more often than that. Some of my horses spend much more time on the ground. And I really think that that's valuable and they, that is a sign of feeling very comfortable in their environment. They're not having to remain hypervigilant and looking around and waiting for something to pop out of the bushes. We want our horses to be able to lay down and peacefully sleep in their environment. So that's something you should be looking for.

[00:30:00] Something else to look for is comfortable being touched, comfortable, being scratched and loved on if your horse was uncomfortable with being touched before you might've already had some previous, you know, physical issues that were just undiagnosed. And so now it's just continuing and may even be worse, especially if there's any aggression associated with it, but some horses, you know, they're not a fan of being touched. They don't want, you know, they're not like, oh, come scratch me and love me. But they should still not re be reactive to touch that's that's different. That's um, we have a physical issue going on, usually. So, being okay, being touched and haltered and led around and all the normal behaviors that they would have done before should be able, it should be returning when things start to get back to a sense of, you know, being normal again.

[00:30:48] Some other things are just being able to graze normally, if you're seeing your horse stand in the pasture a lot with their head elevated, just watching around them, that's hypervigilance. And we shouldn't be seeing a whole lot of that every once in a while is normal, but not consistently or frequently. So that's something to keep in mind.

[00:31:06] Any type of increase in stress in the herd. So moving other horses around. So if the resource guarding or just pushing other horses around, that's a sign of that we're still holding onto a lot of stress and we're having problems. They should be able to be completely comfortable with their herd mates. No increased aggression, no increased, just like pacing and stressing and moving other horses around.

[00:31:28] They should be able to eat and drink normally and forage normally, and it should just be returning to all their normal social behaviors. And I think that's, that's pretty much the core of it, there's going to be other stuff. We shouldn't be seeing a stereotypy behavior. So like any pacing, stall walking, cribbing, wind sucking, you know, if your horse had those behaviors before, then you'll just have to gauge, have they increased? Are they the same? Or have they decreased? If you're seeing an increase, then obviously we're still holding on to certain levels of stress that we need to continue working through and helping our horse through. However, if they've returned to the normal from before I'd still say that maybe we need to adress stressors in the environment. And we need to consider that maybe there was stuff going on before, but at least, you know, you're getting back to something that's more normal for you guys. And so maybe they're, they're doing better. I would ideally obviously like to get that as infrequent as possible, and that would be the sign that the horse is coping as best as possible. And they'll never completely go away, but we can get them to reduce significantly.

[00:32:28] I think that's pretty much, it I'll probably think of more stuff, but this is, this is like a good overview of like how we can help our horses recover from a really stressful experience.

[00:32:39] And something else really quick to jump in here is going to be to go and practice whatever happened during that stressful. So if you had a trailer somewhere and they had to go stay in a stall at a vet clinic and had medical procedures done, this is a really common one. And now they're back home, you know, give them some time to recover, let them, you know, take their time and feel back to get back to some sense of normality. And then it's time to start practicing again. It's time to start practicing trailer loading. It's time to start practicing staying in a stall, it's time to start practicing medical care, especially if you can do it cooperatively. We need to practice these, especially because that's a highly probable situation to show up again in the future. And also because we need to show them. It's going to be okay. That just because the trailer is sitting out there, hooked up to a truck, doesn't mean it's the end of the world, and we're going to have a traumatic event. This will help your horse recover quicker because we'll be able to help them not look at the trailer every time as like the boogeyman, like, oh my gosh, am I going to go to the vet this time?

[00:33:42] So part of it is in preparation for a future event, but the other part of it is helping our horse realize that not just, not every time we have the trailer out doesn't mean something bad's going to happen. Um, and this can help them recover themselves, even if you never got, had them get in the trailer again and never had a vet experience again, which wouldn't happen, but let's just say it would help them recover. I have seen this happen many times where going back and working on it and showing them that it's okay and not every time that trailers around or whatever. It's okay. And it's a positive experience. This can help them because now they're not just looking at this trailer as like a trigger every single time. And it's not this big spooky thing that means this other thing. It actually, most of the time means this good thing. And it was just that one situation that showed up that was the bad thing. So that bad thing is the novel thing. The bad thing is the less probable thing to happen. It's it's not normal, right? Whereas the good experiences are the normal. The good experience are the more probable one. The good experiences are going to be the thing that the horse expects, and this is going to help your horse recover. And this is what we're trying to do when we're preparing a horse as well, as much as you can prepare your horse ahead of time and create positive associations over and over and over and over again, with all of these different, you know, experiences and the pieces of equipment and things and actions and behaviors. You're building up this piggy bank of positive experiences with like, let's say the trailer again, they've loaded into the trailer 200 times now and had a bunch of food every single time. And then if they go into the trailer one time and it ends up being not so fun. And then you get them back out and then you go back later and you load them back into the trailer 20 more times with positive experience, like two things are going to happen. One, because of the positive experiences, far outweighing, the bad experience they're going to be far more resilient and they're gonna be like, okay, that was probably, you know, I'm projecting a little bit, putting some human words here, but they're going to start thinking like, oh, the trailer's usually good, it was just that weird thing. I mean, they might be a little bit suspicious, but they're going to be like, no, it was probably one of the good things because there's been more likely, I mean, most of the time it's been a good thing. So they're going to be more likely to jump back into that trailer.

[00:36:00] And then the second part of it is is that after that, you know, stressful experience, we want to make sure that our horses are comfortable with getting back in that trailer. So that should that situation show up again. We we're comfortable that our horse still remembers how to get back in the trailer and is still willing to do that so that we're prepared for the following time. So it's practical, but also all this preparation work is also in helps to prevent that traumatic experience. And it becoming this big thing that the horse now won't ever get back in the trailer again, because, you know, they had this big experience where the trailer led that took them somewhere. That was terrible, and they had to leave their companions, and there was medical stuff and it was stressful and they were trapped in the stall and, you know, we want to avoid doing that and making that their one and only, or even the more likely experience in their mind if we want it to be the least likely experience in their minds, the least probable thing. When they see that trailer, we want them to see the trailer and go, yes, this is going to be fun.

[00:36:57] So I hope this episode was helpful. I covered a lot of ground really quickly, and there's a lot more details here. And I'm not obviously gonna be able to cover all that in this episode, but I hope it gives you some ideas of how you can prepare your horse and how you can also help your horse recover from an experience where it was really stressful and, and your horse is having a hard time.

[00:37:20] And I just really encourage you to give your horse time, be patient with them. Let them you know, really recover, let them build a new positive experiences with you. And sometimes it's not the trailer and this is kind of a point I want to bring up. Sometimes it's not the trailer that develops the bad experience for the horse or develops about association for the horse. It's actually us. And it's really unfortunate when that happens. But if you can spend a lot of time rebuilding the horse's positive association with you, so owner arrives and they sit with me and they read me a book and maybe they'd bring me some alfalfa, or we do a clicker training session. If 99.99% of the time that's what happens when you show up, when you have one of those situations where that's not the case, and it is a stressful experience, they're going to be much quicker to forget that and to move on and to re continue to associate you with good outcomes. And then should that, what is it, 0.01% percent thing happen, if we jump right back into positive, positive, positive, and non-stressful experience, then they're going to be much quicker to recover in their associations with us. However, if we continue to all of a sudden repeat all these stressful experiences back to back with them, then it's going to be really tough.

[00:38:38] And so, you know, we have to figure how that looks in certain situations. Like, if you have to, you have an ongoing medical thing where the horse has to stay at the vet clinic or something like that, maybe depending on the medical thing, depending on what your horse is experiencing and depending on how bad it is or, or whether or not they can have food, maybe while they're at that vet clinic, you show up, you know, as much as you can and do a clicker training session with them while they're in their stall. And not only is that an enrichment activity, so it keeps their brain active and it helps create positive associations with what's going on. It keeps them from getting bored and restless and in creating undesirable behaviors like wind sucking and stall pacing and all of that, it, and it keeps the brain active. It also continues to strengthen that relationship between you and them and creating this positive associations. So now they're going to, even if it's stressful at the clinic, and even if other people are doing uncomfortable things to your horse, when you show up awesome things happen, and that can be really helpful, um, in so many ways for your horse, if that's a possibility of something to do, then I would highly recommend doing it, obviously circumstances depending.

[00:39:45] So there's a lot to think about here. I was talking really fast and like, just like dumping all this information on you guys, but hopefully it was helpful and I'm definitely open to talking about different options for different types of situations.

[00:39:57] If you have any questions, you can always reach out to me. And I also consult on cases like this, where something really bad happened, and now we're trying to recover from it. So reach out to me if something like that's happened, I would be happy to consult and help you and your horse get back to a better relationship together and just doing better as a whole.

[00:40:15] Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast episode, I would love if you left us a review on wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you'd like to learn more, head to our website, the willing, where you'll find a bunch of links to our different social media platforms. We have Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook. Pretty much everything. We also have our blog, our training services and the TWE academy where you can enroll in the Foundation Course that opens a few times a year. Thanks so much for listening. And I look forwar

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Daniel Smith
Daniel Smith
Sep 21, 2022

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