It’s been quite a span of time since Lily 6 was posted. We had regrouped from Lily’s explosion and continued with her training. Her explosion was one of total fear and loss of mental control. Because of this we returned to ground work. I felt we had made a mistake and needed to gain Lily’s trust and acceptance before trying to mount again. We repeated much of our previous work but added new challenges as well. It was not difficult to obtain her willingness and try. We moved around the Morrises’ property and worked with Lily in different locations and settings. Although she was cooperative and listened to Amy, she was also still prone to becoming easily unsettled. Her energy would heighten to the point of explosion, and I watched this over and over again. Bringing her back to calm and starting again, over and over again. The key words here are “I watched,” but now I realize I did not see!
So, after months of ground work, Amy once again carefully mounted Lily. Making certain our previous mistakes were not repeated, Amy and Lily, with Brian by their side, began to walk. It was wonderful – nice expression, nice easy walk… then something behind Lily startled her. In one brief second she was off like someone had shot her out of a gun. Heart in my throat, I watched in horror as Lily became air-born and Amy rocketed through the air before hitting the ground.
Amy hurt her back and was out of commission at this point. Along with the pain, the fear came back. She made a very difficult decision not to continue her training with Lily. Lily would never leave their farm; they loved her dearly, and after such horrific past abuse they felt sending her to a trainer would traumatize her even more. So, for a while Lily was retired to a wonderful pasture life.
But, that is not the end of this story! We discussed the fact that Amy needed a quiet steady horse to develop her skills on and to gain her confidence back. It is clear that Lily will probably always have these moments of fear due to flashbacks. If the rider tenses, grips, or loses her balance, the leadership is gone and Lily will have to take care of herself. Amy needed time to grow as a rider.
It seems the universe was listening, because a few days later I mentioned this to my farrier, who told me his wife had a solid citizen pony available. Perfect! And so, along came “MaMa G.” She is a tiny pony rescued from auction. She is unflappable, with an attitude much bigger than her stature. She has been exactly what Amy needed.
But as I said, the story is not over for Lily. Brian’s horse, Olympia, had contracted EPM a couple of years ago. He was in remission, but at this time he had a set back and needed treatment and time to heal. So, without Olympia to train with, Brian revealed to me that he had always wanted to work with Lily. And, so the with a fresh start we proceeded. Once again we went back to the ground work. Lots of ground work! All over the property ground work! Lily loved it and was very willing. Brian has an incredible kindness and softness in his approach so Lily was content. With such great progress, Brian was ready to ride.
When he mounted, Lily I saw a clarity in Lily’s express that for whatever reason I did not understand previously. Lily went somewhere else in her brain. Her body changed, her eye was “gone.” Brian just sat there stroking her neck and talking to her. After awhile she seemed less tense so we decided to take a couple of steps. Not at all willing, Lily just stood there with a blank expression on her face.
I was disturbed because I am personally familiar with PTSD. None of Lily’s past history and abuse would ever go away. But handling her properly and learning to listen to her and read her signs might head us in a direction she would be comfortable with.
I have studied this horse for years and although she had been saying it all along, I did not hear. We’ll never know the why or the cause, but if you mount Lily in the arena she is frightened. She tries really hard to listen and follow your lead, but she is so tense that any little noise, movement, etc. will cause her to explode. The flight instinct is high. In the past I felt we needed to keep the Morrises as safe as possible, never putting them at risk in the pasture or trails where, if an explosion occurred, it could be devastating.
However, knowing that Lily never did anything with the intent of hurting anyone, that she truly shows a desire to be with Brian and Amy, and has always enjoyed her walks in hand on the trails around the property, I felt it was time we left the arena behind. The ever-willing Brian never hesitated. Outside the arena, we walked Lily down the trail, then he mounted and we walked back home. A very happy horse and a very nice walk. Even when she shied at a branch that hit Brian’s helmet, she just scooted a bit and stopped. No drama, no explosion.
After a couple of months I thought we’d take her in the arena to work on Brian’s trot work with her. It was an instant change back to the old frightened Lily. She stood like a rock, scared to move. Reluctantly, she would take a couple of steps, but it was obvious that she was not happy. And so, the decision to leave the arena for good has been made. PTSD does not go away. In a human we can learn to recognize the triggers and we can hopefully adjust our life to keep us from re-living the horrors. If Lily had control of her environment, she would completely avoid a person on her back in the arena. Regardless of the 100’s of hours of quiet, gentle training, Lily’s memories are always on the surface.
Since that day, a few months ago, we stayed out of the arena. Amy and Brian ride together both completely enjoying their dream of riding their horses. We go out in the pasture, on the trails, around the beautiful property. Lily is happy, willing, and making great progress.
I thank the Morrises for all their dedication, care, kindness and loyalty. I will forever be grateful to Lily for the opportunity to learn from this wonderful horse. Horses are our best teachers – we just need to listen to them! I’m appreciative of her forgiveness for the mistakes made. I have grown to love her dearly and look forward to many more fun adventures.