(2:30 - in. My point. "You gotta have that Johnny Cash demeanor no matter the situation.")
I have mentioned before that I suffer from ridiculous, in explicable anxiety attacks. They often come out of nowhere and only recently have I been able to successfully identify triggers. Which is why it is only fitting that my horse seems to suffer from a similar issue. Karma? Twisted yes, but perhaps that’s just how the world works.
Last night, I made it to the barn around 5:30 PM. Like most nights after work, just pulling into the driveway was a freeing experience. I felt less sick than previous days and took that as a small win.
Sadly, I was feeling rushed because I’d once again double booked my evening. I think this may have contributed the fact that my threshold of understanding was exceptionally thin. I didn’t have a long time to spend with Jean Luc, but I told myself I would just go out and take this thousand-pound fur baby on a brief walk. Come hay or high horses, we were going on a walk!
When I got to the barn my ever-supportive dad showed up. I must confess, he’s really nailing the supportive dad role lately. He’s been working on a project and just wanted to catch up.
“Perfect, walk with me,” I suggested in an all too familiar business voice.
As always, catching Jean Luc was easy. Though, this was the first time he really tried hard to not be caught once the lead rope was around his neck. (First sign of the “Little Feral Beasty” within.)
After catching him, I didn’t give him his usual grain stop at the barn before just walking down the road casually chatting dad. In retrospect, I messed with a routine there, and plan on correcting that in the future. Regardless, Jean Luc walked fine while Dad and caught up, until we made it to the turn in the road that starts down a hill into the big field.
Jean Luc began to get a little fidgety. I ignored it. His way of coping with being away from the herd is stress eating. I was having none of it. I was actually a little proud of myself for paying enough attention to stop him from grazing.
By the time we made it to the creek crossing he wanted to call out in a very loud, and in my opinion, obnoxious whinny back to the herd. I had little patience for this either yesterday and after allowing a few quick gulps of creek water, pressed on into the big field.
Once in the big field, Jean Luc really began to lose his composure. Enter “Little Feral Beasty” stage right! Looking back, he was having a complete and utter breakdown. Similar to the way I felt in an Argentine airport after sitting on a small prison-like seat for hours, only to be patted down and prodded in all the offensive places, and sprayed with pesticides, before being allowed to fly home to America (a story for another time), Jean Luc could not get a grip.
He pranced in a circle with eyes the size of dinner plates. I stood there looking pissed and apologizing to my dad for his behavior. He whinnied loudly to his herd. I stood there called him a few words my grandmother would not be proud of.
The fact is, Jean Luc is herd sour. Until this point I have been looking at it all wrong, though. In my mind, like many who judge those with anxiety, I understood him as a wimp – it’s deeper than that.
Last week I was shoved into a basement with nearly three hundred campers between the ages of 14 and 21 because of a very serious tornado threat. I was responsible for these children, and did not have the tools to feel like I knew we would all be okay. Cue massive panic attack.
(Note: when you live in West Virginia and someone tells you a tornado is coming, it’s never a drill. West Virginians don’t joke about such things because they literally almost never happen. When they do happen . . . well, google Cheat Mountain Lake, June 24, 2017).
Clearly, the people “in charge” were, no offense, not good executing any sort of natural disaster safety drill. I yelled at like a child, and given no tools (procedures, skills, etc.) for how to handle the situation. I can say this. I have spent many cold, desperate, yet not scary hours trapped on an isolated mountain with no heat and been responsible for thousands, yes thousands of humans! (Another life.) Also, never once did those situation trigger any sort of panic attacks. My heart stayed in my chest, not my throat.
I credit it all to the following theory: Nagging Mother vs. Chill Ski Patroller.
The powers at be last week were far more nagging mother, far less chill ski patroller. You know, when your leg has basically exploded from the skin surrounding it? You know? Your bone is sticking out. You could die. You won’t, but then again, you might.
Your mother screams, “What happened!? How on earth did you do this!? You’re at death’s door!!! I care about you and want to fix you but have no clue how!” Meanwhile, the chill ski patroller will look at you, and simply say, “Man. Looks kind of gnarly, but we got you. Hold tight while I do things. I can't fix your leg here, but I am confident enough to get you out of this really bad situation alive and to people who can actually help.”
Give me the chill ski patroller! Why? Because unlike the nagging mother, I trust the ski patroller. I believe the ski patroller. I may not know him/her, but the ski patroller is able to BS their way into my head’s desperate need to be “okay”. Please God, always give me the chill ski patroller.
All this to say: new approach. Like it or not, right now, I’m the nagging mother. Jean Luc and I have only been together a little over two months and we are still building trust. I just assumed we’d overcome his “whimpyness.” It doesn’t work that way. Humans don’t work that way. Logically, I can’t see why horses would either. Their need to be in a herd is powerful. I need to work on being the trusted herd leader, and for both of us, that means creating believably secure situations.
We did walk successfully back to the barn after approximately fifteen minutes of standing in the big field. We even came upon BM’s scary blue tractor working the fields next to the road. Jean Luc had a little spook, but contained that terror with impressive restraint.
I sent him back to the heard with a new fly mask on, in hopes that it would provide him some relief from the little black sky raisins. All in all, the photo below does a pretty good job of describing how the evening went.
Perhaps you disagree with my anxiety theory? That’s more than encouraged. What or how would you suggest tackling it? What successful ways have you resolved a buddy sour situation? No matter what, I’m interested to see where I find that fly mask tonight. Smart money is on, covered crap in a ditch somewhere. But, as we like to say, #BoldlyGo!
My name is Chelsey.
Generator's Cuevo Gold, or as he's known around this barn, "Jean-Luc Ponycard", was foaled in 2004 from Generator's Hurricane & Cheyenne's Little Bit.