Today it rained. It hasn't rained for a while and I had forgotten how the weather affects Little Love's state of mind. In her previous life, she would never go out in the paddock or pasture if it rained. Never. I'm talking about over ten years of never. This could mean being stall bound for days, sometimes even weeks, only getting out for riding. Needless to say, this didn't work for her - at all. So, that in mind, about a year ago I started teaching her how to be outside in a paddock when it rained (there was a small paddock you were allowed to use rain or shine. Problem was that it was just one paddock and the horse had to be out there without any other horses). Yes, I actually had to teach her. Because the second I let her loose, she would freak out and run around like crazy, literally on the verge of falling over from panic. In general, being outside in the paddock when other horses were not next to her was a big deal, but if the weather was sunny, with time and patience she learned to be alright with it (up to 30 minutes), as long as I stayed with her. It took me several more weeks, but finally we worked up to being out in the paddock even when it was raining. Our record was twenty minutes. Mind you, this paddock had grass, so it wasn't like she had nothing to distract her. Just goes to show that food is really worth nothing to a horse in panic.
Today when I went to the barn, I was welcomed by a very worried Little Love. She was standing in the light rain at the upper gate, a gate we never use for the horses. But she could see the parking lot from there and when she saw me, she let me know she wanted to go inside - now. When I went around (the pasture is an L-shape), she was still there, at the gate. Col, also slightly on the edge and agitated, was hovering nearby, unsure of what to do. When he saw me, he came to me. Little Love bolted from the gate down the hill, cantering towards us with the whites of her eyes flashing, slipping in her boots in the mud. She came over, sniffed me and ran back up the hill to the gate. I put the halter I had with me on Col and started walking him back to the barn. Little Love remained at the upper gate until she realized we really truly were leaving, after which she bolted after us. We walked to the barn in a tight formation, Little Love just inches behind me and tightly on Col's left side. Col, too, was sort of high, snorting and jogging next to me, all the while looking around as if waiting for something to pounce on him from the bushes.
I had originally thought of taking a long walk with Little Love, but adjusted my plans. She did settle down in her stall quite well and after about five minutes, I pulled her out for some feet soaking. This familiar (and boring) activity seemed to relax her and after 20 minutes I was a lot more hopeful about exercising her as she really needs to move for her feet (not to mention her body which really needs to get some muscle back where it belongs) There was no way I was going to go on the walk though. So I took her into the arena, where she immediately started trotting around me on the long rope with her head up high. I think I had her attention about 30% at the most in the beginning, which was fine, she needed to sort things out in her head. And like I have said before: she likes to move when things get iffy. I didn't really ask for much, apart from trying to keep her balanced. The arena footing is really not the greatest. Again, I think the whole halter business worked for her, because after a while she sort of snapped out of her frenzy. I'm still not sure the halter is a good thing, because ideally I would like to use no pressure on her (and the halter is pressure, not matter how I look at it and use it), but I'm sure that if I would have let her loose in that moment, she would have completely panicked. So at the moment we are using the halter.
My dog was persistently sitting at the gate that leads off the property and whining, she obviously wanted to go for a walk. I still wasn't sure I wanted to put myself and Little Love in that position. But Little Love kept stopping at the gate as well, so I finally listened to the two of them and soon I found myself walking down the driveway with my dog and my horse. And I'm happy I did, because it was a good walk. Little Love was back to her calm(er) persona and we walked a 20 minute loop before coming back. It made me feel good, because it showed me that we could work it out somehow, even on days when she is high as as kite.
Little Love is like Jekyll and Hyde, you never know which one is going to show up on any given day. But all I can do is try to live with her many personalities. Perhaps there is just one horse inside her, but fear and learned behavior from her previous life makes certain aspects of her self magnified at times. I guess it keeps my life interesting if nothing else :-)