For myself and Aggie, my Belgian mare for whom so many things have been named, today was a good day. Roy Nilson came up to work with Aggie and me. His fiancée Lauren came along to assist and make some videos.
Many of you already know of Aggie’s panic attacks. The resulting explosions were dangerous for both her and whoever happened to be anywhere nearby. Needless to say, this greatly limited what could be done with her. In fact, I was pretty much at a standstill when it came to working with Aggie. So I was very happy that Roy agreed to come up.
From the start, Aggie was showing the nervousness that made her so hard to work with. She didn’t want to have her harness put on and spooked at the sound of a singletree being shaken. Letting down the harness chains caused a full-bore linear panic. That proved to be a good thing as it helped her realize that when she panicked, the chains rattled and hit her. When she stopped, the chains stopped. Success.
We continued on. The chains were lengthened with rope and the singletree added. Then a binder chain. Finally, the decision was made to hook her up to the chain harrow.
Hooking her to the harrow was a risk, as Aggie’s reaction proved, but ultimately it paid off. At first she panicked, but Roy was able to stand in and bring her down and get her to stop. That was amazing; no one had ever been able to stop one of her all-out panics.
Perhaps more amazing was that Roy was able to get her to settle in and start pulling. She was still a bit jumpy, but she was walking with the harrow. That was when the most fascinating and heartening event of the afternoon took place. After Roy had made a few laps with Aggie pulling the harrow, I saw a change come over Aggie. It happened very quickly, in the space of a few strides. Aggie went from being on the edge of panic with a scary thing behind her to just working. Something clicked in her mind and she realized that nothing was trying to kill her, she was just working. For her good efforts, she earned an apple.
About this time Roy handed her off to me. I was a bit nervous since I had never driven from the side before. I think Aggie was a bit nervous about the change of driver, but things went well. In fact, Aggie was so over being scared that she became bored and it was a bit of an effort to keep her moving. She was also clearly a bit tired so we decided to doff the harness and cool her down.
Then we went down to the lower pasture and Roy had me practice shortening and lengthening the lines on the fly and switching which side I was driving from. This gave me some practice time and gave Aggie a walking cool down.
So all things considered, this was a very successful day. Sure Aggie panicked a few times, but Roy was able to stand in and bring her down. In the end, Aggie went from being scared of the rattle of a singletree to being bored with pulling a chain harrow. All in the span of two hours!
Our work with Aggie is far from over, but I now have ideas on how to help her get over her fear, which helps me get over my anxiety toward working with her. Roy’s work with Aggie today was nothing short of amazing. He clearly cares deeply about the horses he works with and his fees are more than reasonable. I will definitely be having him back for a follow-up session.
Roy can be reached at: www.horseteamster.com