So it's been a while since my last entry but it's also been a long time since my last real brush with FEAR around horses.
Anyway, we have been transferred to another state and prior to this a dear friend offered to care for my horses while I dismantled all my corrals so that they could be shipped with all my household goods. So at the beginning of February, I took all 3 horses to my friend's house. I loaded Shazaam, then Phantom and then a rising 3 year old mustang filly I now have named Fable into my 3 horse slant load trailer and we drove to the hour to my friend's house. I am frankly nervous loading and unloading horses but I got there and unloaded my filly and Phantom just fine and then I went to unload Shazaam. He has been trying to hurry out of the trailer so I took a deep breath and let it out before even going back in there to get him.
My slip knot wouldn't slip and I couldn't reach it with the divider closed so I opened the divider forst and went in to undo the knot. Poor Shazaam could not wait for me and despite me telling him to stand with one hand gently signaling on the rope to come off the pressure, he reached the end of the rope, got upset and set back on it. Well initially I was facing the inside of the trailer in the direction I wanted to my horse to be. I didn't push him out of the trailer with my body but as he was setting back there and rearing inside the trailer, I stood and faced him and watched my life flash before my eyes.
He gave up the fight after a few seconds and bolted forward off the pressure to stand, a quivering mess right next to me. Now I know and imagined quite vividly, this horse creaming me against the front wall of the horse trailer, while he was on 2 legs and all I could really notice was the whites of his eyes way above me. I got him untied and backed him out of the trailer.
I was furious but I didn't act on it. If I'd had access to a gun, I might have actually shot him and put him down right there. The thoughts that went through my head were lightning fast "I've had this animal for 7 years" "He knows to come off pressure, I can lead him by a single foot or even his tail or mane" "When he started with being a nervous unloader, I went back to remedial training- loading and unloading, controlling each foot with him calm and easy" A couple of trainer friends of mine told me I was not off by euthanizing Shazaam- they felt he was improving over the years but was ultimately unpredictable.
So after nearly 3 months of reflection I have come up with this: All the training in the world will not fill in where there is any fear for Shazaam to feed off of. Period. Even if I don't show it. And sadly, I feel this horse LOVES me which is why he purposely didn't kill me in the trailer-and he tends to treat me like a foal he has to nurture. I know a lot of women who want that from their horses and years ago, I might have been one of them but I'm here to tell you that LOVE is the most useless basis for a relationship to have with any horse when there is not 100% trust. So I find myself in this place where I seriously do not want his love and never really have. My filly and I have a great relationship, she trusts me, I trust her-there is mutual respect and while she is interested in having me come out and work at different things with her and she likes being fed and looked after in general, I think I could be interchangeable with any person who would offer her that. Phantom and I have a similar relationship except he is a pushy gelding with a sense of humor and an over all draft-pony personality so I have to demand respect from him where my filly offers it but the trust is the same.
So how to fix things with Shazaam? I don't know. He is overly sensitive and seems to need the connection. I've tried to give him less attention and he gets depressed and stops eating. I can't stop feeling fear but I have stopped acting on it. I have learned to function through it. I have ridden through it enough that I don't feel nearly it as much as I used to.
I can only guess that time with this horse will eventually show me how to get along with him. I actually think I trust him more than he trusts me at this point but only because I have gotten so much better at predicting his behavior. That may be the only thing that keeps me marginally safe at this point.
I can only get better.