I started leasing my horse, Red, in February 2010. Red was a 15 year old Thoroughbred and had been ridden English and Western and had many different riders. His owners warned me that he was a bit cinchy and recommended to untie him before tightening the cinch. This of course proved to be true and one of the few times I didn't untie him he wound up pulling back while tied and slipping on the concrete floor of the barn and falling down.
In the time I leased him I found ways to minimize his issues, I would tighten the girth by 1 hole then walk him down the barn aisle and back to diffuse him. This of course takes a long time and being a horse he would rather go off and explore than walk back to where he was standing in order to have the girth tightened some more.
The term "cinchy" can be used to describe a variety of behaviors in horses. With Red he's not scared of the saddle, the pad or the girth. He has no issues having the saddle & pad on his back. He's not ticklish under his belly and you can touch him anywhere. If the girth is buckled but only barely touching his belly he doesn't mind. When the girth is tightened though his behavior ranges from stiffening up, pulling his head back and trying to step back to pulling back and if he's tied, rearing up when he realizes he's 'trapped'.
I bought Red on June 1st, 2010 and moved him to small family farm near my home. In the pre-purchase exam I asked the veterinarian if he saw any physical problems that could explain Red's issues and he agreed that it was a psychological issue, not any physical pain. I continued to experiment with different methods to diffuse his fear of the girth. Nothing worked reliably 100% of the time. I tried keeping the lead rope looped through the tie ring but not tied but that resulted in a wandering horse. I tried offering him treats as soon as the girth was tightened a hole. This helped distract him but didn't change the behavior like I hoped it might (I was hoping maybe we could teach him that the girth meant treats).
Over the past year I worked with him on ground tying and he proved to be a pretty good student and usually would stand where I put him and allow me to wander around without following me. I had also started to notice that if I let him be untied when I tightened the girth that he often tried to turn around and have his butt towards the wall. So I started intentionally turning him around and backing him up to the wall before tightening the girth. I still was using treats because they do help to distract him and he loves getting treats. This method works most of the time but he does still tend to wiggle away as he sidesteps away when the girth is tightened. It has eliminated the problem of him rearing though or injuring himself while pulling back.
This summer I had a trainer working with him to get over his phobias of the horse trailer. After a few weeks she had him easily going in and out and mostly standing quiet inside the trailer. The problem was though that he couldn't be tied up. His reaction when tied up in the trailer was similar to his reaction to having the girth tightened while being tied up. He also would display similar behaviors of fear sometimes when the nose band of the bridle is put on.
After much deliberation I decided to work with an animal communicator. I've ruled out any physical problem and the issues are too deeply rooted to be trained out with classical conditioning/traditional pyschology methods. The longer I knew this horse the more I felt that these issues were all tied to a very deep fear or memory. Other than in the situations I've described he's a very sweet, friendly, mellow horse who is eager to please and likes to be ridden.
I asked a couple friends for recommendations of an animal communicator. I truly believe that there are people capable of 'talking' to animals but I also fear that there are probably people out there that are happy to take your money and just make up a bunch of fluff to impress you.
When I contacted the woman by e-mail to ask her about working with Red she responded that, "All of my animal communication sessions are done by phone using telepathy so I don’t need to meet you or your animal(s) in person. Telepathy is what animals use to communicate with each other. I find animals (and people) are usually more relaxed in a familiar home environment." So about a month ago I set up an appointment with her. I gave her some background about Red and described the best I could the issues I was seeing. She put me on hold then and went to 'talk' to him. When she came back immediately she commented that he had been treated "brutally" and this is the story that she says Red told:
She said that Red told her that he’s always had a mind of his own and his first trainer when he was off the track had the mindset that he was going to ‘fix’ Red. He was apparently training Red for a family but didn’t own Red himself. She said ‘the man hated Red and Red hated the man’. He said the man would over tighten the cinch to the point where it was painful for Red and then would loosen it to the appropriate setting. He said the man wouldn’t wait for Red to misbehave but was trying to dominate Red.
I asked her to find out if Red has any physical pain and she said that he responded that he doesn’t have any physical pain but when the girth goes to be tightened it triggers the pain from the past when he was mistreated. She said that Red said he ‘just can’t help it’ even though he knows he is safe and he trusts me, the current issues of the girth fear is just that he ‘can’t shake the old baggage.’ She said that all the other places/homes he was in were okay and that people had common sense reasons for getting rid of him (i.e money, time, etc. – not related to his behavior).
I asked her to communicate to Red, if possible, that his behaviors scare people and if I were ever to get hurt by him that it would be very bad and I might not be able to keep him anymore. I also asked her to communicate that I plan to keep Red for life. I wanted him to know that he may move to other stables or have other riders but that he's mine forever.
For 'treatment' she recommended some essential oil blends that she uses in her work with rescued dogs. She also recommended to keep reassuring Red that he's in his "forever home" to help him heal from the trauma. She recommended chiropractic treatment to help make sure his body is in alignment; even though he's not in any obvious pain he very well could have mis-alignments resulting from the way he fights the girth and pulls back when tied up. She also recommended energy healing (reiki) treatments to help heal the emotional wounds and realign his energy.
So far since then I haven't had any issues with the girth but I haven't done any of the things that I know can trigger a bad episode like tying him up. In the past he would occasionally rear when tied up if he tried to turn & look at something and then realized he was 'trapped.' He hasn't shown any inclination to rear or pull back since our session.
I do believe that the story is true. It really is what I long suspected and it makes sense. Whether or not having this chat with him will heal his wounded spirit I can't say. I've decided the essential oils are too expensive for me but a friend owns one of the recommended ones and said I can use that. I would like to do the chiropractic treatment as I've wondered before if he's got some tension in his neck and back - just certain things I've noticed in riding and training him make me suspect this. As to the reiki, my same friend that referred me to this communicator is a reiki master and would be more than happy to treat Red. This will probably wait until spring time though so us humans don't have to freeze to death in the process.
I'm curious if anyone else has had experiences - positive or negative - with animal communicators and what led you to seek that avenue for treatment of your pets.