The 4 Stages of Horse Training

I want to thank everyone for the wonderful email responses and comments I received after last weeks blog. It took me literally hours and hours for me to get back to everyone.

There were lots of great, and sad, stories of how accidents have changed our lives as well as stories of accomplishments and overcoming the odds.

They were very inspiring to my friend as well who is dealing with his own story of perseverance after a terrible accident. He also wanted me to send his thanks to all of you for the warm wishes for his speedy recovery.

The neurosurgeon let us know that there are 4 stages to recovery when there is an accident that involves brain trauma – 1. Physical, 2. Emotional, 3. Mental (neurological), 4. Spiritual (putting life back into balance).

Besides looking at how those stages work with my friend and where he is in the healing process, I thought, “Wow, that’s how I look at horse training too”.

Almost everything in my life revolves around my horses and I probably think more in horse terms than I do in human terms. Hahaha…isn’t that the way when you have horses though.

1.Physical – Doctor:
The Doctor said that while healing the first thing they focus on is getting the body healed and working on what they can see first. They want to get the body working as well as possible before starting the next stage.

1.Physical – Horse Training:
The first thing I look at is how the horse is physically. Is he in good health? What can I do to help him get into better health? Is he eating enough, or too much? Is he in good physical health to trot or canter? Is he sound enough to be ridden? And other things along these same lines.

2.Emotional – Doctor:
The Doctor said that once the body is on the mend and healing well, the next step is to work on how you feel about the accident, the trauma, the recovery, and the consequences this accident has had on your life and family. We need to work through the fear memories of getting back in the car and starting to drive again. We need to work on the PTSD that the trauma caused due to the realization that it could have been a fatal crash. What effect does that have on you and your family? We need to get you back to “your happy place” and feeling safe again.

2.Emotional – Horse Training:
The next thing I look at is how to make a connection with the horse. Is he emotionally “checked out”? Is he pushy or aggressive? Does he even like being around humans? How is he acting around me and does there seem to be any actions that could be from past traumas? Does it look like he has any fear memories? How do I get him to “his happy place”?

3.Mental – Doctor:
The Doctor said in this stage it is retraining or re-mapping the brain due to a brain injury. But it is also about making sure that communication is correct. Can he speak correctly so that others understand him and can make sense of his words? Can he listen to others and not only understand the words, but correctly comprehend what is being said and the meaning? This also includes writing and reading skills. Can he communicate effectively and appropriately and fit in?

3.Mental – Horse Training:
The next thing I look at is how do I communicate with the horse? I want to understand his way of communicating with other horses. I want to watch the herd dynamics as well as the herd behaviors to see what they do to communicate with each other. How does he relate to me? How does he communicate with me? How do I communicate with him? Am I speaking a foreign language to the horse or am I using his language? Can I communicate effectively and appropriately and fit in with the herd?

4.Spiritual – Doctor:
The doctor said that this will be more difficult as he has to do this on his own or with the help of family and friends. Feeling safe, feeling normal, feeling as if everything has gone back to the way it was before the accident can take time. Little things will trigger anxiety or fear and his body will automatically react. This is when he can go back to work and start doing his normal activities again. The doctor said he will need to have patience as issues will arise and sometimes even surprise him that relate back to the accident.

4.Spiritual – Horse Training:
The next thing I do is look at how to take connection and communication and work on cooperation. It’s about bringing it all together to be smooth as silk. Now that we have a bond and we trust each other and now that we understand how to communicate with each other and have a two-way conversation, now how do we put that together? How do we take those wonderful things and translate them to the saddle? How do we learn to cooperate and work as a team, as partners? How do we keep that feeling of trust and safety no matter what we do or where we go?

Bringing it all together to get back to your life BA “Before the Accident” takes a lot of effort, time, and most of all PATIENCE. I think that is the hardest to deal with – patience.

You can see doctors and physical therapists and other experts to deal with the physical, emotional, and mental recovery. However, when putting it all together again to make life safe and “normal” again, the spiritual side, is harder as it is all up to you and you have to have patience with yourself.

I think helping others is easier than helping ourselves sometimes. We can give advice freely, but when we need advice from others sometimes it is harder to accept advice than to give it. That’s when patience with ourselves, our recovery, our family, our animals, and our situation is most important.

It takes time and we need to give it the time it needs, no matter how short or long it takes. It takes the time it takes. Here is a response I received from last week’s blog from Leslie and I think she put it very well…

Leslie wrote:

“Hello Teddie, I just wanted to tell you how much I have enjoyed watching your videos with Danny and Kit. Secondly, I always enjoy your texts regarding real instances with your clients or your own horses and the lessons learned, through everyday occurrences. Sometimes these anecdotes cause me to pause, reflect, and remember something similar in my own life. It’s always interesting to hear another person’s perspective and possibly try their approach if it was successful. I’m enjoying my journey with my horse Fabio, and my little rescue foster Sunshine. It has been slow going, my pace right now, but I’ve learned that slower is better. It gives me time to stop and smell the roses instead of zipping through life at such a fast pace, everything is just a blur!! Thank you for sharing your time and knowledge with us. I appreciate you.”

My response:

Leslie, I agree with you that slower is better. It does allow you to see a lot more of what’s really going on, pause for relaxation, and allow you to appreciate more around you.

Remember the old saying…. “the hurrier you go, the behinder you get”.

I’ve seen slow with horses actually work faster in the long run. Life is so much more wonderful when you can stop to smell the roses, pause to reflect and appreciate, and slow down to feel the gratitude in the world around you.

So, I hope everyone is able to take a moment or two and slow down today just to feel the gratitude for the life they are living. There has to be something in your life that you appreciate and that you couldn’t live without.

Mine is my horses. Life can be shorter than we expect so go out and give your horses a hug and tell them how much they mean to you. For that matter, add a family member or a good friend to that hug too.

Appreciate what you have in life, have patience, and don’t rush through it. Take the time it takes and if it goes slow, enjoy every second of it.

You’ll be pleased to hear that my friend is doing well and has finished the first stage of recovery. He has moved into the second and third stage of recovery simultaneously. I’ve made this quick video of him out with the horses just taking it easy and trying to stay positive… feeding his white wolf.

I hope you enjoy it. You’ll see near the end that the cat, Tiger, even made an appearance as Mark was brushing Jazz. Tiger just came to hang out and relax with us.

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