It's time to break some enormously huge news to everyone - I haven't talked about it yet because it wasn't set in stone until today. As of this afternoon, both P and Immy are together in a lease situation with someone who a) wants P to ride on trails and b) wants Immy as a buddy for her other mare. This situation, if it all works out, literally could NOT be better for all of us!
It had come to the point in Immy's riding career where I have had to come to terms with the realization that she is not mentally capable of doing what I want her to be doing. I have tried, tried, tried and tried some more... even though she has come a million miles from where she was, even though she is officially broke to ride and has been in training now for months, she is no further mentally than she ever was. I tried... oh, I tried! I wanted it SO bad, I wanted to show everyone what could happen when an abused little mare was given a second chance. Unfortunately, I'm not the only one in this relationship.... and she, as a sentient being, is entitled to her say in this partnership as well. I can't force her to be something that she just does not want to be. Or well, I could try to force her... but what would be the point of that? What is the point of stressing her out in order to try and make her do the things that only I want to be doing?
Technically she is broke to ride. She walks, trots, and canters under saddle, and goes on little trail rides. That much I succeeded in doing. But underneath her quiet exterior, there was always a ripple of tension within her. I could never predict when it would come out, or why - sometimes she just could not mentally respond properly to pressures, even if she had already responded beautifully dozens of times before. Whenever that happened, she would shut down, explode, bolt, or buck like a rodeo bronc. At first, I thought she was just green. But the further we got into her training, the more unpredictable it was. She could canter just fine 4 out of 5 times, but the 5th she would panic for no discernible reason and launch me into the dirt - and we'd be set back again.
This was not just in her under saddle work - 4 out of 5 times we could do everything normal and quietly, but without warning she would absolutely lose it over simple things - putting on a flymask, putting on a halter, picking up a foot. Sometimes I'd brush up against her on accident and she would panic. I don't know what she remembers from her years of abuse, but I don't think she'll ever forget it.... she is too smart and too sensitive to let anything go. Something gets triggered in her mind, no matter how benign whatever we're doing is, and she shuts down. We combed over her with every kind of treatment I could think of - chiro, massage, aquatherapy, vet, craniosacral, proper trims, proper diet, nutritional therapy, ulcer treatment. I poured thousands into her, just hoping to find something that would help find the Jekyll and Hyde switch and turn it off. I never succeeded.
Finally, I backed off and totally left her alone, and focused on O instead. That was when she came back around, acting like her wonderful usual sweet self. So long as I just petted her nosey and gave her kisses and cookies, she was a happy camper. So long as she was near me but not being directly asked to do anything, she was delightful. Honestly, she blooms when she's just in a super low-key environment. She just mentally does not handle stress well, and shuts down or acts out, no matter how minimal the pressures are. I completely understand this, as I am EXACTLY the same way. I have a really hard time dealing with stresses, and am quick to go from 0-60 - when things in my life go wrong, sometimes I can deal with them, but sometimes I go all the way to the other end of the spectrum and just want to hurl myself off a cliff rather than deal with whatever is causing the problem. In humans, we chalk that up to a mental health disorder... in horses, we are quick to just write them off as crazy. Who really knows what is going on?
I cannot change her history. I cannot change her years of abuse. And I cannot, no matter how much I try, change her reactivity to things. She is physically talented and completely capable of doing what I want her to do. But mentally, she is not capable and I honestly don't think she ever will be.
Do I feel like a total failure? Of course I do. I completely feel like I have failed. I have been pulled endlessly in both directions from people on both sides of this, and it has been causing me considerable stress for a very long time. The people that know her personally, that have seen her and seen her unpredictable fear-based behavior have said that I am wasting my time, that she is worthless, that she was dumped at the ET facility because she is clearly nuts and that I need to ship her off as quick as I can. The people that don't know her personally are telling me that I'm not trying hard enough, that I must not be treating her appropriately, that I am giving up and am a failure and a quitter. As for me, I don't believe ANY of the above things are true: I love her dearly, I think she is a wonderful mare and that she is beautiful and sweet and silly and gentle. I don't honestly believe that I failed... I just think that I have come to accept the fact that I don't want to force this mare to have to endure any more stress than she has already had to deal with in her life. Why am I trying to make her something that she just is not and does not want to be?
I don't regret rescuing her for a second, even if my dreams of making her into an eventer need to be tossed out the window. I am SO GLAD that I took her away from the misery she was in - SO eternally thankful for everyone that helped chip in to save her sweet soul. As such, I feel 100% responsible for making sure that the remainder of her days are to be lived out stress-free and happy and away from those that would harm her or toss her out with the trash. She deserves a beautiful and happy life, and I intend to make damn well sure that she never, ever endures any of that again.
Through a long series of events, I connected with a woman through acquaintance who has a solo lonely mare at her house. We agreed to try leasing Immy out as a companion for her mare - that's it, companion only. Her only job for the duration of the lease will be to keep this other mare company and eat, which is about as awesome of a job description as you could ever want as a horse. She is out on LEASE ONLY, meaning if it all goes to hell in a handbasket that she'll come back to me, but hopefully this lease will be somewhat indefinite and she and the other mare will be pasture mates and buddies for a long time. To top it off, at the last second the lady mentioned wanting a study trail horse to putz around on while her young mare was getting broke, and I told her that while Immy wouldn't be that horse, I did have another awesome older mare who had mostly just been hanging around getting some bareback trail rides that I would also be willing to let her lease. She jumped on it!
I took both girls over to her place today, and they settled in well. I'm worried that with P around, Immy is going to not be nice to the young mare, but P isn't supposed to stay for too long.... hopefully when she comes back, Immy will be forced to attach herself to another horse! She and P are total bookends, and Immy does NOT want the other mare to even say hello to P... hopefully they'll all get over that.
This of course leaves O at home alone, with her palomino boyfriends over the fence to keep her company... I thought she was going to freak out, but she seems to have taken it all in stride and is probably happy to not have Immy beating on her constantly! It is going to be very strange at home with only one horse for a little while, but I know the other two will be well-tended, and they come home when everything is over with. It's a win-win for everybody.
As always, I intend on always making sure Immy is happy, healthy, and safe for the duration of the rest of her life, no matter where she is or what she is doing. I owe it to her, and she deserves it.
It feels good to write this all out. I've been keeping it all bottled up for fear that everyone would chew me out and be angry with me about it. And I'm sure people will yell at me and tell me I am a horrible person and all, but I think I am a strong enough person to ignore that and know that I have done right by everyone. I will miss the girls while they are gone, but they're not far away. They are doing good things for other people, and we all get to share the love in the process. It's a great feeling, really.
In the end, it's all about doing what is right for the horse.