anything, as an act or event, that serves as a stimulus and initiates or precipitates a reaction or series of reactions.
Yesterday I was out in the corral trimming Dodger’s, our mustang’s, feet. A few years ago, I wrote a piece about my son and Dodger that was published in the Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover’s Soul Volume 2. You can read an abbreviated version of their story at this link. If you want to see photos of Daniel and Dodger, you can find them here and a video may be found here. 🙂 Must brag about my two redheads. (The image to the right in this blog entry is not Daniel and Dodger, but is Roy and Trigger!) 🙂
Yesterday while I was trimming Dodger’s, feet something happened to trigger Dodger’s fear mechanism. POOF! What had been a calm, hanging-out-in-the-corral-for-a-horsie-pedicure time turned into something terrifying for my sweet Dodger. Something triggered a memory from his abusive past. He instantly went into FEAR overload.
All this in a manner of 2 seconds. One moment peaceful. The next moment terrified…Something flipped the switch. Presto change-o…
I wondered if it was the rasp in my hand (some farriers beat horses with those!) and I let it fall from my hand as I asked Dodger to bring his mind back into the here and now with me.
I knew that, while I had to allow Dodger to be worried, it was vital that I find a way to show him that he is safe with me—that whatever boogie that was front and center in his mind was a phantom and not going to hurt him in reality. I felt like it was important not to squelch Dodger’s need to express his concern. Doing that might merely stifle his need causing it to possibly resurface at another time in a way that is dangerous for horse and human. (I have seen this before and have been taught by knowledgeable horsemen to be aware of this possibility.)
Because I love him, because I want healing, I actually welcome the opportunity to help Dodger with a fear rooted in his past. When I am given an opportunity to show him that whatever demon has climbed on his back is not physically present now…it is a chance to solidify in his head that he is safe and cherished now. This is healing.
It has been a long time since I saw his past jump on him like this. There he was white-eyed and just sure *I* was going to beat him! His feet grew roots into the ground and he began to quake…an indication that the horse thinks he is going to die…they typically flee for their lives unless they think death is imminent.
He was very worried I was going to beat him, so I had to show Dodger that my hands will never be used to beat him. I did this by rushing at him with my hands up toward his face and neck. This worried him–a LOT–so as I got closer to him I then pet him until he softened and calmed. We repeated this until he understood (at least for now) that my intent is different from those people in his memory who hurt him.
This entire encounter may not have lasted longer than two or three minutes, but had I asked Dodger if he wished a memory like that would never surface again, I would be willing to bet that he would say that would be his preference.
As his “Mom,” though…as the one who loves him, even imperfectly, I am glad when I get a glimpse inside…when something surfaces and I can show him the truth about the present. Over the six years Dodger has been a member of our family, these kinds of “triggers” have occurred with less frequency. I believe this is a testimony that healing has taken place.
We work with the horse to help him and support him, showing him that he can “work the thing through” with the human. He finds that whatever BOOGIE it is, is in the past…it is now gone…and the human in his life NOW means no harm and is actually someone who will provide safety and relief.
I may not be the brightest Crayola in the box, so it was a few hours later when I realized what God had graciously done…Dodger was “broad-sided,” something “triggered” his reaction–a feeling that he would rather not feel. But I love him and am willing that he should experience the fears long enough for me to show him he is safe now…to be healed…
Sound familiar? Just a few hours prior to my trimming session with Dodger, I wrote here at the blog about a similar experience that God had allowed to happen to me during my bible study time in Esther. God, my loving perfect Heavenly Father, wants the things that are triggered to be allowed to surface…while I, emotionally, may wish it never to happen as it is so painful, he wants me to sit in the pain for a while and wait for HIM to show up…wait for him to show me that I am safe and cherished in this present moment. He may go a bit deeper with me than I can go with Dodger :-)…but nevertheless, he used this incident with Dodger to show me that his intentions are totally loving.
I love how God uses my horses this way…He used Dodger yesterday to love on me. Thank you, Lord…