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From The Case Files: Callie

 

“Among the most challenging things to ask of your horse is to learn, retain and perform, all while removed from natural herd structure. For when we isolate the herd animal, we are both identifying their strengths while exposing their weaknesses. If you truly wish to bond with your horse, learn everything you can about who they are; consider, respect, understand. Be the bridge, not the block.” ~Kerry

 

For this installment of the “From The Case Files” series I have recently started, where, with permission from the client I share most of the completed profiling and mapping along with some of the back story when that’s appropriate, we have something extra. (It's worth adding too, that Fiona is also a Life Through The Senses student, participating in the "Understanding Sensory Soudness" course available through the Education Portal.)


In this case, when I asked about whether or Callie could be considered for this series, the owners, Fiona and Simon, not only were kind enough to say yes, but did me one better than that. What follows is her story in her own words, sent to me to be shared here as part of this chapter. I am privileged to share verbatim followed by a copy of the case study. *Note that some information from the case, such as the patterns of motion diagrams that are an extension of the sensory mapping, are purposely left out for privacy.


I will add here, that because sensory soundness mapping is indeed what I like to dub as an artistic rendition of the horse’s psychosensory profile, the patterns of motion diagrams that follow are borne from their own minds, their own needs, literally drawn and created from them. It’s the beauty of putting emotion into motion, to become a better version of themselves.

 

**New to the lingo? Download the free Glossary of Terminology and Phrases, visit 'Resources' here on this website.

***


Dear Kerry, I just wanted to share my thoughts and observations with you regarding Callie and sensory soundness.


I met Callie when she was 2 weeks old. She was glorious and desperately wanted attention but also cautious and lacking the confidence of her sister who was 5 days older. I bought Callie and her sister that day and spent the next 10 months travelling down to see them whenever I could. So, I have been closely involved with this mare from a very young age and know most of her story. On each occasion that I visited, I could see how Callie was curious and wanting to bond but lacking confidence. She improved over time but never had the independence of her sister and regularly tested boundaries, always reacting very strongly to any situation she felt uncomfortable in.  


From day one I noticed that Callie is a horse that must keep moving to process her stress in an environment. Body before mind as you would say. When she gets scared or nervous her natural tendency is to take off at full speed, buck and kick out with her right hind leg. She has done this from a very young age and still does it now. If she is being led anywhere, gets stressed and can’t move quickly enough to escape her situation she will rear up. As soon as she gets away from the pressure or is feeling better about the situation she will come back to earth and stand quietly by your side, looking for reassurance and waiting for a scratch. This can all happen in less than 3 seconds - she will rear and / or run 2-3 strides, and spin around to face whatever is worrying her. I use my voice to calm her as it seems to get her attention better than the lead rope.


When she was young, I used to carry a bit of cloth or rope that I would let her chew when she was getting stressed, as this helped her work through her stress and stay with me. It was almost like a comforter which allowed her to process her emotions. As she got older and started wearing a bridle, I noticed that I could keep her attention focused on me more via gentle movements of the bit but she still has the tendency to spook, kick and spin whenever she is worried. And if we are trotting whilst being led, she is highly likely to react, especially to anything on her right-hand side. Yet the slower we go, the more she copes - if she is allowed to move and not made to stand still.


Once when I had hurt my leg, I had to move her in a bad storm, and I wasn’t sure if she would behave but she was awesome even though we were going extremely slowly due to my limping. I think it was because I was calm and just kept talking to her. We would go a couple of meters and then stop so I could rest my injured leg. The storm was quite bad and the type of situation that she would normally react strongly to if she was by herself, but she really trusted me and stayed with me. There are moments like these that happen often enough that I know if I can find the best way to support her, we can both be happy and safe in most situations. I have had the best horse trainers I could find work with Callie and they have all trained her carefully and she did blossom, mainly due to their confidence and calm composure in situations that she would find stressful. She still reacted very strongly to anything that worried her, but they were able to direct her energy into something positive without adding to the energy levels. I rode her for a few years and then after some injuries (not related to her) I lost some confidence and stopped riding her as I could tell that my stress was causing us problems.


Callie always has something bubbling under the surface and can react in a very exaggerated way for no obvious reason which worried me when I wasn’t riding at my best. However, I am getting very good at working out what shadows, situations, noises make her react and the slower and calmer I am, the better she copes. I have also worked out which horses in my herd she feels safer with, and I give her as much time as possible with them to help her feel brave and confident in her daily life. She is definitely a horse that looks to another horse or person to give her confidence in many situations. In particular, I have noticed that Callie gets very stressed if she feels cornered or trapped, if there are shadows or lots of sharp, loud noises to her right. Having her sister at home and watching how they both respond to the same / similar situations and training experiences has really emphasized to me how reactive Callie actually is.


There have been times when I thought she was just naughty but now I am sure it is more anxiety related. She has gone through a few traumatic experiences in her life because she panics easily and reacts quickly and strongly, which has resulted in her having three serious injuries and losing confidence in some situations. Consequently, I have always been very careful about how I handle Callie and have spent a lot of time repeating simple training exercises with her, in small steps, to help her gain confidence and help her understand what is being asked of her. What I love about your sensory soundness course and assessment process, is that I am starting to really appreciate and understand why she reacts so strongly to some situations and then boldly ignores others.


Listening to your podcast interviews with Dr Shelley Appleton gave me some great insights and ideas, which then started me on a very simple training process for her. Over the weeks I have carefully observed what she reacted to, slowed down how and when I introduced her to different things, and paid very close attention to what she is actually doing in different situations to see if I could identify much earlier what is stressing her. I began to suspect some things about her sensory soundness, particularly on the right hand side, and asked a few more questions of the breeder, finding out that she had been kicked in the head as a foal. This really explained a few of the inconsistencies in her reactions and made me even more mindful of certain situations.


When I attended your clinic in November, I was so impressed by the way you explained sensory soundness and how it affects the interactions between horse and human. I had started to suspect some things about Callie but knew I needed your expertise to help her. In preparation for you reviewing Callie on video, I put together some small obstacle courses which we started practicing. The improvement I have seen, and calmness I have felt, coming from Callie and myself has been enormous. These very simple exercises have already made an impact on the way she stands for the farrier and how she approaches new situations and my awareness of how to support her better. I am very careful not to over face her and sometimes just spend 10 minutes walking her around the paddock doing simple exercises. I have also had my dogs in the paddock as we walk from target to target so she gets used to moving around her and sometimes we purposely follow the dogs too.


My knowledge of the way in which horses process situations from your course has been particularly helpful and I make sure I do not interrupt her during the orienting, investigating, absorbing and interpreting phases. This alone has made a huge difference in our relationship as she gets time to process her environment and due to my increased knowledge, I can act as a bridge for her when needed.  I can’t wait to implement the training program that you have devised for Callie following the video review and report back on our progress.


The small changes we have made already in our preparation for the video analysis have improved her coping skills and given me clear directions about what I can do to help her. Both my husband and the farrier have also noticed a positive change in Callie and we all really appreciate how much you have helped us. Thank You!!!


Regards, Fiona

 

 ***

 

Sensory Soundness Mapping

with

Psychological Notes & Recommendations


Horse: Callie

Client: Fiona & Simon

Date of Service: 1-5-24



Sensory Soundness; evaluation & mapping


Zone 1: Slightly wider than is commonly found, the forward aspect draws additional emotional energy to sort the lower area of the egg, earmarks of some depth perception quirks. This seems to build up stress in the forward aspect when taxed with obstacles either physical or emotional. The pressure built in this zone eventually pushes Callie into “escaping” off to the right or left oblique.


Zone 2: Of nearly normal area size when considering emotional real-estate, however, Z2 is a push and pull zone. Emotional energy goes in and out without being fully interpreted, what I refer to as Bumpy or Pinballing.  


Zone 3: Slightly askew, Z3 is very similar in tendency expression as Z2, blurring the zones mentally for Callie. But there is an SLC marker that does divide them. Push and pull emotional energy patterns are very similar in each neighbor zone.


Zone 4: Has some push and pull owing to/during times of the accumulation of stresses. Tendency is to withdraw or pull back into felt or assumed stimuli in this area. The sense of feeling is delayed. However, this zone is well aligned with the standard markers. This zone is nearly exactly in alignment with the standard markers, but its functionality is less than efficient, about 45%.


Zone 5: This zone is tighter than the standard markers and therefore stresses here can accumulate more quickly. This constriction of area also creates a situation where Callie will less easily Absorb stimuli in this region and will pinball between Orienting & Investigatory.


Zone 6: This zone is exaggerated in size. Entrance into this zone from the outside does little to draw Callie out of Survey & Orienting mode. Once emotional contact has been established, closer to Zone 5 transition, there is pull (leakage), Callie mentally falls into this space. When accumulated energy here releases it “pops”, causing physical movements & knee-jerk expressions.


Sensory Lead Change Notes: Leaks energy at transition points but still maintains defined SLC markers. Sensory lead change delays push Callie in to “floating” or “drifting” into Zones 2 & 6 respectively from Z1. From Z5 to Z4 Callie is a little sticky in transitioning, however from Z4 to Z3, which is nearly a perfectly aligned transition location, the SLC here is average to good.


Egg: depth & scope of emotional self-awareness; the egg is ever-present much like the sense of smell, as it is a “feel” sensitivity. Callie has earmarks of traumas that have impacted its functionality in such a way that she cannot rely upon it as a primary lead sense. This is evident in the clues she shows in Zone 4 where the sensory sequence is corrupted early in the sensory process. This carries over into all zones, with a strong marker in Zone 1.


*We must be ever mindful that for a horse depth-perception is up and down AND in and out, relative to position of self.


Normal Sensory Sequencing:

Survey / Orienting / Investigatory / Absorb / Interpret / Respond.


Sequencing Detail: Orienting step has heavy delays in transitioning to Investigatory which impedes Absorption. Interpretations are largely circumvented altogether becoming Anticipatory Responses and are they commingled with an assorted mix of Associations that lead to Reaction (non-purposeful, uncontrolled) instead of Response (purposeful, controlled). Outsourcing is a large component for Callie that leads her to Harmony & Contentment. Steps 2 through 4 are heavily reliant upon the outsourcing tendency and in a natural herd structure, would be largely processed without issue.  

 

Herd Dynamic Profile; psychological notes & recommendations


Delays in processing the forward aspect when the Egg, space relative to self-awareness, is required especially with new or darkened spaces. Backing out into zone 4 is blocked when accumulative stressors are anchored in Zone 1.


Bumpy emotional energy distribution and residual stresses (traumas) are evident. Heavy, down pressure emotional energy distribution when under stress, that pops upward and out upon release. Need to be aware of this and the need to diffuse and distribute more effectively to mitigate accumulation.


Egg issues, the depth perception especially in Zone 1 could very easily have been exacerbated by the foal incident. Egg corruptions are evident in all zones contributing to reactive responses as this otherwise internal “buffer” is not as well regarded by Callie owing to herd dynamic makeup and residual trauma.


The forward aspect represents itself as a heavy energy and a large majority of her processing energy is upon lower area egg interpretations. This tucks up her emotional energy distribution and keeps her from moving fluently through space. Zone pressures throw her off-balance mentally and this is reflected in her physical movement. All obstacles, be they physical or not, translate as emotional weights for Callie owing to her sensory sequence struggles and learned/experienced traumas.


Assimilation to obstacles does happen for the most part with enough time, however markers of stress leaking out are evident, but the good thing is, they are expressions with more control and purpose. Even with the assimilation process finding its way, her emotional state and herd dynamic status combine to require that she be daily reminded of everyday occurrences. In other words, what she “learns” today can be easily “unlearned” by tomorrow. This happens because of the crowded room that is her associative aspect.

  

Interpretive ratios are slightly delayed, emotional energy as a result is pushed up and out through the body. Callie will push herself upward prior to movement in another direction, this is an indication of pressure build and subsequent release.


Time to process is essential most especially for any horse who is “physically filtering”. Residual traumas affect this as they are part of Callie’s associative aspect which circumvent quite often proper Investigatory to Response, superseded by the Anticipatory Responses as previously mentioned.


Bridging: For Callie, from a herd dynamic position, bridging efforts are always required and in all circumstances. Her naturally occurring outsourcing parameters are such that in a normal and natural herd setting arranged by nature, she would be in the middle range of the hierarchical totem pole. This means that casual but consistent emotional leadership is key for her harmony and contentment. Every move you make from the mundane task to the purposeful ask needs to be from a place of steady and sturdy but not at all aggressive in nature. We must keep in mind that for a horse, “aggressive” behaviors are comprehended as emotional swings from the very high to the very low tones. When viewed from the hoof, one is an externally hostile emotion pressing into them and the other is an emotional ambivalence that can elicit an aggressive response rooted in the self-preservation instinct. Both emotional impressions require processing and responses to each are then dependent upon herd dynamic and sensory soundness level and capacity.


Callie lives much of her life in the first three steps in the sensory sequence and when a horse such as Callie, pinballs around Survey to Orienting and then experiences drag and delays trying to get to Investigatory it is internally Blocked. The Bridge Points for her are strongly required when working together in helping her Absorb (you bridge, you absorb) and then to Interpret, (you bridge, you interpret) Interpretations which ultimately, we hope then will lead to controlled Responses that are guided by you and purposely expressed by Callie. Your Bridge Points are markers where your emotional intention needs to be acute, emotively strong but offered with kind, firm whispers. Also allowing her time to sort her processing and an emotional escape route.   


Riding: Yes, after you get a good warm up session per the diagrams below, I think you can, if you sense her in a good spot, saddle-up partner! However, even though it’s not the most convenient thing to do in the world, your saddle time and “ask-to-task” while in-seat, should be of short duration at first. Slowly built the time-in-motion demands so we do not cause emotional energy leaks through mental fatigue. At this point, small is large, big is enormous, in her mind. TIP- while in saddle, have someone perform Diagram A (below) and then you can perform Diagram B.  


Breeding: I would not say “no” but, at this time I would not say “yes” either. We need to sort out in more detail what parts of her herd dynamic nature and sensory soundness capacity is trauma influenced and learned behaviors and which are natural. The reason being, we need to know what core behavioral genetics are going to the breeding shed to know how to properly match them with her mate. Also, we need to know the difference between tendency and learned behavior so that we can understand her psychological growth patterns. These are essential components to properly match her with a proper “date”.


*As with any mating it is important to apply the natural herd dynamic as part of the equation, since the operating systems that mate will run the machine, they make. Herd dynamic and sensory compatibility matter tremendously. Breeding and the importance of Psychosensory Alignments are a consideration of nature, and should thus be so, by man.



 




***

And there we have it; I can't thank Fiona enough for taking the time to share her thoughts as well as to share some of Callie's story and profile information. There is always great deal of information gained from any profile and each case and profile looks a little different because each horse tells their story differently.


In closing this blog post out, I would like to remind you, if you haven't yet seen it, that there is a new YouTube video out called A View From The Hoof, and within that I share some exciting news as a brand-new course of that name is being prepared to be delivered in, what is for me, a brand-new style!


Please let me invite you to sign up to be a part of the our website here and please join the rather new public FB page, there is a link on this website. Thank you for being here, and for being a part of this journey forward as we expedition through the mind of the horse! ~Kerry

 



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