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From The Case Files; "Sherman"

Getting very interesting cases coming across my desk is not at all uncommon, and when someone emails me to have their horse considered for a full Psychological & Sensory Profile one of the first things I ask for is for them to write me and tell me about their horse and their personal history with and goals for, said equine partner. Regardless of whether the horse is a pleasure pal, a horse climbing the ranks of competition or in full scale elite performance's trying to sustain and tweak their status, my approach never changes. Regardless of, no actually despite their discipline, knowing the horse for who they are preceeds everything the appear to be and what hope they can become. They first have to become themselves before we can thoughtfully mold them into what we desire them to be.


Truth be told, the majority of cases that are presented to me for psychological evaluation and sensory soundness mapping are from caring horse owners who want to understand their horses better that they can help provide them a happy life of, if you have attended one of my events you will recall this; harmony and contentment. Of course I'm happy to accept most all cases and I desire to help every horse and human that I possibly can, but I would be remiss if I didn't admit that there are times when I get a case of an older horse and I desperately wish that I had been tapped much earlier in their lives. The layers of emotional trauma that I see and work to peel back are both sad as well as potentially dangerous. Many a time I profile a horse who has been through it; miss-handled, missunderstood, under-valued and more than once, toss aside into the heep.


When someone asks me, "So Kerry, when is the right time for me have my horse profiled and mapped?" My answer is always the same, "Now".


The bottom line, everything your was, is and can become, is predicated upon who they are; what is their herd dynamic tendencies, how efficient is their sensory system, how do they, will they, can they, mitigate accumulated stresses? There are any number of essential components to your horse's behavioral genetic makeup and every single one of them matter and you know what I'm going to write next... The operating system runs the machine!


Where I begin every case the same way, not every profile ends up looking the same. I enter into each horse's "mind" by allowing myself to be led by them. The process of developing their profile is dictated by the horse, and that profile and their subsequent sensory mapping is as idiosyncratic as they.


I thought I would start something new going into 2024 for this blog section, and that is I would start a series of sharing real case study information: "From The Case Files". With permission from the client, what I am about to share with you is taken from the actual psychological profile and sensory soundness mapping I very recently completed. The case of Sherman, a 16yo Gelding, was for me as fascinating a case I've ever had and equally among the most heartwrenching. If there was ever a case to made for the value and importance of these profiles and mapping, it is with Sherman. It is the first time I provided an evaluation for a horse who's previous owner had been fatally injured while riding him. I was informed about this and his very storied past through a series of owners and handlers who considered him "tough", "dangerous", "no good", and any other number of labels. I have found none of those to be accurate. What I found was a sensory unsound, herd dynamically isolated, and therefore very missunderstood and miss handled, horse.


An undiagnosed horse or miss-diagnosed horse, is a horse battling a sense of isolation whilst being asked to navigate a strange world with a foreign language.



Sherman; psychology & mapping


Sensory Soundness Map Snapshot


Sherman shows clear indicators that typically sensed Zone 4 pressures are overtly anticipated and cause sensory “push & pull”. This means that as he anticipates rear stimuli it pushes into him, lurching his emotional energy forward while his tendency to “look”, which is a form of internal bridging, pulls him around. This offsets his emotional/physical balance and sets him out of alignment. Sherman is using his sensory system in a defensive posture, living much of the time in the Orienting stage, often skipping over much of the rest of the sequence, and straight away hitting the “response” stage.


Normal Sequence


1) Survey   2) Orienting   3) Investigatory   4) Absorb  5) Interpret  6) Respond

 


Shermans' Sequencing


1) Survey    2) Orienting      3) Investigatory   4) Absorb   5) Interpret   6) Respond


1) defensive

                    2) delays/re-acquiring *bridge point

                             3) blocked and kicked back to 1 or skipped altogether = *bridge point         

                                        4) & 5) internalized/associated/assumed *bridge point 

                                                    6) exaggerated reactions, trauma-based emotional impulses


As you can see, there are extreme gaps in his sequencing, opening the way for him to bounce around mentally, all the while accumulating emotional stress that runs the risk of seeding as trauma. Sensory Lead Changes are difficult between the aspect zones, requiring additional processing time between stimuli especially when he, or the stimuli, is in motion. An overload of psychological anxiety results in the accumulation of stress. Be they caused by early trauma and learned experience or a product of his herd dynamic tendency, these emotionally driven impulses translate into the resulting physical action. Each Zone Aspect has identifiable markers of Push & Pull of emotional energy as well as Drag & Delay during Sensory Lead Change efforts.


This means that each individual sensory zone is subject to accumulated stresses that are bottled up within, necessitating extended time for processing. When stimuli itself moves into a different zone or he is moving, pushing it into a different zone, the transition of information is delayed or becomes “stuck” in an in-between stage often stimulating a “re-orienting” process. This then allows stress to leak into the neighboring zone, exaggerating the accumulative process. Much like standing with each foot in a different area, connecting them as one. The longer you stand there the more pressure builds between them. This is an example of how zones become askew and exaggerated as indicated on the Psychosensory Map.

 

  

The sad truth is that over the course of his life, he was most likely “punished” and the efforts to “control” him physically were like building a dam below the town that has already been washed away from a breach further upstream.  What this does in time is manifest into embellished Anticipatory Responses and the commonly referred to “knee-jerk” reactions.


Zone’s 3, 4 and 5 are all what I refer to as push points. That is to say that any sensed presence or sense of pressure, real or perceived, pushes emotional energy through his body. This tendency overlaps into the Sensory Lead Change areas of Zones 2 & 6, which, as these psychosensory zones get closer to the forward aspect, transition into push points. This is the root of the cause in what you see as the proverbial “bolting”, “rearing”, and any number of the knee-jerk reactions.


Zone 1, where most of the emotional energy and stress accumulates, is not being consistently expressed and processed in a way that pushes him forward with sustained controlled motion but rather in his efforts to internally Bridge, he is “tucking-up”. Emotional energy is being collected and pushes up through his body. So that whether the energy leaks out in protracted “stress ripples” or the balloon “pops” in sudden fashion, his physical movements will follow the trail his emotional energy has carved. Uncontrolled non-purposeful motion is the result of the horse physically falling into that space. One of the reasons is that a build up of stress in any Zone Aspect interrupts the capacity for depth-perception. Which for a horse is not only from an up and down perspective, but also an in and out. *Depth perception, a horse’s emotional ability to determine self-awareness relative to stimuli in any part of the zone, on the ground or elevated above it, is what I often refer to as the Sensory Egg/ Self Awareness.


(* see Glossary of Terms in the Resources section of this website for more)


The alignment overlay on the Standard Aspect Zones that are “ideal” in the natural world for high functioning **Sensory Soundness is as you can see, askew across the zone aspects. This misalignment makes his physical expressions akin to randomness rather than purposeful control.


(* see Glossary of Terms) (**Visit the Store linked in this website for a sample of the Map Poster)

 

Psychological Review; Thoughts & Recommendations


Sherman has massive amounts of emotional energy; sadly however, he struggles with control of it. The reason for this is that he has both assumed/anticipated trauma and grossly incomplete sensory sequencing capacity. One leads to another inasmuch that his struggle to sequence through the common sensitivities internally makes him by nature highly dependent on natural herd structure uncommonly found in the domesticated world. The fact that he was passed around by a few owners over his 16-year tenure in our world has most certainly been mutually combative; Sherman's exaggerated emotional and sensory soundness needs would have been easily misconstrued by his human counterparts as “bad behavior” and need for “strong” and I would dare say forceful leadership style. But leadership with Sherman would have been and is a blurred line, for he struggles so much emotionally adapting to environmental disruptions that even his outsourcing and those human bridging efforts, would be and are, on shaky ground.


The bottom line for Sherman is, the large majority of time his view of himself in the world around him is one of exposed isolation.  This is emotionally draining and Sherman is very prone to the affects of Mental Fatigue. The struggles with mental fatigue are clear, but there is a core of kindness within his struggles. He’s not “mean”, he just bounces through his sensory sequences. He’s an emotional pinball bumping in to and off-of the emotional and physical environments provided by humans. Realistic and achievable goals are going to come in the form of intermittent, singular formats. Sherman is not naturally inclined to connect multiple tasks together in a properly sequenced manner that diffuses emotional stress, he is more inclined to do so in a compartmentalized fashion.

 

How do we help him be more comfortable? Create more cushion between mind and body by providing Sherman time in between tasks? Understanding that his operating system is a moment-to-moment process where sensory lead change demands contribute to his anxiety, enrichment programs must mirror this herd dynamic trait.


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Enrichment Diagram


 I have outlined three simple and basic exercises that I recommend for Sherman. The key with these is not so much the tasks which I intentionally kept simple, but rather the manipulation of time. It is time of focus and processing that we need to nurture in order to bring him back into better alignment to whatever degree he’s capable of.


xxxxxx.....






There you have it, and as we move forward in Shermans life, he is in good hands now with an owner who has the thoughtful patience that he needs to navigate a world he has struggled in for so long. I feel it personally a privilege and an honor to help unravel his mental mystery, as I do with every single horse that I have the opportunity to know.


In closing this blog post, which will be the last one for 2023, I want to say thank you to everyone who visits here and especially to those who share my work, who have signed up to the website as a subscriber, and most especially to the clients and students of Life Through The Senses, our Education program. I will add that, those of you who have and who are currently studying Lesson One of Understanding Sensory Soundness, you will have a leg-up when it comes to putting profiles like this into action.


I would also like to invite you to "Like" & "Follow" and share the "Sensory Soundness" Facebook Page. You can look for a link to that and Instagram, to be available on this website if not now, then very soon.


Don't forget to check out the updates as we have added much to this website!


Thank you for your interest and support, it means so much to me personally.


Your Friend, Kerry

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What a fascinating and heart breaking read Kerry.. I'm so happy you were able to help Sherman and his care giver.

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