Bad habits like bucking are learned by repetition of stress-producing situations. Bad habits can be unlearned by repetition of good subhabits. I am constantly reinforcing Zum’s good habits now. I am displacing his fear with the reward of security.
Stress is the most usual cause of escape behavior. An escape that succeeds is likely to be repeated. Before Zum’s bucking and running away habit can be broken, its component parts must be unlearned. I have my work cut out for me. I have to retrain Zum completely. His fear of doing a task is equal to his fear of not doing it. I have to relieve his stress every step of each activity that I do with him. Then I need to substitute reward and build security.
I know that the one thing a horse wants more than anything else is to be free of fear. His basic motivation is to be in a state of emotional security. It is when a horse feels insecure that he develops bad habits. He remembers well anything that hurt or scared him badly even if it only happened once a long time ago. When a similar situation presents itself. he will react to his remembered fear and do something violent. Zum has trauma relating to certain stimuli. For now, as I recover from the accident, I can exclude negative distractions and build Zum’s confidence in me.
People are telling me that I need to sell Zum. He has bucked me off twice now. Both times were very serious accidents for me. I will agree that Zum is spooky. He is afraid of horses, cows, mules and motorcycles. Zum is young and inexperienced. He can be worked with on the ground to get over his fears. Zum is not a perfect horse but for me, he still feels right.
I am getting better. Right after the accident, I did this three step shuffle…step with the right foot, step-step with the left foot. My cousin called my walk the broken rib waltz. I was hunched over with the pain in my ribs and lung. Three weeks later, I can walk slowly and lift my chest. My doctor wants me to breathe deeply to heal my collapsed lung. I can practice my deep yogic breathing while I take my donkey to graze on a small hill.
Zum is bored now that I cannot train him or ride him. With his eyes, he asks me why I am not giving him all the attention I used to give him? I show him my broken wrist and my broken ribs and I explain to him that he did this to me when he bucked me off on May 30, 2020. He is sad and sorry. I can feel his desire to make amends with me. He misses me.
I find an orthopedic surgeon at a major hospital in Santa Fe. He looks at my shattered right wrist and tells me I need emergency surgery. As I prepare for surgery, I tell the anesthesiologists that I had a traumatic experience with the drug I was given in the Phoenix ER. They tell me that this is common in the ER. They promised me that the general anesthesia they administer is euphoric. And they were right. I remember nothing of the surgery and I awoke feeling like I wanted to bless all of humanity. To all the people who have hurt me deeply, I send you peace.
At 6 AM, we finally made it to Santa Fe. The horses were so grateful to get out of the trailer. I was devastated to discover that two of my favorite rabbits had died. This was the worst trip I have ever had to endure. What could I do? All I could do now is to find an orthopedic surgeon in Santa Fe and have the steel plates put in my shattered wrist. All I could do is heal my collapsed lung and two broken ribs. All I could do is pick up the pieces after a terrible accident and spend the next two months trying to find ways to recover.
We had to go back to Phoenix. We drove to Scottsdale and up to Payson. We tried to go to Winslow but seeing another traffic jam on this road, we turned around and went to St. John’s. We tried to go through Zuni but the entire town was closed so we had to turn around again. Outside of Gallup, a semi truck hit the back of my trailer. We all got off the highway to wait for the police to arrive. Thank God my animals were fine. My trailer got smashed. The policeman saw me in my hospital gown and splint and asked if I needed to go to the hospital. My cousin explained that he was helping me to get back to Santa Fe after my horse bucked me off in Phoenix. At 2 AM, we finally were allowed to get back on the highway. All I could think about was getting my animals safely home.