I decided Xena, like a typical Right Brain Introvert, will go where the people dragging her go, but has no confidence in herself. So we are going to have a 7 day program of playing put your nose on something. I get to the barn. I don't want to barge in and do something with her like every other human she's ever had. I wait until she gives me permission to come in. I start finding all her favorite scratchy spots, and scratch them with the halter. She was a bit tense when I walked in, but after I started playing friendly game, she put her head down and started eating again. Like she was expecting me to just go do something with her, and got so nervous she quit eating, she relaxed when I proved I wasn't like that. I take a good 5 minutes to put it on. She can't believe she has a choice in the matter. Lots of lip licks. Actually at first, she was a little leary about me even putting my arm over her neck, since she's only had it shoved on her nose. But I know one of her favorite itchy spots is on her neck right above her freeze brand, so I scratch her there on the other side, and eventually she lets me put it around her neck. Getting her to snif it was like I was asking this of a comatose patient. She was just standing there, not responding to stimuli, thinking "I know you're gonna put it on me!!" I would inch it toward her nose, then pull away either when I saw the slightest sign of worry from her, or when she made an effort to pay attention to it. After a while, she turns her nose towards it, and after she checks it out, I put it on.
I plan to take her to the round pen and play put your nose on something with the various things I have set out there. A few plastic bags tied to the fence, two buckets, and an extra pair of gloves I laid on the fence. So she seems pretty calm, I open the door to her stall. Up goes the head, she slightly flares her nostrils, RBI is back. I slowly let her creep out of her stall. She sort of drifts around me, kind of checking things out. We walk down the barn aisle, she does okay until we are outside, where her head goes much higher up and she's puffing a little louder. I remember that's exactly what happened that day last Ausust on the trail before she exploded. If we had been going anywhere further than the round pen, I would have turned around and retreated, but there were lots of people in the barn, and the round pen's only about 50 feet away. We go in, she snorts a little. Last night I had gained rapport by following and mirroring her, until she looked to me for things to do, and I quit when she had pushed a barrel. So I mirror her as we explore the round pen.
After a few minutes of realizing I wasn't going to ask her to do anything in the new place, the left brain comes back. We start playing put your nose on something. She finds the blue bag, and then the yellow bag. Then one bucket, do a few turns in the other direction, then the other bucket. Eventually she is so focused, she leads me over to the glove on the fence. "I found it!" she says. I don't want to stop playing, so I try to go back to the blue bag. She stands right in front of it, wondering why we're there. "What bag? I already found this one." I finish there, and take her halter off to let her hang out in her new play pen while I go feed the minis. A horse in the pasture next to the round pen was feeling good, and started galloping like crazy, snorting, tail up, all that good stuff. I remember that Xena had previously had a pretty strong feeling that she is supposed to run away with the herd, and that last blow up was because there were horses running that she couldn't follow. So her tail goes up too, she starts snorting a little bit, and prancing around in circles. At this point I'm just glad I wasn't still on the end of her rope. Remarkably, she stops to go play with the snow and lets the other horse just run around.
I come back later and go to put her back in her stall. She still doesn't feel completely safe in there, so instead of leading her in and trapping her, I send her in, and let her come right back out if she needs to. The first time, she bolted out, and was very hesitant on going back in. Eventually, she will go in quietly, but she at first only stays in about 2-3 seconds. I just keep sending her (it takes probably 15 sends) until she finally had the confidence to stay. Then it was time for her blanket, which she hasn't worn before. I approach her withers with it, she tenses, I back off. Takes probably 10 approaches until she lets me put it on.
I was doing up the back buckles, and needed her to move her hindquarters over. I push, she doesn't move. I try waving her over with my glove, she doensn't move. So I take the glove off, and start kind of tapping it against her side. No response. I wave it all over the place, slapping it on her butt, and when I see her face I'm now 100% sure she was "sacked out" traditionally. She was pretty nervous about it, but she was taught to tolerate everything. She is rather tense and starry eyed, but she thinks she just isn't supposed to respond. Hmmm, how interesting.
I go home happy that we are getting this progress, with a bit more understanding of her, and wondering how we'll overcome this. I can't wait to see the Xena that's under that shell.