A look at replacing the cribbing behaviour with something else….
A nicotine patch is something that helps smokers break their habit once they have agreed within themselves that they would like to give up the habit. Is this idea potentially something that could help with cribbing? I am not sure. It is something that I am going to try. I am going to try and find a way of replacing the cribbing behaviour with something else that keeps his thinking levels / reactionary levels lower, and therefore he starts to learn that he doesn’t need to crib to respond to a feeling, but he can do something else. I need to keep in mind that it has to be a behaviour that can progress into something he can do for himself. I am not with him 24/7.
I went with scratching & stroking to start with. Not a frantic scratching itchy bites, or getting flies off, but a soothing feeling. The same soothing feeling the horses give each other when they groom. Next time you are watching horses groom each other try and feel what they are sharing. It is like a massage. Relaxing, tension releasing.
If you are using the Trust Technique process we are ideally looking for Timmy to join me in the present moment which is a place of just being, the still point, where no thinking happens. When Timmy cribs and is in the cribbing zone where he is not seeing or acknowledging anything around him he is at a high thinking level. In some horses this is blind panic. In cribbers it is totally shutdown.
Timmy can get to a place of healing (deep sleep) when I am with him, so we have achieved Trust. He has started to share and communicate things, such as his trauma, frustrations, and anxiety. I sensed a few days back a feeling of ‘Well what do I do if I don’t crib?’ – a feeling of worry. This is what led me to consider taking a step back and putting in place an intermediary process. A process where we could acknowledge a feeling and, instead of pushing to then try and get peaceful with that feeling straight away, we would go through an initial layer rewarding the sharing of the feeling with a soothing stroking and massaging feeling. Then we can take the next step and get peaceful with the feeling and thus change the response to the feeling.
This is the first day (11/7/22) of working with this strategy consciously. At first Timmy is quite adamant he wants to crib. He is feeling something is needing to change and this makes him react as he always does – by cribbing. In the background Querida and Risada do some grooming. They are already sensing this is where I am going. About six minutes into the video (a lot longer in real time) Timmy relaxes into the human grooming.
You can almost sense from the video a change in the amount of tension in him. Interestingly you will see Querida in the background about half way through, yawning and releasing. She is the only one of the herd that will allow Timmy to try and groom her, but he doesn’t have a lot of success yet. The herd support the process every day. They are part of the process and will have their own need to release feelings associated with the tensions and anxieties that Timmy holds on to. It may be that Timmy acknowledging something slightly, can release a tension in the others. The herd has been more relaxed overall since we started this little project.
A little funny thing that I felt I should do intuitively was to praise Timmy profusely when he tried to groom and didn’t then change to cribbing (About 11 minutes into the video). He uses his mouth to groom and he uses his mouth to crib. We are working towards changing the way his body (mouth) automatically responds, and I sense grooming will be a good facilitator in getting his mind to understand that the two things are different. Interesting concept in theory. Will it work? We will see.
Another little point of note was that Timmy asked me to groom him and responded back to me gently. He is also having quite a bit of un-peace start to come out in his skin. Obviously flies make him itchy but he is more sensitive to them than he was before. This is okay. Un-peace can come out in lots of different ways. Peace and un-peace (or tension/anxiety/anger/frustration/fear / etc) cannot live in the same body at the same time. The goal is peace. Bit first the un-peace needs to come out and this will happen at Timmy’s pace.
A second note. Sometimes in the videos you will hear me yawn. This is me releasing any tension build up in myself. My goal is to always match the level of peace Timmy is at or be at a more peaceful level, inviting him to join me. If I start feeling distracted, or start following thoughts that come into my head, I acknowledge them and release them to deal with later. I need to be always with Timmy (and the herd to some extent) during the session. If I am distracted it is the same feeling for Timmy as you get when you are talking excitedly to your non-horsy husband and all he is doing is nodding in what he hopes is the right place, but really he is thinking about what his dinner might be tonight. If you can’t be in the moment walk away and come back another time. There is nothing wrong with that.
At the end of the video I went to a lot more peaceful place and Timmy went to a sleepy place. I had sensed when he yawned that he had released a little bit of something and it is always a good place to end a session.