After living and working through a traumatic trailer-loading incident that happened last spring with our pony, I've been interested in PTSD and horses.
We had taken the little man to a cross-country clinic, and when it came time to load for the trip home, he didn't want to get on the trailer. No crazy behavior, no drama, he simply stood at the door and refused to step up.
Our method was to take a breath, remain calm, and continue asking. I knew he'd get on at some point. Before this could happen, though, we were suddenly surrounded by a group of well-intentioned helpers who proceeded to put a rope behind him, surrounded him on both sides, and when he reared, got out a longe whip. This all happened so quickly I didn't have time to intervene. In a moment's time, he had leaped into the trailer. My only response was to express relief that my daughter had seen him coming and gotten out of the way.
He was traumatized by the incident and I knew I didn't know enough to help him through it. We called Marlis Amato and she came out to our farm within the week to help. My daughter now loads him one hoof at a time, with no force and no drama.
We're still working with Marlis. A few weeks ago in a lesson, I asked her to watch my daughter ride the pony using a dressage whip. If even tapped (and I do mean tap, no hitting involved) with the whip, he would sometimes buck. Marlis wondered out loud if he might be having flashbacks to some traumatic experience with a whip.
I instantly teared up and went to hug the pony. In all my work with trauma and humans, it hadn't really occurred to me that this pony, who was bred and trained by a loving family, could be experiencing flashbacks. I know he hasn't been abused, but it's possible some early experience frightened him. He doesn't like whips, particular the sound of a longe whip being "cracked."
I've been reading about PTSD in horses and came across an amazing website that chronicles two horses that paint, but even more remarkable, the story of the first year of work with a young abused horse named Da Vinci. In written diary entries and video, the couple who train him reveal their work with this amazing horse.
I highly recommend reading from beginning to end.