Last weekend we went to a show and Mulligan went from calm to nervous, from beginning hunter to race horse in under two minutes. Mulligan is an OTTB – off the track thoroughbred – whose first career was a bust and he’s on his second, thus his name. He has a wonderful attitude, is a gentleman and friend, but he sometimes has flashbacks from his past at the racetrack.
In a short time Mulligan has ceased attempts to get to the finish line ahead of everyone in the under saddle class, and he is less nervous when horses pass him. But his most persistent heart pounding reaction is the announcer and the show’s PA system. He has bravely accepted the main ring announcer, but it’s from the schooling ring, the barn calls that send him quaking in his horse shoes. Specific triggers to Mulligan’s PTSD are announcers who are men, faraway speakers like in the stable area, and multiple speaker PA systems. He hears that twenty-minute barn call and he’s sure they’re saddling up in the paddock for Race 3.
The first time Mulligan heard a handheld mic static, he was sure the electrifying sizzle was a wasp buzzing around him. In the hunter ring, Mulligan’s focus turns to the speakers in the adjacent jumper arena, with its time clock and continual announcements of faults and time penalties.
Mulligan needed to be desensitized to the sounds of the horse shows. He needed an iPod or CD with a Playlist of horse show sounds. So we created one that he now listens to constantly at home.
Here’s what’s on his playlist:
- Posting order, announcing an entrant, plane in background
- Light static, microphone clicking on and off, music in background
- Under saddle class call (“trot please,” etc.), horse snorting
- Loud announcing calling numbers
- Static off and on, wind blowing against a microphone
- Crowd noise
- Horse cantering in adjacent arena
- Spectator chatting, more wind
- Talking, “good boy”
- Announcers in two different rings talking over each other
- Announcer calling placings for under saddle class
- Jump rail knocking down
- Spectator chatter, coughing
- Loud announcer calling posted order
- Jumper announcer – “clear round and a time of…”
- Baby crying
- Spectators cheers – “Woo hoo” – as results are announced
- Whinny from horse [at home, Mulligan always answers it when he hears it!]
- Announcer in equitation class – posting, sitting, extended trot
- Water and drag noises in arena
- Spectators laughing
- Audio of Secratariat’s Belmont, announcer and crowd noise
- USHJA hunter classic announcing hunter derby Jersey Boy [subliminal imagery]
- Bugle call before horse race
- Horse race commentator of a small local track
- Explosion of clapping at horse show, whistles and cheers
- A peaceful song (to reward him for getting through it)
I expect this won’t prevent all of Mulligan’s nervousness but I do think the sounds will be more familiar to him at our next horse show.