Days 8-10 flew by like a leaf in a tornado..it was bitterly cold for Arizona..freezing temps with rain falling all day Saturday..everyone was working with the horses in spite of the weather and the good warm feeling that comes with doing a good thing and the right thing along with layers upon layers of every coat we could find made the day fantastic..
The amazing part of this journey is to watch the family that is adopting these horses..with very little or no horse experience they are stepping in..learning exceptionally quickly..working hands on..with positive results quickly also..
having almost lived in the herd myself for many many years I realize how much seasoned horse people take for granted..this is starting at ground zero..square one..the first rung on an un-ending ladder..and everyone smiling and happy with each step or half-step or even standing on the same rung for awhile..there are no expectations or agendas..it is just to love these animals..get them healthy..teach them skills to survive in the people world that for a green horse is so scary..
a horse being a prey animal..when scared the first reaction is to leave (flight)..often quickly..if he can’t leave it’s fight ..flight or fight..fight can be buck..rear..strike with front or back leg..and then some….we look like a predator..we have the characteristics ..eyes in front of the head..walk in a straight line..don’t back up..make noise as we talk..for the green horse I meander..back up occasionally..look at the ground..turn my back once in awhile..not to endanger myself but the body language says “I mean you no harm”..”I’m not a predator”..
Sally the green Mustang is coming up more and more..yes she can be lead and does a great job working with the people but to get her to just come up on her own is a work in progress..each try is better than the last..they are not in individual stalls and this is cooperation not domination so it’s a little slower..but we’ve got time..and the lessons learned by all will be valuable down the road..
Saturday was rain and working..Sunday was day off for the horses..Monday was trimming feet..
I was hoping all four horses could be trimmed but it ended up being one..Sampson..although Jade’s feet look the worst her movement is good and she needs work on letting us hold her feet..and Bella’s not too bad..and Sally’s feet are pretty good.. her being the youngest and green she needs time also on handling her feet.. it was Sampson that needed it most..with his hind hock injury the heel had grown so tall he couldn’t flex if he wanted to..it was like three normal boots and one high heel..the soles of his fronts were thick and rounded as if he was walking on big balls..and he could hardly keep up with the others if the distance was too long..
Sampson was amazing for trimming..standing perfectly still like a statue.he stood on the injured leg without a wiggle or a twitch..in looking at his eyes it seemed he was willing himself in place to make it work..his feet were trimmed and as I led him back to the others it was obvious he was experimenting with his new walk..his new feel..his old self..
the nice part about no agenda is’t all good..it’s just all good..
Sampson is learning to ask for his pellets..the funny thing is he asks differently every day..one day he is backed in the corner away from the other horses..”see me..i’m alone ready for my food”..one day he stares at me and goes to his pellet bucket..looks at me again..touches the bucket with his nose..looks at me..he communicates the most and the best at the moment..for today..for now..
Usually feeding in the dark and enjoying last look at the stars before dawn today was different..with frost on the ground and the horses still laying down I went in to write and waited till daybreak..till everyone was stirring..till they were asking..i hear a clump..a bump..a thump..then a low throaty nicker..not the higher pitched one as before..in looking up from my computer and out the window that overlooks their area it’s Sampson again..tapping the large green plastic feeder with his front foot..he taps..looks at the house..t
aps..looks at the house..the girls circled around him..apparently he’s the elected speaker..they all look and wait..so I grab coat, shoes and mittens and head out to feed..and I wonder..do they connect “tap on the feeder she comes out the door”..time will tell..and it’s ok ..as long as tapping doesn’t become bashing or smashing..
Jade the protector of the group is softening some..she appears unsure that there will be no mistreatment here..only time will help her there..having a yard full of rescues they have taught me each one is different..some come around quickly..some not so quick..occasionally not at all..each horse has brought me an encyclopedia of new lessons when I thought I had learned a lot..they have all taught me I have a lot to learn..
Sally the mustang is wanting to be with people while her instincts still say watch out..each day is better than the last..she is a beautiful young mare..large feet..thick fuzzy winter coat..thick black mane and tail..
Bella has had an abcess or injury on the inside of her back leg up high toward her belly..it appears to be healing well..she sort of floats around in the middle of the group..following whoever seems to be on the road to something good..if it’s food she follows them..if it’s turn out to a new place she will follow..if it’s play she will go..but she is a chameleon ..looks like a follower but can take care of herself..
So all have had shots..Only one of the horses took wormer so far..yes it was Sampson..and one has been trimmed..so it’s working on polite worming techniques and foot handling for the rest..learning manners so to speak..learning..learning..and am sure two of the three already know how this works..it’s learning to trust..and that takes time..one of the country horse Docs says “tot” as a prescription ..”tincture of time”..
Am turning them out to a new long narrow pasture by the road..the gate is open that goes back to their sleep area so they can retreat if they need t..if they get scared..if something bothers them..
they trot off to explore..to graze in the bushes..here also their reaction to noise from the street can be observed..trucks going by..the occasional honk of a horn..neighbors calling out as they pass..observations that can be helpful down the road..literally..
It’s all good..it’s just all good..
Day 11 Dec 7..still so cold..frost on the ground..black as black can be sky with bright twinkling stars as I come out to check the horses…the stillness is amazing..a couple of the horses are moving around nuzzling the frosty ground for leftover bits from last night’s dinner or a little tuft of scrub grass that the others missed..the rest are curled up on the ground..whether it’s warmer or just getting off their feet..am assuming it’s warmer as most mornings they are up roaming around..
Yesterday brought feeding across the fence from the horses that live here..the running at the fence..the jostling for leadership..the pecking order display..the horse drama that comes with new arrivals seems to have ceased..for the moment anyway.. with a fence between them anyway..it’s peaceful and serene..although they have taught me..it depends on who’s there..and the day..and the weather..and anything else you can think of.. if the alpha horse decides he/she wants another’s hay pile and moves that horse over it will move another who will move another..moving them politely ..or harshly..with pinned ears or a nip or kick..today it’s all polite and calm..
Seasoned or experienced horse people working and moving in the herd have been taught many lessons from the horse..lessons like keep the eyes in the back of your head open..keep your ears listening for what is going on and what is not going on..and what is going to go on..lessons like know who the alpha horse is and who the one is that doesn’t look like the alpha but is..lessons like the herd can move in an instant like a flock of birds or a school of fish and if you’re on the ground they expect you to do the same..being in the herd teaches lessons that are never learned by just taking a horse out of a stall..riding..spending time with it..and putting it back..some lessons you wish you hadn’t learned..their compatibility.. communication.. heirarchy..problem solving..
Yesterday was tractor work in the arena and finding out if the rescues are accustomed to machinery..the answer is yes..Sampson stood and didn’t move..wasn’t bothered at all..Sally the same..Bella and Jade followed along..as soon did the others..even gently and slowly raising the big green John Deere bucket overhead didn’t phase them..a move that can send some horses running for the hills..
They stayed in the arena all day and meandered back to the park..back to the bushes and tall green mesquite trees..to the shade and the food..i watch them back in to the bushy desert broom bushes to scratch their behinds..weaving back and forth ..slowly scratching a spot they can’t reach..
Spending the day there..being fed dinner out there for something different..staying until it was dark..they explored in the moonlight until about 9pm..i went to see if they wanted to sleep there or come back to their usual area..up by the hay ..up by the house..and the answer was very clear..in the moonlight under the stars came four trotting silhouttes..trotting to the open gate..trotting past me and single file nose to tail slipped back in their home..the days adventure was great..but the safe bed was better..
Am at the computer in the office..two feet from the door that leads outside to the backyard which leads to the first horse area..the gate is open ..the horses can come from their sleep area to the backyard and up to the house..am chuckling while typing as there is the clomp clomp of horse hooves on the cement slab outside the door..am guessing it’s Sampson..the elected speaker.. to get me for something..better go see what’s up..not to spoil..but to share..to ..to see what they have to say..
day 12 Jade
Tom came over and trimmed one of the horses..couple weren’t too bad and warned me on this one in the story..he guided me a lot and his wisdom and encouragement works miracles..today am busy most of the day but let’s set a day/time for her..looking forward to it!
Day 12..wasn’t going to write today as nothing really happened..the same exploring everywhere..still making friends..realizing that this isn’t a layover or a stop to the next scary home..wasn’t going to write until my encounter with Jade..
Jade..the beautiful black mare..beautiful but with an eye that speaks volumes..someone called it “the stink eye”..it’s that look if you’ve seen it before you’re ready for what it’s going to say..whether it’s “I don’t trust you and will protect myself”..”don’t like you and will protect myself”..or “don’t like myself and will protect myself”..it’s an eye to be cautious around..squinty..ready to bolt..or strike..or bite..to protect myself..
Letting the four out to pasture to graze and mosey I notice Jade headed my way..coming up..standing there..asking to do something?..asking for food?..whatever it is my thought is to get the halter..catch her up and take her to the others out by the short grass tufts by the palo verde trees..
As we head that way..passing the area where the foot trimming tools are kept I think.. hmmm.. maybe a good day to try touching her feet..sunny..calm..quiet..up till now she offered to leave.. body slam..step on your toes..if a hand reaches for her leg..hasn’t offered to strike but if you’ve been around this very much it’s common knowledge that’s an effective tool in their “don’t touch my foot” toolbox..my first horse had a left hook like a boxer..instead of striking straight up in front where I expected he would come around to the outside best he could with lightning speed making it almost undetectable ..making me pay attention..
The hitching post where horses are tied for saddling or for trimming feet can be approached from two sides..on one side a cement slab for the calm and experienced horse..and on the other side soft cool dirt footing for the nervous or anxious horse.. Jade falling in the latter category I opted for the dirt side..tying her there she instantly became nervous..moving her body toward me ..a subtle warning of an impending body slam..with me between her thousand pound body with the force she decides to use and the unmoving steel pipe welded rails..immediately untying the lead rope I gently lay it over the hitching post..she stands there..too good to be true..almost as offering to try..is she saying I’ll try if you don’t tie me?..i’ll try if I’m not trapped? .
.stroking her shoulder my hand moves slowly down to her knee..then down to her foot..trying to pick up her foot she offers to leave..i grab the lead rope and bring her head back to position..she offers to move me with her body..leans into me..warns that she is barely exerting any force..i get the message..she is afraid to have her foot picked up..so there are a couple options..work with her day by day and hope for quick successes in picking up her feet or trim from the top..let her stand there and trust that she gets I mean her no harm..opting for the second..getting the nippers..getting my courage..saying a prayer an amazing situation unfolds..Sampson walks up and positions himself nearby..he’s looking out over the fence..watching the other horses..standing like a statue..is he showing her how to behave?..is he moral support?..whatever the answer Jade stands perfectly still..bending down with one knee barely close to the ground..with feet and ankles on the ready for a quick exit..being off to the side..and an escape route planned I touch the nippers to her grossly overgrown curled up cracked and chipped toes..she stands..
with one hand blocking the path of a quick moving hoof to my head and the nippers awkwardly in the other the slow process of nipping and clipping begins..she stays..stays like a statue..and it goes as it goes..an awkward makeshift trim from the top..hoping that every next move isn’t the one that makes it all go south..nip and clip..clip and nip..finished..the trimming done and the edges ragged I reach for a file..will she let me file the rough edges smooth to finish the job..finish as finished can be for now?..gently touching the file to the edge of her hoof and moving it back and forth slowly..she stands must mean its ok..it’s as if she went in some sort of trance..she stands..i file..rounding the rough jagged edges best i can..best for now..
they’re not finished but they’re good..or maybe just way better than they were..for a first time for her and a “made it thru safely” time for me.
.it’s all good..it’s just all good…