Feb 1 – Sally asks for the blanket..
after “playday monday” the horses head back to their sleep area..a very large pen with an eight foot wide gate that opens into the backyard of the house area..they can eat and sleep either together or find their own spot..however they chose..tonight as Sampson and Bella and Jade go thru the gate to wait for hay the thought occurs to make use of the opportunity since Sally has a lead rope on already.. letting the three go thru and closing the gate Sally’s red cotton lead rope in hand we walk around the duck/chicken area.. I’m doing chores..filling waterers..putting away tools and tack she follows along willingly..it starts as a leading/doing time and quickly turns into something else..we meander around..i lock the tack shed..go move the faded red rubber hose that is used to fill up the blue plastic water barrel for the horses ..fill the chicken waterers.. she patiently waits..follows..her attention is in the moment..her focus is perfect for learning..since up untill now she has been stand-off-ish..aloof..wanting to join in but still needing to follow the instinct to leave..the horse being a flight animal and having extremely fast reaction times we’ve been lucky as so far she has just stayed out of reach or wandered off and not accidently hurt anyone..with her lead rope in my hand she’s following along quietly it seems the perfect time to try something new..getting the wheelbarrow and taking her with to the hay pile..she loves the hay pile..following along nicely as things are less scary when going away then coming toward..she is following the wheelbarrow..following me and I’m juggling the hay flakes with one hand ..tossing them to the other horses while having her lead in the other and letting her stand five feet away it’s working..Sally and i feeding..amazingly it goes well ..smoothly..
ok Sally lets try something else..with everyone eating am wondering if she will be more willing.will she think if i do the task i’ll get to eat quicker. it could be no i want to eat and won’t do any task..we’ll see..it’s the first one..she’s looking at me..not at the food..not at everyone eating..hmmmm..the owners have been wondering about putting a blanket on her..a saddle blanket..good time to try..let’s start with something small..a flymask that keeps the flys from their eyes..getting a flymask from the fence i roll it up small and stand near her head just off her shoulder so hopefully out of the way of a striking front foot or a quick nip with her teeth although she has never shown either..one thing learned over the years..err on the side of caution..so making the flymask small..putting it up by her nose to smell and investigate she does..sniffs and nudges..i take it back..pressure/release..extend/pull back..go in/retreat..her reaction sets my pace..she’s very accepting so on to the next step..reaching over and touching her shoulder with the flymask she accepts..i withdraw..again..if she can’t accept the touch she probably can’t accept rubbing it around..it’s slow but it’s fast..there’s a saying..”the slower you go the faster you get there”..less re-do’s or fixing something from going too quickly..when she accepts the touch..next is rubbing..she accepts the rubbing in soft circles..i move the flymask to her back..she’s quiet..take it off..put it back up there..this time opening it up fully with half on one side and half on the other..this is telling as when the half on the other side slowly slides over she is quiet..sometimes crossing the center line to the other side of the back or mane can have quite the reaction..has she done this before?..trying to slide it up her neck to put it on she resists..moves away..often this has to be done on each side before sliding it over..i did it on one only..it’s ok..we can do that later..she may be stand-off-ish and aloof but it may be from a bad experience that she appeared very green.
now i offer her the chance to go eat..walking her to the gate ready to open it she looks at me and looks away..she should be looking at the food i would think..ok Sally let’s do something else..another step..a bigger thing over the back..a saddle blanket..with her in tow i walk to the horse trailer and unlocking the door step up and in ..looking for a blanket that would be good for this. a navajo type..wool..long and wide..now some horses take this opportunity to pull away when i’m in the trailer holding the last tip of the rope..Sally stands quietly..getting down and closing/locking the door again i take the blanket and fold it in half so it’s smaller..draping the blanket over my shoulder and turning my back to her i wait..wait for her to investigate the blanket..soon she’s nudging it..i can feel her nose moving around the blanket..sniffing..checking it out..turning back around and slowly taking the blanket off my shoulder i offer it to her to smell..the blanket is coming toward her now..she’s fine..go ahead she seems to say..touching her shoulder with it there is no reaction..now sometimes no reaction is the thing before the explosion and sometimes no reaction is just no reaction..slowly putting the blanket farther up her shoulder she leans in to me..”more”..leaning away would be “scary”..am trying not to leave..she leans in..ok Sally..moving the blanket up farther to the center of her back she leans toward me again..”more”..gently moving the blanket up and over the center line of her back..over her whithers and letting it down the other side she is fine..the blanket stays a few minutes and i pull it off..she leans in..”more”..ok…putting it back on quicker this time and unfolding it so it covers her entire back and hangs down on both sides almost looking like a serape ..ok Sally..great lesson..time to eat..
taking the blanket off with red lead rope in hand and Sally along side i walk to the pen to open the gate for her to have her hay and share with her buddies the experience..i lay her lead rope and the blanket over the fence to have both hands free to open the gate..to my surprise Sally moves away from the gate opening and steps toward the blanket..she nudges it with her nose..looks at me..nudges the blanket again..”more?”..the silent communication..the nudge with the nose..the look with the eyes..the quiet question..it’s how they work with me..is it all the time..not always..is it every horse..no..but when it is i listen..do i miss their communication sometimes..sure..do i always get it right..no..but i get this..you bet Sally..let’s do it again..and standing with the lead rope loosley hanging over the fence..with her able to leave if she wants i put the blanket on and off..again and again..and the last time adjusting it and getting ready to take it off she starts to move to the gate..does she want to leave it on?..hmmm..ok Sally..opening the gate..bringing her into the pen with the other three who are busy munching their hay..she slowly turns and walks off with her blanket still on..what a great time..what a great horse friend..so it’s off to check everyone else and to lock up and finish chores..figuring the blanket will fall off and can be picked up later i don’t worry about it.. later coming back thru their area a heartwarming sight meets my eyes..three of the horses are still nuzzling hay bits that lay on the ground and one walks off to get a drink from the large green water tank under the big eucalyptus tree..it’s Sally..moving the surface water around with her nose.. moving away leaves that have dropped in the water from the big overhanging eucalyptus tree..finding the best place to drink..her blanket still on..