Prologue: July 2014
Blanket apology to those who have followed my story since last summer, but in order to tell it here, I’m going to do some recap. I’ll try to call my “historical” posts Prologues so you can see when there is truly new content in the future.
Now to begin at the beginning. From my Facebook page on July 19, 2014:
“I’m picking up a young mare to start working with tomorrow (I’m going in to Equus school as I’m sure she’ll teach me more than I’ll teach her), and last night I talked to a woman who happened to be on the farm the day she was born and took video (Thanks Diane Ray). The mama is ‘Feta’ but she said it sounded like the farm hands were saying ‘Fedder’. Before deciding to call her Ireland they thought of naming her Shamrock (thus the captions at the end of the short video).”
I have to include this because it’s not that often you get video footage of your horses first hours!
July 20 Ireland comes to her new home and I settle her in by herself to the smallest cow pen area we have and spend time with her every day just sitting in her space, drinking my morning coffee and reading a Pat Parelli book ignoring her as much as possible and just letting her get used to me. I still have basically no idea what I’m doing, but know I have to learn for myself from as many resources as possible. My biggest inspiration is Monty Roberts and I sign up to see his training videos and watch as many as possible to get a feel for what will help me get started. Eventually she starts to hang out and eat her hay close to me and eventually I get a rope halter on her and can rub her neck and whithers, but I don’t ask her for anything and I mostly ignore her. Occasionally she turns her butt towards me to see what I’ll do- it’s a bit rude, but I try not to overreact and instead ask her to go away when she does that. Kind of like: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
After the first week she seems to look forward to my visits waiting at the gate for me and when I walk around her slightly enlarged area picking up her poops she follows me to where I’m working to eat or watch me. I can easily catch her halter and rub her all over her body and even tie her briefly. This earns her an upgrade to the larger “barnyard” field with shelter and the creek (still by herself). When I come to visit now she first runs as far away from me as she can get and actually puts her head over the fence nose away from me across the creek. I completely ignore her and pick up some poop piles and within 2 minutes she steals a glance, sees that I don’t care (I’m not going to chase you), then trots up to greet me and see what I’m doing then follows me around the field while I’m there. Mostly I try to rub her as much as I can and then walk away and she follows me wanting more attention.
The most exciting part of week two is when my vet and I weren’t able to communicate and she left me the vaccinations to give myself! With moral support of Nancy & Carrington I was able to stick her with the first one before she knew what was coming, but the second one not so easy and she reared up like the black stallion still tied to the post with the needle still in her neck (not my greatest moment) and we had to get her to calm down so I could get the plunger in! What I learned about her is that she might panic, but she is able to calm down before she kills herself in the panic (some horses seem to only escalate and would have ended up wrapped up in the rope on the grown thrashing because they can’t think of anything except life and death). She seems to be able to think about the panic enough to relax before getting to that point- which to me is a very important trait.
At the end of week two we head into my garden “arena” and try to do “join up”. (Equine speak translation: Join Up is a method of helping the horse learn in a non-violent way that you are it’s friend and a place of safety and rest. A successful join up sends the horse ‘away’ from you to run in large circles something close to the normal flight distance of a horse, watching for signs that the horse doesn’t want to continue to have to ‘flee’ but wants to consider making friends instead and letting you be the leader. It’s all about body language on both the human and the horse and I was amazed how it happened just like the videos showed it would. There really is an equus language and she did exactly what she was predicted to.) I had decided that Join Up was going to be the first priority of our work together. If I couldn’t get her in the mindset that I was in charge, but also fair and worthy of her trust, I didn’t think I had much chance of doing any real training with her. Considering how green I am at this it was not elegant, but we do make progress and I kept the saddle and saddle pad in the center of the space so she would get used to seeing it and sniffing it well before any attempt to put it on her! I keep her running the perimeter and when she is ready to come in to me and we join up, I would hand graze her around the saddle tack so she would see it’s not scary- she sniffs it then walks right onto the pad- so she doesn’t seem afraid of it…
By the end of July I’ve worked on rubbing the saddle pad all over her and even walked her around with the pad on her back, I can tie her up and rub her, groom her and pick up her front feet. When I come into her field she comes over to me and follows me around eating nearby while I do things… pick up poop, read, walk around- whatever is non-threatening. We are slowly becoming friends and I continue to ask her what her “barn” name should be. I am convinced she’ll tell me when she’s ready.
Stay tuned for August……..
A few pictures from our first few weeks: