July 16, 2015

Facing our Fears

It was a dark and stormy... afternoon... and of course that means that things didn't exactly go to plan.

My plan for today was similar to the last time I was out. I was going to groom and fly spray Gossip, mess with her feet some, and take her out of the pasture (alone) and feed her. I got her all groomed and sprayed, and started messing with her feet a bit, and the wind picked up. We're under a rainfall warning, so I decided that meant I should hurry up a bit.

So I put the halter on Gossip, and started leading her away from the herd. They were at the farthest corner of the pasture, and near to where the gate is there's the start of a fairly heavily wooded area. The further we got from the herd, the more worried she got, and even moreso as the trees we were approaching started whipping around in the wind. She wasn't being bad, but she would walk a few steps and then hesitate and stop. She was getting more and more tense, and part of her attention was clearly behind us on the rest of the herd. I have to confess that I nearly turned it into a fight, but thankfully my intelligence kicked in and I thought about what I was doing.

We got about 20 feet away from the trees (quite a distance from the rest of the herd) and the skies opened, and she clearly told me that she wasn't willing to go any further. I reminded myself that she is a young prey animal, and what I was asking is completely against her nature. She had trusted me that far, and gone a lot farther with me than she would have done on her own. I had also just had a chat with a friend about pushing scared horses too far, to where they have mental meltdowns. Another consideration is that I was there alone if I should happen to get hurt. So I decided it was enough of that question for today. I let her stand until she gave a big sigh and dropped her head, and then I took the halter off with lots of praise, and let her go back to her herd.

That didn't mean that I was done for the day, however. A new development in desensitizing land is that we now have pool noodles to play with, so I decided to take one out. Back I went into the pasture, holding a bright blue pool noodle by one end and letting it wave around in the wind. To my surprise, I was able to walk almost right up to Gossip with it. Her buddy came over and was checking it out, and I think that gave her courage. She's actually a pretty brave kid anyways, but friends showing the way never hurts. The wind grabbed it and it bopped her friend in the nose causing him to fly backwards a couple of steps, but when I laughed at him he came right back. Then Gossip really got brave and came over and started nosing it herself. Of course the same thing happened and she got bopped in the nose and flew backwards, but she also came right back when I was relaxed about it. Once she was no longer reacting to the nose bopping I told her she was a superstar and left well enough alone for the day.

Should I tell her that she never did get her feed? ;)

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