Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 23

 First thing I noticed this morning was Little Love's swollen front left leg.  It wasn't excessively swollen, but just a bit on the inside and below the fetlock join.  Great.  All I need is an injury on the day of the first trim.  I took her out and she had a slight limp in the beginning, but sort of worked it out after moving around a bit.  The leg was a bit warm, but it was very local, so I just ran a bit of cold water over it before the trimmer showed up.  Will have to keep an eye on that one...

The trimmer was both good and not so good.  The good thing about him was that he did what I expected him to do, and talked about all the things I have learned about in the past year.  Little Love has sole contraction, heel contraction and frog contraction (to mention a few...) - but over all he was positive about how her feet looked after being in shoes for over ten years.  In other words, he's seen worse.  And I agree.  It could be worse.  The heel was also underslung and high, but it seems to me that that is to be expected in a shod hoof.  I felt that he truly trimmed with the contractions in mind, as he wants to help the hoof expand and grow properly.  Also, the way it has been shaped so far, has put quite excessive pressure on the inside of both front hooves and this really has made the sole compromised. 

The not so good part was the fact that I felt he trimmed her hooves a tad aggressively and now she is quite sore.  I'm not sure if we could have avoided the soreness with everything that was going on, but in any case, I believe you should always try to leave the horse as sound as possible, because this encourages movement.  And movement is what a barefoot horse needs, especially one with all these contractions.  Not to mention that everything heels faster in the absence of pain.  I did talk to the trimmer at length beforehand, telling him that I would prefer him to trim every two weeks a little rather than once every six weeks a lot, but he didn't feel like that was a good plan.  So, I let him do his thing.  Of course, what do I really know about trimming?  Lots of theory, but no so much the practice.  So in hindsight, would I have asked this trimmer to come, had I known he was this aggressive?  I don't know.  There are not lots of options for me at the moment. So, I'm trying not to think of what I should or could have done.  The trim is done and now we have to deal with the aftermath and look into the future.

So, after the trim, poor Little Love was not walking very well at all on the hard concrete that unfortunately surrounds the barn.  However, when I opened her stall door, she was very motivated to go outside into the pasture, actually coming out before Col.  Slowly (and painfully) she made her way to the edge of the pasture, over the frozen (and semi-hard) mud.  My heart sunk, literally, until I saw her finally walk onto the grass, where she actually moved normally.  Thank goodness for our fantastic grass pasture!  Even when it's below freezing, it's soft enough for my sore horse.  This gave me hope that perhaps everything isn't as bad as it looked on the cement.  I know there is a lot going on in her legs at the moment with the blood flow coming back 100% and restoring nerve funtion (i.e. feeling) so I just have to brace myself for the next days (and hope she can do the same).  I will try to help her in every (natural) way possible.  I went to the store to buy some stuff for setting up a "soaking station" for her, tomorrow I'll try that with the clicker, hopefully I could at least get her fronts to soak for a while.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 22

Yesterday, when Becky went for a ride with Col, Little Love became fairly agitated in her stall.  She called after Col, something she hasn't done for a long time.  I was busy working around the barn and outside, but wandered in after hearing her third distress call.  She was spinning around in her stall, eyes on sticks. 
"Hey girl, no worries," I said and opened her stall door.  Then I sat down on a stool in front of her.  She took one look at me and stopped running in circles.  Then she stared out of the barn window, as if trying to see all the way down to the forest in case her boyfriend was down that way. 

I had planned to take her outside for a bit of grooming and feet checking, but wondered how that would work out, her being suddenly so worried about Col's absence.  I put the halter on and walked her outside.  But there was nothing to worry about, as she was suddenly calm and quiet, like a switch had gone off in her head.  She no longer cared if Col was there or not and I realized it was because I was there with her instead.  I don't think I'll ever be the same to her as another horse, and I don't even want to be. 

She is still so in love with her gelding friend that I'm thinking she is exhausted from just the amount of peeing she feels inclined to do in his company (as I said, she is in heat...) Tonight, when I took them in, I releaved Col from his blanket so the two horses could perform their nightly ritual of nibbling at each other.  Instead of allogrooming, they spent a good ten minutes touching each other gently over the wall.  It was like watching the horse version of tender kissing.  I already know not to go in and interrupt this, so I do some barn chores instead to give Col and Little Love the time they need.  Once they are done, it is obvious; they separate and start eating hay.  That's when I know I can go in and put on Col's barn blanket etc.  

Tomorrow morning the trimmer is coming and taking off the remaining shoe.  He's also going to possibly trim her hooves, or at least clean them up a bit.  With curiousity I look forward to the barefoot journey.  So far Little Love has not taken one lame step with her three bare feet, but I'm hoping it isn't because this one shod hoof is somehow holding most of her weight (is that even possible?)  With interested (and slight apprehension) I look forward to the next few days that will determine how sore she will actually be, once all her shoes are off.  I'm prepared for the worst, but am hoping for the best! :-) 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 21 Grateful

It's hard to describe the feeling I have when I am with Little Love now, it is so different than it ever was before.  When she was at the other barn (and not mine), something that now seems lightyears ago, we had this strange connection.  We would hang out together and I felt like she was so sad, so tired, but being with me brought a glimmer of light to her restricted, contained life.  And now... she is nowhere near to being a free horse in the sense I understand freedom, but something colossal has shifted within her.  What a difference little things can make, what massive consequences something like not having her blanket on all day can have. 

There is so much more I want to offer her; the opportunity to live outside 24/7, the friendship of a whole herd, a foal?  But for now, I give her what I can.  I have lost that old connection, but I'm not sad or angry or frustrated, but rather honored, because it has been replaced by something else, something I don't even quite understand and that is still a seed, carefully planted in the tender soil of a new horse-human relationship.
I go to the barn every day and I muck out her stall.  I fill up her water, I feed her, I put her out or take her in.  Some people have been horrified to hear this, asking why I don't board her at some other barn where I don't have to work so hard.  But I want to do all this work.  It gives me peace like nothing else I know.  Some days, when I am done working and have some extra time, I take a stool and just sit on the barn aisle while Little Love munches on hay (which she now has plenty of).  And I am filled with gratitude towards life. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 19 Oops! She did it again.

Today, when I got to the barn, Becky and I took the horses in.  In other words, we walked out into the pasture, said hello to the two horses standing tightly side by side.  Then, I invited Little Love to follow me, which she did and so with me in the lead, all four of us (plus three dogs) walked to the barn. 

For some reason I was thinking about horse shoes the minute I started grooming Little Love.  I should have known.  When I have random thoughts like that while around her, it's usually her trying to tell me something.  It wasn't until I picked up her left front that I realized the message; she had lost her shoe.  And not just lost it, it had pulled off part of her hoof. This is a horse that loses a shoe ONCE during the 8½ years her previous owner had her and now she has done it twice in the past 2½ weeks... Okay, I get it Little Love, you want to have your shoes off.

I looked at the hoof and realized that my initial plan of having Little Love shod in the front for another 3 weeks was going out of the window.  No sense in trying to put a shoe back on the ragged looking hoof, it would probably just come off again and take even more hoof wall with it.  And since I was going to take those suckers off anyways, why risk losing more good hoof.  So, I called the trimmer. 

Finding a good trimmer is not the easiest thing in the world.  I have some hopes for this guy as I have selected him carefully.  There are a few trimmers in this area that I could have called, but I have not been impressed with most of their work, as it seems that if the horse has any problems at all, the trimmers are not able to address them accordingly.  They seem to sort of just stick to whatever the horse's hooves look like in the first place and not make too many changes. 

But, the thing is that I want to make changes to Little Love's hooves.  I want her legs to be straighter and her hooves to be balanced (something they are not now).  I want her joints to be lined up.  I want her to have a chance at being healthy and sound for a long, long time.  This trimmer I have selected has studied with the German vet called Strasser.  For those of you not familiar to the barefoot circles, the name Strasser seems to be like a swear word to some people, as the woman is mostly known for her very aggressive approach to horse hooves (she has, however, cured horses that were "doomed", but they went through hell to get healthy).  However, her hoof school does have it's bonuses, as she does teach her students not just the basics, but way beyond.  I have come to know the work of a few people who have gone through her trimming school and it seems like many quickly adapt their own style of trimming which may losely be based on the Strasser method, but is not as evasive. 
So, I have decided to go with this guy, and we'll see what comes of it.  I can always change if it doesn't work out, right?   In any case, I will have a loooong talk with him before he touches Little Love's feet :-)

And just for the record, Little Love is in full blown heat.  Her and Col are inseparable, and won't stop nibbling at each other even when they are in the barn.  Here are two pictures of the two of them "going at it" after coming inside.  She is in such euforia about this new friendship that she barely gives me the time of day.  Which I'm starting to get used to, as I have been back in that square one so many times in the past weeks I've lost count :-) 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 17

Little Love is in love.  Today when I arrived at the barn, Col and her were in the pasture.  They were standing really close to each other and sort of investigating each other's bodies gently with their muzzles.  I have never seen anything like that before between two horses and the moment seemed so private that I sort of felt like I was spying on them.  I silently stood back and watched how every now and then Little Love would reposition herself so that her bottom was right in front of Col's nose.  He had no objections to that.  He may be a gelding, but there seems to be a distant memory of something that guides his actions.  He would sniff and nuzzle at her behind, and then rest his head against her backside.  He also groomed Little Love on the neck and withers, and she seemed to be in heaven.  Unfortunately Col himself is wrapped in a massive blanket so Little Love could not return the favor.   Hopefully some day it will be possible. 

Getting the horses in from the field was pretty straight forward.  When before we had to put on halters and walk them together across the yard (because that's where the two smaller paddocks are), now we just open the gate and they walk into the barn on their own.  When Lilo came in, she was literally covered in Col's saliva, as he also likes to lick pretty much everything.  There was a new kind of peace in her, it's hard to explain, but she seemed so grounded.  She even tolerated brushing in a completely different manner.  There have been so many changes to her life in the past few weeks, but I think giving her a horse-friend must be the best one so far, at least in her opinion!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 16

Today for the first time in at least 9 years (and maybe longer), Little Love went out in the pasture with another horse.  At her previous home, she would go out with other horses, but each horse was in its own individual paddock with an electric fence in between.  Sometimes the barn worker would forget to put the electricity on right away, and the horses would immediately use the opportunity to socialize.  But those moments were rare. 

Becky was eager to put the two horses out together already earlier, but I felt that Little Love had not quite adjusted to her new environment and it would have been too much to throw yet another "unfamiliar" thing at her - so we waited.  But yesterday when I put the horses out separately in the two paddocks side by side, I could tell from their behavior that they were ready to be together.

And they were.  We put them out in the morning, and as you can see from the first picture, it was quite cold even though there is still no snow on the ground. The horses sort of sniffed and then Little Love did her "mare squeel" which made Col move away politely but swiftly.  And that was that.  It got a lot warmer with the sun out and I realized that blanketing Lilo had been a little excessive (I don't believe in blankets, but she has had one all winter until now, so I worry that I shouldn't just take it off cold turkey...).  She rolled the second I took it off and then her and Col had a little canter, until they settled down to graze. 

It felt good to see Lilo with another horse at last.  It also felt good to know that she remembers/knows how to do that as sometimes horses that have not had the opportunity to learn this at a young age, can struggle with it later in life.  In any case, horses are meant to be together and although Little Love and Col are just a herd of two, it is still a herd.   With him she can relearn social skills (if needed) and perhaps some day she can be part of a bigger group of horses.   

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 15

Well, my journey into barefoot horses has officially begun; I had the shoer (who came for Col) take off Little Love's back shoes this morning.  My plan is to take off the hind shoes first, see how it goes and then take off the fronts a bit later.  I don't have a definite schedule, but hoping to have all this happen in the near future, depending a bit on the weather.  Of course luck has it that at the moment the weather is not on my side, it was really really cold this morning and the ground is frozen (read: rock hard).  It's also really dry, which is not helpful.  I have to figure out a soaking method for the feet which won't be an easy task as Lilo hates water on her back legs to begin with.  It will take some training to have her stay in water/have on soaking boots (or any boots for that matter).  But, I have faith in the clicker... 

I went back in the late afternoon to take the horses in.  Luckily the sun had warmed up half of the outdoor arena and it was soft enough to walk in.  I hand walked Little Love for almost 30 minutes, just to give her hooves some extra blood circulation.  Tomorrow I'll be walking her more as well as trying to do some soaking.  I also have to bring the camera and take pictures of the hooves so I can send them to my friend Claudia in the US (she's the specialist :-).  Then the next step is to find a decent trimmer, which is not going to be easy.  I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day 13

The first thing I noticed this morning when I opened the barn door, was that Little Love had shavings all over her; she had laid down at night!  This is the first time she has slept on the ground at her new home and a definitely sign that she feels comfortable.  I must have looked like an idiot smiling from ear to ear at my horse, but there was nobody there to see it, since Becky is still gone and her husband was in the house. 

It was an extremely windy day and had we still been at the old barn in our old life, I wouldn't have dreamt of going outside with Little Love in such wind, as that would just have been asking for trouble.  But life is different now and I suddenly felt this confidence eminating from my horse (and myself?).  So - we went out despite the weather.  And it was brilliant.  What a brave little mare I have.  There were flapping tarps and scrurries of leaves and plastic bags and what not flying all over the place, but she marched along confidently, following me with curiousity.  Sometimes I just had to look at her in awe; who was this horse and where the heck did she emerge from?  Where before everything new made her extremely fearful, today she showed careful curiosity.  

In the end of our walk we had to pass several houses and yard, something that always makes Lilo suspicious as her previous experiences of such places include dogs bolting from behind bushes and children kicking balls at each other and other such unpredictable events.  We managed to pass all the houses without incident (she was following me wide-eyed but still curious, she even stopped to sniff a half open dumpster, I couldn't believe it) when we approached the last house on the right.  As we came to the house, a car appeared from behind the corner and parked in front.  A family of four poured out, all their eyes fixed on my horse.  My first thought was: "Oh no, don't come here, she doesn't do well with this sort of a thing", but I tried to relax and go with the flow.  

Little Love stopped.  Her eyes were on sticks as she was scanning the house, the yard and the four eager people approaching her.  They all said hello, and the man asked if Little Love was scared.

"Well, she is a little unsure, as there is a lot to look at," I said, neutrally, watching her closely to make sure she didn't suddenly spook and run over these people. 

"Can we pet her?"  the woman asked. 

I don't know, I thought, can you?  Little Love stood stock still.  She was still alert but when the children (they were about 11 and 8) approached she lowered her head so they could touch it.  I literally held my breath as she let the two kids and their parents caress her neck and head.  She didn't move a muscle, even though the kids were right in front of her and beside her, completely fearless. 

"What a beautiful horse," the man said. 

No kidding.  Not only beautiful, but brilliant, absolutely brilliant.  I could barely contain my emotions as I spoke with the family for a few minutes.  Then it was time to move on.  So off we went, Little Love and I, walking side by side.  When I looked back, the kids were waving at us and I felt like crying.  Little Love sighed, long and hard as if to release her emotions, as it had probably taken some effort to deal with the situation. 

I don't know where that horse went that was so afraid of everything and would never in a million years stood so patiently in a scary environment letting absolute strangers pet her.  Maybe she will resurface again later, but at the moment, her spirit seems to have left my black mare.  It's hard to describe the feelings I have when I see these small changes in Little Love.  I am afraid to hope for anything, because I know that if there is something that can kill a horse-human relationship, it is expectations.  But how do I keep myself neutral in the face of everything that is happening?  Because, really, sometimes it feels like my heart will literally explode, in a good way :-) 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 12

Today I took Little Love into the pasture she will be sharing with Col one day.  The pasture starts almost immediately from the stable, so once they do go in there together, we can just open the stalls/barn and let them go in and out as they want.

Lilo hadn't been on that side of the barn yet, so she was fairly alert when we walked through the barn and went out the back door.  When you come out, there is a small fenced in paved area that used to be a driveway and then from there, a big gate opens into the absolutely enormous pasture.  We checked out the small paved area first, Little Love blowing air out of her nose and my dog Chai running around like crazy looking for a stick to play with.  Finally we walked into the grass pasture.  True to his nature, Col called out from the barn where we had left him, but Little Love was too busy looking at everything that she didn't reply. 
I walked her in perhaps 50 feet and then stopped and let her take it all in.  She was tense, as always in a new environment, but she did attempt to grab some blades of grass in her mouth.  Then she did a few circles around me.  I could tell she wanted to leave, but couldn't, since she the rope halter and long line were holding her back.   She stopped and looked at me politely.  I swear I could hear her say: "Hello, what's up with the restraints?" 

Yeah, what was up with that?  Why didn't I just let her go and explore?  I was no longer at a barn where horses had to be attached at all time, even if exploring a new pasture that was fenced in.  I walked over to her and let her go.  She turned and left, trotting up to the paved area and the closed barn door.  I let her go (what could I do anyways?) and picked up a stick.  Chai bolted over, ready to play.  I stood at the gate to the pasture and tossed the stick to my dog as Little Love investigated the paved area further.  Then suddenly, after ten minutes of wandering around, she marched past me into the pasture.  Just like that. 

She didn't go very far.  In fact, she sniffed around and stopped about 30 feet from me, listening to the noises coming from the neighbor's yard.  Then she freaked out, turned around and cantered past me to the barn door, almost slipping on the pavement.  I continued to play with the dog and hang out, but Little Love was done exploring for the day; she stayed close to the barn door.  Which was fine.  We will be doing this again.  And again.  And again.  I have just learned that there is nothing like exploring the world in freedom, without restraints, without a halter.  If she wants to run home, she can.  If she wants to stay, she can.  It's her choice and choice is what I want to give her.  I want to empower her with the choice. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 11

Two things happened today that were important.

First, Little Love and I left the property together (but without Becky and Col) and rode/walked outside for an hour.  This was huge, especially because I had spent half the previous night wondering if Little Love would actually leave Col in the barn and walk out the gate with me.  Even as we were leaving and Little Love sort of stopped for a moment, I thought; "here we go, she is not going to leave with me."  I was so wrong.  Little Love stood still for a while, sniffed the air and followed me through the electric gate.  Given, she was super alert and tense in the beginning (and it didn't help that Col was screaming for her in the barn), but once we got out into the fields and she had a good trot, she was fine.  And so was I. 
Lesson learned today: 
Just because something has happened in the past, it doesn't mean it's going to happen again.   I guess I'm a tad hardheaded, but it seems like this lesson keeps repeating itself over and over again.  I really need to stop living in the past and live in the moment.  Maybe Little Love used to stop and not leave the barn or rear and turn back or freak out and what not.  But it doesn't mean she will do it again.  And even if she did, it doesn't mean she will do it every single time. 

Secondly, Little Love's old owner came for a visit.  I have to admit, I wasn't exactly looking forward to it, because I knew she wouldn't approve of everything I was doing with her.  And perhaps she didn't, but about five minutes into the visit, I realized it didn't matter.  Little Love is my horse now, and I call the shots.  So, when her old owner asked me if she could perhaps ride her later in the spring in a dressage lesson with me, I said no.  Because, I don't think I will ever let anyone else ride her again and especially not dressage (which she has particularly bad memories of).  In fact, I don't even know how long I will ride her myself.  Today on the trailride, I came off after 15 minutes and we walked the rest of the hour long loop.  I prefer walking with her instead of sitting on her.  It's only when she is really excited and nervous that I can't keep up with her and it gets a bit sketchy.  But hey, we are working on it!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 10

Becky is gone on a business trip and I have been getting to know Col better.  He is an interesting character and in my opinion, slightly troubled.  His behavior and body language reminds me of Little Love four years ago, lots of pinning ears back and making big gestures.  I haven't exactly had a heart to heart with Becky about this, as it is her horse and her "journey" so to say, but when I have interactions with Col (and I do, periodically since I have to take him in from the field, wash his feet, change his blanket etc.), I try to listen to him and respect his space (but at the same time follow Becky's wishes for his care).  It's a balancing act, but there have been moments where my reaction (or non-reaction) to his antics has sort of surprised him. 

In that light, it is curious too to spend time with Little Love, who now seems to be more at home at Becky's little barn.  She still has not laid down at night, but other than that, she is functioning like she functioned at her previous home.  Or perhaps she is already more positive?  She does not really have the need to pin her ears back, except when she tells Col to back off.  But our human-horse interactions are filled with gentle curiosity and kindness.  Even brushing is alright now, although she will probably never like it in certain parts of her body, but we can negotiate these areas together by respecting each others opinions (meaning: I don't brush excessively, and when she tells me she is done, I stop and do something else.  I can always come back to it later, right?) 

Today when I took the horses in from the fields, they were pretty bothered by some loud noises happening on the other side of the road.  I was struggling to keep them calm as I approached the gate and finally simply opted in letting Little Love go (and follow if she wished) and dealing with Col, who doesn't exactly pay attention to small humans walking him in, even on a good day.  I held my ground and without touching him, got him to stop and notice me, which helped.  Little Love was really nervous, but she followed and listened to my voice, when I asked her to stop and wait or go onto Col's other side.  I was slightly surprised at this, as this is something we have worked on in the peace and quiet of the indoor arena, but never under stress like today.  Despite her worry, she was able to listen and follow my signals.  I thanked her for being so cooperative when Col wasn't. 

Tomorrow Little Love's old owner is coming for a visit.  She wanted to come and see how the mare is doing and check what sort of a place she is living at.  I have mixed feeling about this visit and am trying to find my "zen" before it (this lady and I are very different and definitely have differing views of horse care...).  I'm sure we'll have a pleasant time, but I'll be happy when it's over and done with!  I'll have to tell you all about it tomorrow :-)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 7

I can't believe it has been a week.  Although, on the other hand, it seems as if this week was the longest week of my life!  So many things have happened and both Little Love and I have gone through so many emotions, I have lost count.  

Today we went out on the trails again with Becky and Col, but this time we took a new route, to the right of the barn.  I noticed already on Friday what a different these rides out make, it really seems like Little Love is "investigating" the area and making a mental map of it all.  This time she took the lead several times (something she usually is very reluctant to do) and instead of being afraid of new things, looked at them with interest.  Col was really sticky and hesitant at times, which made Becky a tad frustrated, as he was the one who knew the trails (and she expected him to go smoothly...).   And when Col stops to think, Little Love stops, too.  Becky's approach to these situations is different than mine, she feels that Col should listen to her.  I try to listen to Little Love.  I don't ever really ask her to go forward, I sort of just wait to see what happens.  If she feels okay about it, she will make the initiative and walk forward eventually. Although often Lilo tells me to come off.  When I'm on the ground, she usually doesn't hesitate to follow.  I have rope reins that clip off easily and give Lilo the space she needs. I actually spent a lot of time on foot today and enjoyed it a lot, it is what I prefer in the long run as I'm not so keen on riding.  The area has a lot of hills, so I think we are both going to get in pretty good shape walking up and down those steep slopes together!

After our ride, Becky and I worked on resurrecting the outdoor arena from underneath the weeds and other gunk.  This property used to be a horse property, but that was years and years ago, and you can tell it has been a while by looking at the arena.  Becky is planning to re-do the footing later in the spring so she can ride in it, but for now I'm happy as all I really needed was a flat space where Little Love and I can "hang out" and play together when she is ready for that.  

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 5

What a change in Little Love in just the past two days; the horse I once knew is definitely starting to emerge slowly but surely.  She is not so frantically attached to her new neighbor, Col and she seems much more interested in what I am doing.  Interestingly enough, it is the familiar (even if not pleasant) things that seem to snap her out of her own world into the one we share: the shoer, washing her feet and riding.  She also tolerated brushing, which was out of the question for the first few days, but today she didn't seem to mind it as much.  And when she did, I stopped.  From previous experience I already know that respecting her opinion about brushing will actually increase her tolerance to it. 

I was also really surprised to see how well she coped with the fact that the wash area for the horses is a very tight space.  She doesn't like water on her legs much, but as she was completely caked in mud, I decided to hose her off a bit to see if all was okay under all that clay (it was).  I used the clicker to communicate to her where she needed to stand and although initially nervous in the small room, she stood well and sort of sighed a small relief when the water started running. 

The other observation I made was that physically leaving the property seemed to help Little Love a lot.  Becky (Col's owner) and I went out on Wednesday and again today, and even though initially when you leave the property, she looks around like a deer in headlights, each ride/walk seems to bring Little Love back to her grounded self.   I really believe this has something to do with the fact that riding around the surrounding fields and forests helps Lilo "map out" where she is in space.  It puts our little barn onto her internal map, so to say.  Being flight animals, it is important for horses to know the surrounding environment, in case they need to flee. So, this weekend Becky will take me on some more trails so we really get a sense of the area.  I believe each trip out will help Lilo with her internal "mapping". 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 4

I wanted to start this blog on day 1, but it didn't happen.  It has been a fairly crazy four days and between the shock of becoming a horse owner (and the owner of Little Love, no less), transporting the said trailer-phobic horse and watching her stress levels skyrocket at the new barn - I have been completely exhausted beyond another word. 

Becoming Little Love's owner was not something I had the luxury of planning ahead, although I have to say that I dreamt of it many times.  The reality is nothing like my dreams, which should not come as a shock, but has nevertheless been hard to accept.  I'm only human and I would live everything to be perfect from the get-go.  She is a horse and to no standard a calm one.  This I don't hold against her, as I suspect that part of her behaviour is learned.  Of course, horses in general don't do well with new things, they are hardwired that way - it's what has kept them alive for millions of years.  But on top of that Little Love comes with loads of baggage.  I didn't quite realize HOW MUCH baggage until I took her into a completely new environment.  If we ever had an ounce of connection, it was all gone the moment she left her old barn. 

Anyways, she is now living at her new barn, which is just a stable with three stalls.  In my dreams I had Little Love living in a field with a herd of horses, but since she has been stall bound for at least the past 10 years and hasn't had much horse on horse contact, I thought it would be safer to ease her into the new lifestle, rather than throwing it at her all at once.  I think I made the right choice, as even just moving barns was a very stressful event for her. 

At the moment there is only one other horse with her at the new barn, a Danish warmblood gelding.  He seems like a fairly level headed guy.  His owner is the human version of level headed, which suits Little Love and her freak-of-an-owner just fine :-)  Good balance, so to say.  The two horses are getting along on some level; the gelding is very interested in Little Love and she is only interested in him when he isn't looking at her.  Other times she makes sure he knows she doesn't like him.  We'll see how it progresses.  We are giving the two horses some times, and especially Lilo, since she has lots to take in at the moment.  I have to remember that she has lived her entire life in huge commercial barns with up to 80 horses, so going to a small scale stable is a whole new experience.  Also, having the opportunity to touch and interact with another horse is something she hasn't been able to do since her foalhood (of course, I don't know what she did as a baby, but I'm sort of praying she had some experiences with other horses.  This would be crucial for her now, when she learns to be with another horse again)  I can see already that as her stress levels go down, she is able to tolerate more and more contact with humans and with horses, so with time, hopefully, the two can get along enough to be outside together, in the same pasture (at the moment they are side by side with a fence in between). 

My other plans include taking the shoes off, which I will start with the back feet.  Ironically, Little Love pulled her right front shoe the day I bought her.  The entire four and a half years I have known her, she hasn't EVER pulled a shoe, but yet she did that first day.  I thought it was perhaps her way of telling me she was alright without shoes haha.  In any case, I had the shoer come out and put it back on, since like I said, I'm hoping to take all these changes slowly and not overwhelm Little Love with too many new things at a time. 

The first three days were fairly trying, but today, on the fourth day, I see some light flickering at the end of the tunnel.  I hope that with time I can resurrect our lost connection and perhaps even find a new kind of connection with this aloof mare of mine.  At the moment I am just happy she is eating, drinking, peeing and pooping like a normal horse, as that, too, was not a given in the beginning of this journey.  Today she rolled for the first time in her new pasture and even though she was completely covered in mud from ears to tail, I took it as an excellent sign.  Hopefully in a few days she'll actually let me touch her head long enough to brush the mud away!  :-)