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.