I brushed her a bit and took her out of the paddock. I wanted to give her the opportunity to look around the yard and barn. Both Manta and Kira ran to the fence and neighed with a soft voice. They both sound like girls (which of course they are). Compared to Col's dying elephant screams, the voices of the two mares are like mermaids singing :-)
Little Love was curious, but also a bit nervous. I took her into the barn where she looked around and touched everything in sight. After a minute she became a little "panicky" and we rushed out the small door. She wanted to make sure Manta and Kira were still in the paddock, so we walked over to check. Then she inspected five fence posts, a tree, a turned over wheel barrel, the muck pile, three water buckets drying in the sun, a pile of wood, the fencing for the dog kennel. Basically she looked at every stick and stone and pinecone in sight, just to make sure they were all ok. Every time Little Love disappered out of the vision of the two other mares who were standing at the gate, they took turns neighing loudly.
"Hey new horse, don't you go anywhere," they seemed to say. Little Love never answered back, but every so often she turned and wanted to march down to the fence to make sure the horses were still there. I followed her, mostly letting her decide that she wanted or didn't want to do.
Once we both felt like we had investigated enough, I asked the barn owner if she would be open to letting the horses get to know each other. She was ready. The horses were ready, too. When the lady undid the fence between the horses, all three rushed to the other side: Little Love to the bigger side and the two other horses to her side. Turned out Manta and Kira were not interested in Little Love at all, but rather wanted to eat the grass that was on her side. Little Love, on the other hand, trotted around the big paddock, investigating the fence and the little shelter.
After a while she approached Manta and Kira very carefully. They sort of ignored her, until Kira informed Little Love she was too close. With her ears pinned back Kira turned and screamed, kicking out into the air. Little Love backed away, but stayed close by. I hung around, talked to the barn owner and watched the "social dance" between the three horses for two hours. I was amazed to see how savvy my horse was in this business of horse relationships. I know she is a fairly assertive mare, yet she kept her distance and approached each horse carefully and very very slowly. After a while I saw her and Kira eating grass with their heads almost touching. Little Love had crept into that position only to maintain it about 20 seconds, after which she moved away from Kira. Smart girl. Very subtle. I was proud of her.
After three hours I was getting ready to leave. I wanted to say goodbye to Lilo so I walked into the pasture. When I got close enough to her to touch her, Lilo turned and walked off, as if to say: "Don't take me out of here, I want to stay." I told her I wasn't going to catch her, but rather would like to give her a carrot. I stood still and waited. She came to me, but obviously didn't want to get caught. I think I will take that as a sign that she felt good in her new circle of friends.
Little Love also discovered a green toy ball hanging from one of the pine trees. She licked it and pushed it, making it sway back and forth. When I left at noon, she was still playing with the ball, bumping it with her nose.
Here are some pictures I took with my phone. Naturally the moment we took the fence down and put the horses together, my camera battery died. So, I only had my phone, which isn't the greatest picture taking device. But, at least I managed to record this historic moment on some level.
I went back in the evening, just so see how the three mares were doing. The barn owner reported that Kira and Lilo had shared a pile of hay. This apparently was unheard of, as it took 1½ months for Kira to allow Manta to do the same. In general Kira has always been the "lead mare" at this barn, a mare who doesn't accept new-comers easily. But, somehow Lilo managed to accomplish the unthinkable in just a few hours. I can see how, she really seems to be extra savvy when it comes to relationships in the herd. Which is pretty amazing, since I know she has been living in solitary confinement most of her life. I believe she has been waiting for this moment for a long long time and is now in her element. It will be interesting to see how the relationships evolve in the weeks to come and what place in the herd Lilo will eventually take.