Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Integrated

Sorry, not sorry.
She's fucking cute.
(And you better believe that slightly dark shadow off to
the right of the photo is A Lurking Bannie).
Following Maizey's arrival, I began to work diligently on breaking her unwillingness to be caught - we had some good days, and we had some very, very bad days. I can't say that chasing down a stubborn as Hell weanling in the pouring rain directly after work for 40min + was on my list of Top Ten, but I persisted nonetheless. On one particularly terrible day, I indeed made a slow motion dive and snatched her grab strap after thoroughly being soaked to the bone after attempting to rouse her with food, inpromptu round-penning (which is much more difficult in a square paddock), approach/retreat, and a few Hail Mary's. Nothing worked and the little bugger would let me get close enough, and then rip roar across the paddock and stand smugly with a leg cocked at the opposite fence.

As the days went on, I switched up tactics to find out which approach worked best to encourage Maizey's natural curiosity, as well as ensure she was still respecting me and my movements. Of course, as a mere babe, she has no idea what the real world is about, so I used the help of Annie and Spud over the fenceline to quip Maizey's interest in me (and humans in general). I worked with some of the suggestions mentioned and began integrating food as a primary staple of our relationship - I am the Food Lady and as the Food Lady, I will hang out with you while you eat. I asked nothing of her for a few days, aside for some brief (but full) attention. 

We were both miserable and SOAKED. The rain had gotten down into my T-shirt
and I was frozen by the time I got home. This was a very miserable day, despite the smiles that
suggest otherwise (Maizey's expression is more par for the course).
She began to blossom just before the weekend and started to meet me at the gates of her paddock, happy to walk up and receive a scratch. I took the pressure off after realizing it was less about being able to catch her and more about developing a relationship with the horse. I was so fixated on being able to grab the catch strap and move her around, I forgot the most integral part of working with a new horse - getting to know eachother. 

It's kinda taught me to slow down a bit and appreciate the small things... which, I think, is something horses teach us time and time again. It can be so alluring and tempting to Do All The Things, but there has to be a starting point somewhere and sometimes you have to back off a bit to gain traction. So, I backed off and started to work less on the short term goal (catching her) and started focusing on the long term goal (becoming a person to trust).

I fed Annie and Spud treats in front of the gate lots, to entice Maizey to come see
what all the fuss was about. It worked, and she started to become more interested in
why these other two equines so badly wanted to be my friend.
I'd love to say it was my change in attitude, or some weird voodoo magic I did in her paddock to help her bridge the gap. But I think change in her demeanor could be due to several factors - the largest being she shared a fence-line with two horses who are very personable and in your pocket. Watching how Spud and Annie interacted with me, and naturally being gravitated to join them at the fence-line, she watched and saw first hand how much both wanted to be with me. 

Of course, second to that was the fact I was no longer fixated on "catching her" and was more interested in getting to know her and her feelings. Which, sounds hilarious until you sit back and think about it. She's been through a lot the last month of her life, and while a lot of it is #ToughTitties, I can sympathize that she went through a lot of monumental changes that she doesn't yet quite understand. It's my job as her new "mom" (although Annie might fight me for that position haha) to fill in that gap and give her a good foundation and start in life past what she was taught as a foal. 

And then I couldn't get rid of her.
Over the last week I put in a few days of work with her - nothing too over the top or crazy. This past Saturday I brought her out of her pen and walked the fencelines in the back paddock to show her the open spaces and where the fences were (which is a bit stupid because I doubt she was paying attention lol, but it made me feel better that she'd know the "layout" before being turned out). She led well, and Annie made sure to join us because #stalker.  

After that, I brought her out into the barn (by herself), tied her, and worked on brushing her all over and lifting her feet. When I first brought her out, Annie started to trot around and call for her, and Maizey anxiously called back. It took about 2-3 minutes before both of them quit and Maizey cocked a leg quietly and let me touch her all over and brush her like a big, grown up pony. She also lifted all of her feet - altho hopped around a bit (learning to stand on 3 legs is hard, haha) and let me pick each quietly before setting them back down.

First time being tied in front without her friends.
She was a bit worried, but otherwise was a good girl. 
Sunday was Farrier day and all of the horses were well behaved and Maizey was fabulous - our Farrier was able to rasp all of her hooves with minimal wiggling. With many pats and a newfound friendliness and inquisitive nature, I made the elective decision to turn Maizey out with the herd. Reason being, the first crisp snowfall is ever approaching and I'd prefer she be well integrated before then and also for her to be aware of the pasture layout before the inevitable daylight savings time. Sunday was the perfect day, as I had a lot of daylight to play with and had the ability to check her multiple times throughout the afternoon to ensure things were going well. 

If you look closely, you can see all three of the amigos.
It also helped that all of the horses were now well acquainted with one another after a week of over the fence business - I had zero indication there would be issues. In fact, Spud had snuck into Maizey's pen a time or two during cleaning time because he's a rotten boy. 

I was a bit unsure about taking the halter off and turning Maizey out completely naked, but I also did not want to leave the halter on. We did a few halter on/ halter off exercises before I slipped it completely off and removed the lead from around her neck. 

After checking Maizey a few times throughout the day on Sunday (#helicoptermom), I had all the evidence I needed to go to sleep that night without worry. All of them were getting along, and I was pleased to see that the addition of Maizey didn't make Spud the third wheel. I have seen Spud snacking out of the haybox with Maizey while Annie stands off across the paddocks on her own, and I've seen Annie standing quietly over a sun-bathing Maizey in the warm, late afternoon sun. 

Organized from largest to smallest.
I was a bit concerned with how interested Annie was in Maizey that it would translate to some Spud chasing (I had actually removed Spud's grazing muzzle to leave the little man armed with his teeth and ability to bite should Maizey step out of line), but Spud could simply care less about the weanling and although he's thrown her a few ugly faces, he is happy to munch hay with her.

We've worked a bit more on All The Things A Baby Should Know - namely leading, yielding to pressure (yielding forehand, haunches, backing), and lifting her feet. She's done a complete 180 since I brought her home and it's been fun to see her personality blossom. She's a very quiet and happy little filly - she'd rather stand around than gallop (unlike Annie, who had a full on PARTY in the back paddock and littered the grass with skid marks and deep hoof-sized holes). 

Annie has been so kind and motherly towards Maizey - its
actually super cute.
Things are chugging along quietly, and I'm happy to see the progress so far. My main priorities are getting the basics down and letting her be a baby, so we play some days and other days we simply say a quick hello and I'm on my way. 

I'm happy she's finally integrated though and all the horses are seamlessly co-existing. I think aside from saddle shopping, introducing horses to new herds is just as stressful, haha!

13 comments:

  1. OMG she is sooo cute! Glad to hear the basics are going well and she is now out with the herd!

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  2. I can't wait to hear more about how her personality comes out as y'all get to know one another better.

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    1. Me too!
      we are officially "two and a half horses" once again!

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  3. Adorable! I love the photo of all three of your ponies. It sounds like things are going well!

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    1. They aligned themselves perfectly for the photo, it was too perfect!

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  4. They are the cutest little herd! What a relief that everyone is getting along so famously. It sounds like she's fitting in really well now that she realizes your both mom and food lady. So excited to follow your journey with her!

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    1. It was a huge relief to see everyone getting along :)

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  5. I love this. You are doing such a fantastic job with her. I love that you backed off th3 catching. Now that she’s integrated I’m sure that she feels more confident.

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  6. She's adorable, congrats on the new horse!!!

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  7. I am going to live vicariously through you as I want to raise up a baby someday. So excited to watch this whole process.

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