The following pictures were taken after a light dusting of snow a few days ago, which is totally gone now, with our thawing temps (crazy WI winter!). I turned my horses out into the big pasture for a couple days because they've been in their little pasture since October. I like to get them off the pastures before they go dormant then turn them back out only after the snow is deep enough to keep the horses from damaging the dormant plants. But we haven't had enough snow this year! So I decided the dusting was enough to protect the really short grass and get them out of their small pasture. They were in heaven, and I was happy to be able to see them from the sunroom. Alas, it warmed back up and the snow is gone again, and they are locked back in their small muddy pasture.
The high today was close to 50 and the ground was wet and muddy in places where it had thawed overnight because the low never got below freezing. My horses were spunky and all spooked and took off as I walked through the pasture carrying a plastic bag that had treats in it. Griffin and Kachina especially took off and wouldn't come near me. Having never been formally introduced to plastic bags, they didn't know that they often have treats in them. The rest of my horses spooked and snorted, but came right back to investigate and get their treat reward for overcoming their fear of the bag. So I was quite surprised after I'd passed all the way through the pasture to the tack shed, picked up my halter and came back into the pasture that it was Kachina that first met me. This time I didn't have a bag, just a halter and leadrope, so I guess I wasn't as scary. She let me halter her with no tossing her head. I had actually caught her easily with a treat the previous evening to check her front feet as it looked like she was a little off on one side, so she expected to be caught with a treat today. I had made plans to catch and saddle either Catlow or Chico, but both were standing far away, back through the treacherous slippery mud. I opted to take Kachina out since she was right there, not yet sure what I'd do with her.
I filled my pockets with treats and took her to the round pen. She was snorty and high-headed at first as I led her toward the trailer, then past the scary garden shed up to the round pen, but once in the round pen, she settled pretty quickly as her buddies all lined up to watch just on the other side of the fence. I did my usual with her; started lunging calmly, but quickly remembered that she was just a tad off on the right front. She wasn't super lame, just a tad off at the trot only circling to the right. I didn't want to stress her leg, not being able to determine what was wrong with it. There was no swelling or heat, and her hoof looked clean. I imagine maybe she just sprained it a little in the mud. So instead of lunging, we just did some walking work. I led her over the drain tile scraps that I had saved to serve as obstacles in the round pen. She dropped her head to snort at it, then stepped over it with her front feet fairly calmly, and then almost came unglued when her hind foot clipped it and made a noise. She just about jumped on top of me, but I was expecting her to be a little spooky over it, so I was safe. We did it again, and she accidentally clipped it again with her hind feet with the same over reaction to it. Then, the third time, she was more careful with her feet, and the fourth time too. The fifth time, she got lazy and clipped it again, but it no longer freaked her out. I did some more desensitizing with the rope and also my stick and string, and then made sure she was soft and would bend her neck laterally with a soft pull on the rope.
Then, I decided to see how she'd be going for a short walk. She didn't appear to be off at all at the walk, so I figured it wouldn't hurt her anymore than hanging out the the pasture would. I wasn't sure how far we'd be able to go, simply due to the muddy conditions and Kachina's reaction. This would be the first time ever that I'd lead her anywhere except the immediate vicinity of the farmyard and roundpen. I didn't want to take her far if she wasn't ready for it, which I thought she might not be since she's always been the spookiest, flightiest, most reactive horse. But, as we started walking, she dropped her head, and walked beside me rather calmly. She would stop and raise her head to get a better look at something every once in a while, but overall, she was actually very calm. I was so surprised. I expected her to get the most uptight when leaving the herd behind. So we kept walking. Even when we disappeared behind the hill and could no longer see anything familiar (we were no longer alongside the pasture that she has been in), she didn't change her calm demeanor one bit. And we walked past all kinds of things that I would have thought would scare her, as spooky as she is about things when I've introduced her to them in the past. Piles of logs, an electrical box out in the middle of the grass, the cabin, a tarp covering a wood pile, the pond ice, the dogs jumping out of the brush all around us. Nothing caused her undue alarm. She noticed them, but we just kept walking past everything and she gave all these things a glance but then just kept up with me. We also did a lot of "whoa" and back a step as I led her because she's not very good at it yet. By the end of our walk she was slowing down when I said whoa but still required my stopping and the pull on the halter to stop completely, and she was backing with a much lighter pull on the halter. She did not spook at a single object, just eye-balled a few things. And she only had one flighty moment. I stopped her a few times in an open area and asked her to lunge at a walk around me. The second time I asked this of her was down by the pond, and I think she was a little nervous inside, even though she wasn't being overly reactive to anything because when I asked her to lunge, she jumped away from me started blindly trotting around me. When I asked her to stop, she did a screaming turn and took off the other direction. She wouldnt' stop, but amazingly wasn't trying to pull away from me either. At one time I got her to face up, but she came into me too fast and was walking her face into me, so I pushed her away, which send her into another frenzied blind trot around me. I finally got her to stop and she was huffing and puffing and quite worried then, but as we took off walking again with me leading her, she calmed right back down and there were no more instances like that the next time I stopped to ask her to lunge around me. The next time was not at the pond. So, aside from that one little frenzied lunging event, she was actually amazing on our walk. I expected her to be spooky and dangerous and she wasn't at all. Just goes to show what I know! I guess I should not jump to any conclusions with her. And I need to suck it up and just tie her solid to something. I actually don't think she'll be as bad as I was thinking she would be. She respects the rope quite well. So, I need to find the right thing to tie her to...it's too muddy in the pasture and I'm not sure I have anything else stout enough outside the pasture right now. This summer we will bury a stout post up alongside the roundpen to practice tying too, but we don't have it available yet.
Kachina is a pretty little mare, but when she drops her head and leads beside me calmly and respectfully, yet still interested in her surroundings, she is even more beautiful. I shouldn't work with her if I plan to sell her because it reminds me why I got into the mustangs in the first place and then I get attached all over again and want to keep her for myself! But, I do need to work with her because it will ensure that she gets a chance at having a useful life and being taken on by someone who is worthy of her.
A side note: Sassy, the pintaloosa mare that we sold last spring, seems to doing well. I hadn't seen her at all last summer ( I think her new owners had her in training), but now that it is winter, I can see her in the pasture alongside the highway when we go to town. She is turned out with their beef cattle, a couple donkeys, and another appaloosa horse. She looks good from the road. I'd be interested to hear how her new owners like her, but they must since they didn't contact us about giving her back last fall, which had been part of the original deal.
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