As per my plan, my first week of time spent with the Bay Girl (still without the perfect name) has been all about just making friends with her and finding a little more out about her personality and what she does (and doesn't) know. I've been completely pleasantly surprised - despite her jumpiness, she truthfully is a sweet and sensible girl. She wants to do the right thing... she's just not completely sure of what the right thing is. Or whether or not the right thing is going to be safe for her, of course.
The first day I spent with Bay Girl, all I did was catch her, lead her into the barn, and work on touching her and grooming her. We had found out previously that she knows how to crosstie when I gave her a bath a few months ago, so I figured I would start there and get her comfortable with the idea of me being around and touching her. She was squirmy at first when it came to me approaching, but relaxed fairly well into it.... she even let me brush her tail and mane! (I cut her scraggly long mane with scissors a few months ago... she did NOT stand well for that!) I eyeballed her small hock sores and decided that I would try to shoot for doctoring those later in the week, given her reputation for cow-kicking when you handle her feet. I also tried to handgraze her when we were done... she absolutely refused to do more than sniff the grass and look warily around. I doubt she's even been afforded that luxury, if she's ever tasted fresh grass at all... poor angel.
The following day was Thanksgiving, so I was away from work and didn't get to work with the sweetheart, but on Friday I was around and able to visit with her a bit. I didn't have much time, but I stuffed my pockets full of a few handfuls of sweet feed - the only treat she is remotely interested in taking from a person - and spent a little time in her pen, just wandering around and letting her sniff me and take food from my hand. I do feed treats by hand on certain occasions, and proving that human hands are a good thing and not a source of fear or pain is one of those times when food can be useful. Nice pets and tasty things come from hands, not smacks and pain. Two days before, even putting her muzzle on my hand caused her to snort and jerk away in alarm. With a little bribing, I had her gently touching my hands without fear.
Saturday was filled with unpleasant gale-force winds, and Sunday I was off from work, so Bay Girl was left to muse on her handling for a few days before we resumed work on Monday. The farrier was out on Monday, and she was sorely due for a trim, so I brought her up into the barn for a little grooming before he worked on her. I had only crosstied her in the other barn before, in an enclosed wash stall, so I wasn't sure how she would handle being crosstied in an aisleway with nothing behind her. Much to my surprise, she stood like a rock! I was able to groom her all over (goosey butt included, which was surprising), and she even let me touch her face! The entire time, she stood quietly with a peaceful look on her face. Progress, thy name is Bay Girl!
When the farrier was ready for her, he lightly sedated her as per his usual, and it became clear that she either has a phobia of farriers or a phobia of men. (Men is my guess... she reacted the same way to another one of our male boarders). Until she went to sleep, she skittered and snorted while I held her, but finally relaxed into it as the drugs took effect. She was being unusually strange about her left hind however... not really wanting to put weight on it while her other feet were being trimmed. Sore hocks from carrying a big fat baby around? Not sure. Her legs are clean and tight, to be sure, but we don't really know anything about her history or why she ended up where she did. Some sort of unsoundness issue? Or just the pregnancy aches and pains? Only time will tell with that one.
Afterwards, she was relaxed enough (and still a little doped) to eat a little grass!
Tuesday, we made even further progress. She crosstied in the barn aisle and didn't fuss when the other horse in the barn left, got a nice grooming, let me pick up her front feet without any incident AND let me doctor her hock sores with NO fuss at all! This is the mare who broke out in oozy hives from an allergic reaction this summer and had to be put in the stocks to doctor her wounds because she kicked so bad when you touched her! (Previous to when I arrived, but I heard all about it!)
Now that I have a better understanding of her reactions to everyday things, what she does and does not know, and what we need to work on, I'm working up some goals for December work. I suppose this blog is going to be a bit uninteresting for now, but that's life with starting a horse over!
What a pretty face. She still need a name!