Well! We've had an interesting (and not in the good way) few days. As a preface, everything seems to be back to normal... I hope!
As you know, I rode Imogen for the first time on Sunday, and it was fantastic. I gave her Monday off, and all I did with both girls was to let them out of their runs at the end of the day (they had been up because of the rain). Nothing out of the ordinary happened... all was well. The next day, Tuesday, I had plans to pull the girls up and give them a good grooming, and give Immy a second day off. Both girls were standing near the gate when I arrived, waiting. Much to my surprise, when I went to go catch her and bring her in, she raised her head in alarm and moved away from me, turning on one heel and bolting off. Uh.... okay.... not normal. She wouldn't even come near me after that. I never ended up catching her at all. P came up and had dinner, then went back out again and left. Immy kept coming to the gate, but any time I walked towards the gate myself, she took off again. Eventually, I just gave up and went home, leaving her standing by herself at the gate. She was still there when I drove away, waiting for me to catch her but not wanting to be caught all the same.
Okay... what was going on?
The next day I arrived at around the same time, and both girls as usual came to the gate when they heard people arriving. Another boarder had arrived at the same time as I did, and she went into the pasture to bring her horses in first. Both P and Immy were at the gate when I arrived, but when I went out to catch them, they were gone. P came back within short order, but when I went to catch her, she too threw her head up and backed away, like she was afraid of being struck or chased. P is never, EVER, hard to catch. "Did you shoo them away from the gate?" I asked the other boarder. She replied that yes, she had chased them off to get her horses in. My heart sank as I spotted Immy down the hill, standing still and watching me with an eagle eye. The moment I turned to face her, she galloped in the other direction.
I understand now. She is getting aggressively chased away whenever anyone goes out to catch their horses... that terrifies her. Absolutely terrifies. I had no idea if I was going to be able to catch her... she wouldn't let me within 30 feet of her without galloping away.
I enticed the yearling in the pasture over with a bunch of cookies in my pocket. It didn't take long before Immy's curiosity got the best of her, and she too came over and got a cookie from me. I stroked her cheeks for a minute, and then moved to touch her neck with my hand. Just the motion of raising it made her recoil in fear, and she bolted. (The "shooing" motion that scares her so much.) I couldn't get near her again, and night had completely fallen by this time. Over a half hour into it, I was nowhere near catching her.
I needed to get her to switch from right brain to left brain, and walking her down was never going to work.
It was time for Plan B. I poured a whole bunch of cookies into a bucket, took it out into the field, and shoot vigorously. Hey, I'm not above bribery when I need it.
It worked like a charm. Immy and the filly came over, and after some nervous snorting, they both stuck their noses in the bucket started to snack away. I was able to reach up and pet Immy on the neck, and she no longer flinched away. I had a rope around her neck within short order, and was able to put her halter on with absolutely no fuss at all. She gave me her best Joyful Cookie Face, and I brought her up for dinner. She was a changed woman - all over me, cuddling up to me, happy to be in my presence and happy to be touched and loved on.
Well... I guess we know the problem now. We can't have this happening though. She is nowhere near ready to have interactions with strangers, much less negative interactions.
I formulated a new plan for the week:
Wednesday: Just be able to catch her and love on her (SUCCESS!)
Thursday: Groom, love on, low-key lunging without bridle (SUCCESS!)
Friday: Lunging/Grounddriving with bridle
As per my schedule, I caught Immy, gave her a thorough grooming (including a leg wash), and lunged her in just a halter in the big arena. I wanted to keep everything low-key and stress-free, and was very successful in that pursuit. She was happy, relaxed, and peaceful in the crossties, happy to have her grooming and eat her cookies. She lunged like a perfect angel. To top it all off, she let me PULL HER MANE!! Or well, part of it... but it is DEFINITELY a start! It wasn't that long ago where I couldn't even cut it with scissors without her completely losing her mind, so this is a HUGE step for us. I only did a small portion of her mane at the base of her neck, but everybody has to start somewhere. Amazingly, after some preliminary wiggles, she stopped moving and let me do it without fuss. I kept shoving cookies into her mouth every time she let me pull without moving, so she had some pretty good incentive to hold still.
Not saying it for sure helped or did not help, but when I first crosstied her, I tried out my bottle of Soothe Me spray from Zephyr's Garden (I LOVE their products and can't say enough good things about them!). She was very, very peaceful... maybe it helped! I am trying out the Soothe Me, Calm Me, and Settle Me sprays... I firmly believe in their other products, and regularly recommend them to clients and friends alike, so I can't wait to see if this helps her too.
There is supposedly some wintery mix coming in tonight (maybe, possibly, no idea... Texas weathermen can NOT predict winter weather to save their lives!), so we'll see what we have to work with tomorrow!
AND! January Goals and 2013 Goals coming up soon!
AND! January Goals and 2013 Goals coming up soon!