Day Two

So, this happened yesterday evening, when I went out to do the last check:

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That’s the baby’s tag, off her neck. 😀 Now she looks like a proper member of the family.

This morning, as soon as she saw me, she came to the rails to say hello and get a few scritches on her forehead. She let me rub most of her body – legs are still a bit of a caution zone, but she’s slowly relaxing under my hand – and then she let me rub her with the halter. I can slip it over her nose, but the smallest halter I have is still too big for her (Trinity was a long yearling when I brought her home, and this baby is likely just a smidge over a year) so I need to hit the feed store tomorrow to find one that will fit.

I saw a hint of spice this afternoon – she didn’t like the wind flapping my shirt when I reached to pet her, and gave me an ugly bitey face – but a quick stomp of my boot and a warning buzz had her scooting backwards and rethinking her attitude PDQ. A second later, when I invited her toward me again, she walked up and calmly investigated every stitch of my clothes. No big deal. 😀

I forgot how much fun it is to play with a baby, to see them figure every little thing out for the first time. I love, love, love this part.

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There’s a hint of shine under all that scruffy fuzz…

(First name I had picked out doesn’t seem to fit her, so I’m trying another.)

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First day!

I’ve found that if you let a new horse stand alone in his new home for too long, with nothing to occupy his mind, he’ll start to think that either this is the best deal ever and he never wants to work at all, or he’ll start to worry about what’s coming next and instead of settling in, he’ll get more and more anxious. So I think it’s important to introduce a routine in a gentle, easy way and to offer some glimpse of what your expectations are right from the start. I like smart horses, so the sorts of horses I tend to bring home tend to need something to think about – before they think themselves into trouble.

The challenge, of course, is to do this without overwhelming the new horse.

So, today I let the gray baby (name to be announced tomorrow!) mostly just relax and chow down while I sat on the corral rail nearby and read my book. (Reading a book is the fastest way I’ve found to catch a horse’s curiosity. Odd, but totally true!) She came over to sniff my hair, my hands, my jeans, my boots. Let me brush the forelock out of her eyes. She got used to seeing me with a hat and without, with long sleeves and without, with sunglasses and without. (Every mustang I’ve ever known thinks sunglasses are secret weapons and have to be convinced otherwise…)

And then I started to teach her the rules. (With Trinity’s occasional help from outside the corral.) Right now, there are only two she needs to know: 1. She can’t turn her butt to me. 2. When I walk up to her, she should stand still until I ask her to move.

She is doing really well with #2 and let me rub her head, neck, shoulder and back several times. I can reach for the tag around her neck, but I don’t trust her to stand still *quite* long enough for me to cut it off yet. That will come in the next day or so, I expect.

#1 is a little harder – her preferred defensive move appears to be a double-barrel kick so I REALLY don’t want her to get the idea she can swing her butt to me. She is sweet and mild around me – unlike the moments she feels she needs to protect her hay from Trinity *coughcough* – so I don’t want to make a huge deal of it. There’s no point in frightening her, but she needs to learn the rule. So today I taught her to turn and face me when I kiss to her. It’s an easy, adaptable cue that can form the basis for all sorts of conversations later, so it’s generally the first thing I teach. Took her a little bit to figure out I wasn’t just making weird noises for no reason, but I think she’s got the idea now. 🙂 Tomorrow I’ll build on it.

Already she’s looking less tucked-up and her eye is softer, so I think she’s doing pretty well. And tonight she discovered the wonders of soaked alfalfa shreds with a scoop of Horse Manna sprinkled on top. 😉

Life’s best adventures…

…begin like this:

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In other words, there’s a new wild mustang on the farm. 🙂

It all happened rather suddenly… my husband and I had been talking about adopting another for a while, but when we lost Gypsy it became a higher priority. And then the wranglers told me they’d be shipping horses east for satellite adoptions, so if I wanted the largest selection I needed to come quickly. My husband, who has always been distantly supportive of but largely uninterested in my horse hobby, decided he wanted to be involved this time and said, “Let’s leave this weekend!” So… yeah.

We drove to Elm Creek Wild Horse and Burro Corrals in Nebraska (there is a closer facility, which I may visit this fall, but Elm Creek has a huge variety of horses and *excellent* wranglers) and spent almost two hours playing with 30 wild yearlings.

Before we arrived, I told my husband I was looking for learning potential more than athletic potential. I’m 40, and at this point in my life I care far more about a good mind than I do about fancy movement or athleticism (though I don’t regret choosing Trinity for those reasons at all, and I still like a horse with a decent build). I also said I didn’t care about color – “I’ll consider anything but a gray,” I said. (Note: I like gray horses! I just don’t want to deal with melanoma.)

So. I slipped into the corrals and was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the choice available to me. I saw a bay roan and a red roan that tempted me – except then I’d be choosing based on color, and I swore I wouldn’t do that. There was a darling cream-colored filly with brown tips on her ears and large, soft eyes – but she was so, so small and her feet needed a lot of work. I saw several gorgeous sorrels – including one with a curly mane and tail – but they looked too much like Gypsy and my heart just wasn’t ready for that. There were a number of nice-looking bays and blacks, and several grays.

I nearly chose this one:

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because she was the first one to walk up to me, and had no hesitation in making contact with my hand. She was a stout little baby with a kind expression, but in the end, I chose this one:

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She looks a little rough around the edges, I know, and she’s a gray, which I swore I’d never choose, but I quite like her. When I stepped in her corral, she immediately approached and let me rub her nose, forehead, cheek, and neck. She followed me around, and when I asked her to back off she sensibly stepped back and waited for me to rub her face again. She let me run a hand down her back and over her withers, and when the other babies spooked at something she gave a little “huff!” but didn’t freak out.

She loaded in the trailer calmly and without fuss, though I did get to see a GORGEOUS elevated trot with a flagged tail, and she rode home like a pro. When we opened the door to let her out, she calmly stepped down and began chomping grass. She had no hesitation sucking water out of the stock tank even with the hose hissing and spraying water – something it took my generally fearless Trinity months to do.

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She has juvenile warts – really, really common in mustangs after the stress of capture and transport – and she needs to be dewormed again. Her winter coat hasn’t completely shed out, so she’s matted and dirty. She’s not much to see, yet. But when I look at her, I see the lovely horse she’ll grow into and I’m glad she’s here.

(And it broke my heart when the wrangler said, “I’m surprised you didn’t go for the roans or the palominos. No one chooses the plain ones!” I told him I was perfectly capable of looking beneath the color of the coat to find a good horse, and I’m sorry I was ever prejudiced against grays. Of course, if anyone has advice on how to prevent melanoma, I’m anxious to hear it! Plus, it will be loads of fun to watch her coat change as she grows.)

Trinity was very anxious when she heard the trailer rattling into her pasture, and then when the baby stepped off, she got SO EXCITED.

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The baby is a bit of a firecracker – she kicked at Trinity when she thought she was going to lose her pile of hay, and she has no problem asserting herself – but she’s respectful of people and their personal space, so she’s not quite as physically dominant as Trinity was when we brought her home.

I’m looking forward to working with her and seeing what she’ll be like once she settles in. Right now, she’s a little uncertain of her surroundings and tired from the long trailer ride, so I’ll keep things pretty low key for a few days.

First goal: remove the plastic tag from her neck and brush the mats off her coat.IMG_2782

(Her goal is, I believe, to suck up every blade of grass in her pen before someone else gets it!)

 

 

Books read in May…

  • BAYOU MAGIC by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON by Kelly Barnhill
  • THE READER by Traci Chee
  • FEAST OF SORROW by Crystal King
  • THE PERFECT DISTANCE by Kim Ablon Whitney
  • SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder
  • DRAGON TEETH by Michael Crichton
  • THE UNTOLD by Courtney Collins