So its been three months since Savannah arrived on our doorstep, and she gone from being skeletal to being an awesome horse, however she has been taking my equine education to a whole new level! I will talk about that in a moment!
She has also had a name change - We have re-named her Grace, When she slinked down the ramp off the transporter, my first thought was how graceful she looked, When she moves, even when she spooks she does it gracefully, She has had numerous visitors in her time with us who have all mentioned how graceful she looks, there is an air of graciousness about her, and so it seems fitting to name her Grace. So bye bye Savannah, Hello Grace!
When you take on a rescue horse it's like trying to sort out a massive jigsaw puzzle. What does she know, what doesn't she know, one minute she's ok with life next second she's not! Things you think are going to scare her don't and the things like massive lorries she doesn't bat an eye lid with, yet a sheep might have her leaping out of her skin!
She has really opened my eyes with her teachings and is making me a better horsewoman, I have to up my game - again! ( funny I seem to have to do this with every new horse on our yard!)- If i do something too fast or too difficult for her at that moment then life for her is very much not ok!
However if I slow right down (and I mean slower than slow) then life is good and we manage to keep all our feet on the floor!
She is teaching me about being more flexible, I may go out with an agenda, start working with her and she tells me exactly what she thinks of my agenda, but funnily enough by letting her dictate the speed at which we work, I am actually progressing much faster than I thought i could with her education!
Time wise, the last couple of months have been a bit odd, there has been SO much i have wanted to do with her, and her mind is ready for it, however her body just wasn't strong enough (another lesson in slowing down and waiting!! ) So our first winter together has been a combination of slow (when she feels like it!) groundwork and stuffing more food into her! Grace is sponsored by The Pure Feed Company, they do a range of balanced feeds which mimic the horse's natural diet, it is combined with probiotics, vitamins and minerals, and is all in one bag so there is no need to add supplements, We were giving her 6 small feeds per day, plus ad lib hay, steadily she put weight on, and then ironically she looked fat! This was partly due to having no muscles I might add! She is now on a more normal diet of three feeds per day, and she looks great, I am so grateful to John and Lou from The Pure Feed Company, I cannot recommend their feeds highly enough.
As far as work goes,it is only now in the last week or so I have been able to actually start working seriously with her, due to her body condition! Like i said earlier, her mind was ready to do work, but her body was not, There are some mental scars there though so it is not all plain sailing!
Someone asked me yesterday am I riding her yet? - Ah, well no not yet you see we have a little issue there, here is where the scars show up! Someone has tried to get a saddle on her in the past and messed up, they left her in a bad place mentally. Things on her back scare her big time, So we have to slow down again!
I wondered if she could cope with a rope around her belly, Nope! but she could cope with it on her back, same session, 10 minutes later she could manage the rope around her belly. So things are not taking forever, she just need the time work it out that these things are not going to eat her and that she's not going to die!
Could she cope with a blanket on? Now i did try this a little while ago it wasn't pretty! Carefully I placed it on her, managed to get it over her back and she appeared ok, she licked and chewed, and sighed and then ------- Boom! She could have given any professional bucking horse a run for its money! What felt like a lifetime later, I managed to get it off her again, and yep! She calmly walked out of the arena and into her stable waiting for her carrot as though nothing had happened!
So I approached this rugging session A LOT slower! There were some snorts, there were some strikes and kicks, but this time she hung in there mentally, while wearing the blanket, I gave her a piece of carrot, and asked for a couple of steps - she breathed in, lifted her head, her ears went back (I'm waiting for the boom!) but instead of blowing up she quietly stepped forward, lowered her head and breathed out. I have made a point of rugging her each day, not because she needs it, but to to help her tolerate something on her back and around her belly, and touch wood, I still have my stable intact! so at the moment life is good! There is a lesson in there about being in the moment! That moment she was ok, while I was holding onto the past and waiting for the explosion. Horses live in the moment!
I have also ponied her out from Pepper, our quarter horse mare, who is very experienced in taking youngsters around the country side!
However this particular day not only did I have another lesson in waiting but so did Pepper! We started off good, Grace came up alongside, and we were off on our trail ride, cars, lorries, motorbikes passed us and everything was fine, and I'm thinking, this is easy,and being far to blasé! then! a horse whinnied from a field, and that was that, the trail ride was over!
Grace planted her feet in the middle of the road, bellowed at this pony and refused to move, I dallied her onto my saddle and told Pepper to go, which in fairness she tried, Pepper is leaning forward and Grace is leaning back and we were going nowhere! So I tried pushing Grace off balance with Pepper, which moved her half a step, So we went back to pulling her again, and yes, we were stuck. By this time traffic was building up and a man asked me if we were ok? Yes I said we're fine! To which he says "you look like you're stuck" really! I replied.
In the end I had to give in and get off Pepper, to which grace stepped forward and went into the loveliest forward going walk she's ever done outside the arena! Mmm, this Grace is a smart cookie! I led her to a track away from traffic and got back on Pepper, after that , Grace was a dream, She led up alongside, trotted when I asked, walked when I asked, and stopped at road junctions. She just needed the time to listen to the pony, work out if it was a threat or someone she knew, and come off pressure when she was ready - because I was on the road (even though at the time there was no traffic) I "needed" her to get off pressure NOW - it was too much for her. Yes another lesson in being patient!
So we are a week into serious work and my learning curve was really a vertical straight line upwards, Grace tries so hard to please, however I have to be mindful that there are scars in there and not force my wants and needs onto her too fast too soon, I also have to learn to take her at face value and not look too deep into what is not working, I need to slow down and break exercises down into pieces which she can cope with and learn from, I need to allow my ideas to become her ideas rather than making her do things. These are lessons all horses teach us, but with Grace these lessons are really important!
I am lucky, Grace will never be for sale, She will be with us for life, so I am not up against time to get her to a certain level of training, but the really interesting thing is that by slowing down, slower than I thought i needed to go! I am actually progressing faster than I ever thought!