I got back too late yesterday to do much with Rocky so I hung out in the pasture. And today was intense, four phone interviews for a freelance article plus research plus, oh yeah, “day job” client work. So while I technically could have brought Rocky in to play around dinnertime (mine and his), I didn’t.
Instead, I went out and stood next to him while he munched his hay, and watched the mares sort themselves out.
I’m not sure where Paco was, but Rociada has joined the Back 40, and it gave Star someone to peck. Cheyenne then had to keep Star out of her space as Star focused on Rociada and forgot to pay attention to Cheyenne. Which meant that Riley had to burst into the fray from time to time and scatter the other three mares.
Rocky and I stayed by his pile of hay for half an hour while this went on. Star occasionally came over to see me or nudge him, but he just swished his tail and kept eating, and she was too excited by the new arrival to relax and eat. Rociada made a few dashes toward me and I pointed at zone 1 to send her to a clear area around me. Only later did I start to wonder if she was actually seeking safety behind me, as when I walked around, she tried to follow, but I – sigh – drove her off. Gently, with phase 1. But still.
Until I moved here last December, I’d never seen horses interact as a herd — and I’d had my own horse for a year. Now, I can see where all seven games come from, and how the horses give plenty of warning (phases) before they actually make contact. That Rocky has a (new) suspiciously hoof-shaped cut on his haunch makes me wonder just what he gets up to when I can’t see him.
Both last night and tonight, he perked and gave me permission to approach. Last night the hay was gone and he came to me when I let myself in. Tonight, I could tell he wanted me to come to him, as he had a hay pile all to himself and would lose it if he moved. He snuffled me and sighed a little when I scratched him, and he didn’t even tense or twitch when Riley walked over. For tonight, anyway, he trusted me to keep her off his back.
It feels really good to be far enough along in the journey (though still so at the beginning!) to recognize the subtle signs of the relationship growing, and to see how such “little” things make such a huge difference.