I took Salsa and Jedi on our loop walk last Friday, including the spur trail to the hills behind the school.
The loop+spur includes: crossing a busy road, goats, barking dogs, walking on a residential street, cars, trucks, motorcycles, cyclists, cats, children, shrubbery, wooden footbridges, ditches, hills, boulders, stumps, trees, open grassy field, school buildings, kids on skateboards, runners on a track, and probably a myriad of other “obstacles” I didn’t notice or don’t remember.
Jedi got to run around like a puppy off leash and Salsa proved himself unconcerned with new environments. In fact, Salsa’s only concern appears to be eating. He grazes like it’s his last meal before a long winter: crop crop crop CROP CROP CROP CROP CROP CROP CROP CROP CROP. I wonder if he will fear starvation for the rest of his life, and be an LBE who lives for food rather than play?
We walked and trotted and grazed, and when we got home, Salsa stood relatively still for grooming. It’s the first time I’ve been able to curry and brush him like a real pony without him pacing, pawing, tensing up, or bobbing his head. I looped his rope through the tie ring and put music on the barn stereo and treated him like a normal horse. He picked up each foot and held it for me to clean as if he’s done so every day of his life.
Then I turned him loose in the arena and he stuck with me. Jedi was acting out his feelings about having to share his walk with a horse, so I allowed him in the arena and paid attention to him, throwing his ball and talking to him as if Salsa weren’t right there. We got into a good rhythm of fetch and Salsa wandered off to roll. But when he returned, all three of us rested at the pedestal for a while. I scratched both of them in their itchy spots and it turned into a nice stretch of undemanding time.
At one point, Salsa put his chin on my shoulder and rested it there, his eyes half closed. It was A Moment.
When I got up to move around, Salsa followed me again, so I started trying a bit of liberty. We have played touch it so he knows about driving game and obstacles — we’re still working on porcupine — and we did a little bit of that at liberty.
Finally, when I brought out the halter, he put his nose in it. Usually he evades, tipping his nose away and giving a “what are ya gonna do about it” look with one eye. I don’t take him up on the invitation to wrestle, ever. I just wait. Eventually he nudges the halter, at which point I decide whether to put it on or whether to keep waiting until he’s impatient about shoving his nose in the loop. (It depends on if I’m going back to work or not after the session.)
He’s really starting to engage with me, although it’s still mostly because I am the Cookie Comptroller. However, once he’s sure the cookies are gone, he still chooses to hang out with me, even when I start doing things that make him nervous, like flicking the carrot stick around or loudly folding up the blanket I’m planning to try on him when he’s ready to accept it.
It’s been two months since The Day and he has learned about haltering, feet cleaning, feet trimming, dental care, grooming, superficial bathing, trail walks, turnouts with other horses, friendly game, porcupine game, driving game, touch-it pattern, and figure 8 pattern. Not to mention an entirely new lifestyle of care, protection, and food!
I hope it stays warm through next weekend, so I can really get in there and scrub him. He has a layer — a crust — of filth right at the base of his fur, and I’d like to get that taken care of before winter. It’s just taken this long for him to be ready for a real bath.