Sunday, February 6, 2011

Six Weeks and Settling In

Angel arrived six weeks ago today. She is beginning to settle in and settle down.
There is this item called "work" that prevented me from spending much time with Angel over the past two weeks. It keeps getting in the way of my horse "play time." But I am grateful to have work that I love and work that is meaningful. So I will not complain!

The most noteworthy occurrence of the past two weeks has actually been a non-occurrence (or is that the absence of an occurrence?). On February 3, Angel got her second round of vaccinations and she didn't kick at the vet! In fact, I have not observed a kick of any kind in the past two weeks. That is the absence of an occurrence. Yea!

On February 5, Angel got her second cranioscral bodywork session from Debbie Krimsley. And she didn't kick at Debbie, either. Yea! I think the truth is that we (myself, the vet, Debbie) are getting to know Angel better, so we know what she will tolerate and what she prefers. So we are guessing less and have more knowledge of her, which places Angel in the position of feeling less threatened and less of a need to defend herself, although she is still quite guarded.

Angel is a very clear communicator and she uses her ears well. If you pay attention to the flicks of her ears, she tells you exactly what she is thinking and feeling. She is not one of those horses that holds it in and surprises you with a reaction. Angel is honest and transparent, and she clearly communicates when she is happy and when she is not. That makes her relatively safe to work with, as long as you are paying attention.

The vet said Angel's Body Condition Score is now 4 - 4.5. That's up from 2 - 2.5 when she arrived at the shelter. (A score around 5 is considered healthy.) Angel is currently eating 3 flakes of alfalfa and 8 lbs. of senior feed per day and I will continue that for a while longer. She will also continue getting daily psyllium for a while longer. The alfalfa and psyllium are both thought to help with ulcers, which she almost certainly has, given that she was brought into the shelter starving.
She needs to have her teeth floated, because she has sharp points and drops food when she eats. But that will not be possible until she has more trust in humans and will allow someone to work around and handle her head more. Right now, the trauma of dental work would be a huge emotional setback for her. Her teeth are not so bad that they caused her to become thin.

The second craniosacral session was slightly less calm than the previous session. Angel was a little agitated. In the first fifteen minutes of the session a small airplane flew overhead with the engine backfiring (it sounded like gunfire), followed by five horseback riders GALLOPING down the road past the fence, followed by a large group of very loud motorcycles roaring past. After these noisy distractions, she calmed down and did "pretty" well, but it was a noisy afternoon!

Today I worked with her in the arena. She walked to the arena more calmly and ran with much less frantic energy. She still ran around exuberantly (that girl can run FAST!), but it seemed calmer and less insane than previous times. She calmed down quickly and was very agreeable to working on the halter rope. We worked on circles and backing and bending and she allowed me to put pressure on her head without her over-reacting. Her resistance is lessening and her over-reactions are diminishing. Instead of rearing when she feels pressure on the halter, now she bobs her head vigorously up and down, but her front feet stay on the ground. Yea!

I tried picking up her front feet today and that did not go very well. She allowed me to hold each foot about two seconds before jerking it out of my hand. She does not yet trust me to hold her foot up. She clearly wants all four feet on the ground, so she is ready to run if necessary. We will continue working on that. She is supposed to get her feet trimmed in the next couple of weeks!

All in all, working with her today made me smile. She is such a charming little mare who clearly wants to please. She both seeks out and fears human contact. But I have great hopes for her future. It will take time for her to learn to trust, and I don't know if she will ever be rideable, but we will give her time. She is still an Angel-in-Training. I believe some day the bell will ring and she will get her wings.