Monday, March 21, 2011

Giant Step Forward!

This will be brief. But I want to share what felt to me like a huge step forward for Angel. This past Saturday, March 19, was a cold, windy, stormy day. Debbie Krimsley was scheduled to give Angel a cranio-sacral bodywork session and I wanted to cancel. It was very cold and very windy and I thought Angel would be upset by the storm and agitated and jumping around. So I suggested to Debbie that we cancel and she said, "I'm game to do it." So I met Debbie at Angel's paddock, expecting the session to last less than fifteen minutes because I thought Angel would be too agitated from the wind.
Debbie said that Angel walked up to greet her when she arrived, which is a huge improvement. Until very recently, Angel would turn tail and run away from everyone but the bringer of dinner.

The summary is, Angel stood still, quiet and visibly happy, for one hour and fifteen minutes while Debbie worked on her. Debbie was able to touch and massage body areas she has not been able to touch before. She was even able to massage her poll, forehead, jaws and ears! Woohoo!! That was a big first.

Angel had her head down, licking and chewing, throughout the entire session. She usually had one foot relaxed and resting, and she stood rock still while the gale blew around her. She genuinely seemed happy. Angel's response to this session made me think there may be hope for her after all.

I wrote Debbie an email to tell her thank you for coming out in the freezing cold and wind to donate a session to Angel. She wrote back, "It's my pleasure! She's such a doll and it's a privilege to see her blossom under your care. I'm really excited by today's progress." I was really excited about the day's progress also!

For one hour and fifteen minutes Angel allowed Debbie to mess around with her head, her withers, her back, her ribs and various acupressure points and she did not pin her ears once or threaten to kick once. That is HUGE progress! She looked like a quiet, confident, relaxed, well-behaved backyard horse. I was thrilled and amazed. Debbie is a quiet, confident, brave and sensitive horsewoman and she has clearly won Angel's trust. It was very cool to watch.

There are no photos from the day because I was so cold I didn't want to mess around with a camera. And the driving rain and wind made it all look pretty dismal. But Miss Angel was a shining star. She seemed to realize that Debbie is a good person there to help her and she seemed to relax and enjoy the attention. For Angel to stand quietly for one hour and fifteen minutes without pinning her ears or threatening to kick once was as big a transformation as the "My Fair Lady" scene where Eliza Doolittle passes as a lady at the Embassy Ball. "The rain in [Gilroy] stays mainly in the plain!" Maybe she should be called "Eliza."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Springing Forward

Today Angel looked like a "normal" or perhaps an "average" horse. An untrained eye would look at her and see a "normal-looking" horse with no glaring physical or behavioral issues. Angel arrived at my house eleven weeks ago, weighing approximately 750 lbs. with a Body Condition Score of 2 (on a scale of 1 through 9 and 5 - 6.5 being ideal). Today the weight tape showed that she has gained 200 lbs. and with the vet-recommended adjustments to the weight tape, she probably weighs about 940 lbs. Her Body Condition Score has risen from a 2 to 4.5 or 5.

I groomed her for the first time in several weeks. She stood quietly, calmly and seemed to enjoy my company. To an untrained eye, she would have looked well-behaved. A trained eye might have wondered why I didn't tie her up instead of working with her untied? (The answer is: she doesn't pull back or rear if I don't tie her up.) She did not attempt to kick or move away from me. I also know her better now and didn't ask for anything that I thought would provoke a kick.

I have been so busy working for the past several weeks, I have not done much with Angel except feed her. Every morning and night I would feed her and check on her and talk with her for a few minutes, but there wasn't time for any more than that. Her only job was to eat, gain weight, and relax a little. Today it looked like she has been doing her job well.

Her coat still looks a little weird. Angel arrived at the Santa Clara County Animal Shelter in San Martin about 250 lbs. underweight. Because of malnutrition, her coat is still coarse, wiry and dull. Her skin is flaky and dry. She is just starting to shed her strange, wiry winter coat and I am very interested in seeing what kind of a summer coat comes in its place. I am hoping that good nutrition for the past eleven weeks is going to be enough to allow her to grow a soft, shiny, healthy-looking coat.

Now that her winter coat is shedding and she is filling out, I am noticing more scars and white spots on her. There are white spots all along her spine, all the way to the tail bone. They are not sensitive to touch, but they clearly look like scars from something. She also appears to have scars across her nose, from a too-tight halter left on continuously or perhaps a rough hackamore. The white scars across the bridge of her nose show something was not right in her unknown past.

Today I cleaned her left front foot for the first time. This is the first (and only) one of Angel's hooves I have cleaned so far. She is very mistrustful and will not allow me to hold her foot off the ground more than a half a second (literally) before she slams it back onto the ground. I have been attempting to handle and hold her front feet for a few weeks. I have not tried to lift a back foot yet. I am too afraid of being kicked in the head. But today she allowed me to hold her left front foot long enough to hastily clean it. This is a huge improvement from the last time I tried. She still would not allow me to hold her right front foot more than one second. We will continue to work on that. I have no plans at the present to attempt anything with her back feet. That will come in time, when there is more trust flowing between us. I will be wearing a helmet when and if I ask for a back foot from her.

Tonight our clocks "Spring Forward" into Daylight Saving Time. I am hoping that more light in the evenings will give me a little more time to play and work with Angel. I still miss Nick terribly. I cry almost every day because I still miss him so much. He died eleven weeks ago and it feels like it was yesterday. But little Angel is settling down and warming up and I am very grateful to have her living outside my window.