Angel came to live at my house nine months ago, on December 26, 2010. Just to keep it in perspective, this is Angel the day she arrived at the San Martin Animal Shelter on December 9, 2010.
Nine months later, on Sept. 30 and Oct. 2, 2011, Angel attended her first Jerry Tindell natural horsemanship clinic. This was her second trip across the tarp. At this clinic it became obvious that someone had spent some time with her and put a training foundation on her earlier in her life. Most horses do not look like this the first time they walk across a tarp!
For the first nine months, I had never cleaned Angel's back feet. With her history of kicking and defensive posturing at the beginning of our relationship, I was afraid of her back feet. So I had never cleaned them. My goal for the first day of the clinic was to successfully clean her back feet. Just for fun, I am including photos to show that cleaning her back feet is now easy to do. This is the right hind.
This is the left hind. You can see she is calm (bored?) and doesn't seem bothered in the slightest. She has not threatened to kick in about six months. I am hoping she no longer feels the need to protect herself with her back feet. My initial goals for the clinic were low - I only wanted to feel safe enough to clean her back feet!
Jerry worked with her back feet first. He used the rope around her feet and legs, around her belly and girth and flank. She was not bothered by the rope at all. It seemed obvious to me that someone had worked with her before, getting her used to ropes all over the sensitive areas of her body. She was much more competent with the rope than I was.
Angel crossed the tarp both directions, stopped and turned on it, backed across it and did not seem to care. Having previously owned a horse who was terrified of tarps, I was amazed by her incredibly calm response. Again, I do not believe this was the first tarp she had walked across.
I was completely blown away by her non-response to the tarp. This is mostly because getting Nick across the tarp was such an ordeal and literally required hours of work. Looks to me like someone else did the work for me. I just don't know who it is or how to tell them thank you.
Angel shocked me and did so well at the first day of the clinic, I decided to bring her back for a second day and see what else she knew. On the second day, I worked with a plastic bag on the end of a lunge whip. Not her favorite thing in the world. But the worst thing that she did was to trot fast to get away from it.
It did not take her long to accept the plastic bag. She was not thrilled about it, but she did trust me enough to stand still and allow me to rub it on her.
I was truly shocked by how quiet and calm she was at this clinic. It made me wonder if she has been a ranch horse. She stood quietly and patiently while others worked with cattle. She seemed at home on the ranch and not at all concerned about all the other people, horses and cattle.
This is what she looked like for most of two days. Initially, I was afraid she was getting sick or something! But now I don't think so. I think she felt comfortable and at home on a ranch and was glad to have work to do.
In fact, she did so well, I've got a training program in mind to start getting her ready to ride! She needs to develop aerobic stamina and back muscles. And we will continue to work on helping her become quieter, softer and more trusting. But wow! Stay tuned - there's a new horse in town!