The last few days I've been focusing greatly on the broodmare - let's just call her Lyb. Tuesday
, we started with catching. She was still quite shy, but, when I let her know that I am not chasing her, but rather following her, copying her movements and ceasing any pressure as soon as she looked at me or even stopped, she let me come closer and was okay with being haltered. To continue, we left the paddock and she was reminded that it is possible to stand still by my side, not prance around as soon as the herd is behind her. She caught up the idea sooner than the last time and we were ready to go to our training field, where a girl was lunging her horse and a yearling was running loose - something that can worry Lyb a lot. To get to the field, we had to cross a large puddle, which she was very afraid of at first and jumped over it, when asked to cross, but, crossing it repeatedly with the approach-retreat method, soon helped her to cross it in a nervous trot, then - a nervous walk, and finally in a calm walk, with head lowered and licking&chewing, noticeably relaxed.
In the field, she handled being around fast moving horses surprisingly well. Apart from a couple of spooks, during which she tried to bolt in-hand, but now stops quickly when her face meets the pressure of halter, rather than exploding in a canter around me, that was our starting point a few sessions earlier. She also had one panic attack when a bike rider suddenly emerged from behind a huge hedge, and tried to run over me blindly, but I managed to block this move and back her up fast. We worked on walking, stopping and backing up in sync, disengaging her fore- and hindquarters, de-spooking to whips and touch all over her body, lowering her head and, finally, lifting her legs.
I still didn't bother her hind legs, feeling that she needs to gain more trust in me, before I put any pressure to this zone, but I ran a rope down and around her front legs and started lifting them. After lifting them with the rope, she was quick to let me lift and hold her left fore with my hand, but was still reluctant to let me hold her right fore. As her hooves were in dramatic state, it was clearly uncomfortable for her to stand only on her left fore. I was content with the success, however, and I didn't want to put too much pressure on her, so we finished the session. My main goal is to lead her to relaxation and trust in people, because, as for now, she'd rather be on her own - however, she is slowly opening up. Wednesday
I went for Lyb in the paddock where she was standing farther away from the other horses, watching my gelding and his buddy play under two huge willow trees. Although I had intended to catch Lyb, instead of it I climbed a willow tree and watched the boys play and, finally, joined them, running with Snickers, playing tag, grooming and petting him, and the two boys were very eager to participate. In process, I noticed how Lyb is creeping closer with a very curious look in her eyes - she really looked surprised to see that horses can actually choose to be and have fun with humans!
It felt just right for this moment, so I approached her and showed the halter, asked for permission to put it on her. She hesitated a second, looked once more at the two boys, who were standing relaxed right behind me, and then lowered her head, letting me halter her so easily as never before. What a great gift!
Together we then went outside the paddock and stayed in a patch of grass close to it, so that she could see the herd and be more relaxed, as I wanted to work with her legs in as calm an environment as possible. Lyb seemed as a different horse. She was much, much calmer than on Tuesday, we progressed greatly in backing up, coming up to me, yielding her quarters, lowering her head and despooking. She read my body language with great sensitivity and finally was tuning into me, without her attention running wildly to anything that was happening around instead. When we progressed to working with her legs, I could lift her left fore with no effort at all and used my whip to imitate rasping and hoof cleaning. She was as calm as a pudding during that! The right fore was more resistant, but still better, and I finally went over to her hind legs. The violent kicker I had met when we first started working was gone. I lifted both hinds with the rope and she just held them up - a little nervous, but trying to trust and relax.
Her owner wanted to groom her in her box stall after that, but I was called back to her after a moment, as the mare had grown anxious without the herd, was pacing in her stall and her owner couldn't put a halter on. I entered, backed her up whenever she wanted to run me over in her herdbound reactions, and finally she settled down, exhaled, lowered her head and let me halter her. Which means I'll have to train her owner in haltering her as well.
Lyb was then lead outside, when one of our trimmers appeared and offered to try and do her hooves. Lyb seemed very calm again so I agreed to try. And this was our great New Years' miracle - Lyb let ALL of her hooves be lifted, including the hinds, and let ALL of them be trimmed! Her face changed expressions from tense to surprised that humans are really not hurting her and are letting her to balance herself, if needed, and from surprised to greatly relieved, as much of the pain she was suffering in her deformed hooves was finally lifted. Her owner was crying and hugging Lyb and me as well, and I was near tears myself - such a sign of trust from a severely frightful horse! Her hooves were trimmed the first time in SIX years, as she was too hard to handle because of her kicking, and now, only after for sessions or so, she can finally walk without pain! What a great way to begin this year. I will certainly continue working with Lyb and am excited on her future progress.