I'm so glad my little writeup about Chief struck so many of you! I loved getting all your emails and comments, thank you! I appreciate all the sentiments and well wishes more than you know.
I spent a good portion of my time today working with a cute little bay girl named "Girlie," who I have since decided should be renamed. Girlie just doesn't suit her. She's sassy, pretty, and full of potential. I learned from Erin, who is the creme de la creme at Akindale that Girlie's registered name is Privileged Terms. So I think we should call her....Paris.
My first encounter with Paris on Tuesday was a bit frenetic. I don't know much about her, except she was neglected and just not loved or handled before she grew up - and she's a big girl. She also clearly doesn't trust people, and has no confidence in herself.
On Tuesday, I just spent some time grooming her, petting her and letting her know she can trust me. I didn't challenge her other than having her move away from me when I put my hand on her belly and said, "Over." Paris was so concerned about where her friends in her field were, what they were doing, that she would forget I was with her, and she just reacted to her anxiety. I don't think she stood still for more than 10 seconds at a time on Tuesday.
Today was a different day.
After slightly struggling getting a halter on her in her field (she had forgotten I was the good guy!), she allowed me to lead her quietly into the barn.
After some hello snuffles and a carrot or two, I set to work brushing her, talking to her, and giving her the attention she's lacked for so long.
I love being surprised by horses, and Paris really showed her true colors today. The walls came down just a little bit, and she gave me a big sigh of relief and stood like an angel on a slack lead rope. I curried, hard and soft brushed her, as well as picked up her feet and generally worked around her. She seemed to soften before my eyes.
After that, I began working on her manners and challenged her. With Erin's help, I brought her out to her field, with all her friends in it, and attempted to keep her focus on me - asking her to stop and walk by watching my body language. Even though we had some fans following us around (and at one point I had a whole Thoroughbred conga line), she quickly came back to focus on me and what I was asking her to do. We repeated this three times - just walking into and back out of the barn, making her stand quietly, and then working with her amongst her herdmates. I was thrilled with her progress.
Lastly, I asked her to walk out a separate, smaller barn door - into an open space with no other horses, and scary things like the road, cars, a house across the street - all sorts of distractions awaited us. Paris questioned my judgement, and it took about 3 or 4 minutes before she decided to trust me and follow me out. But what waited for her on the other end was lush, delicious grass! She got lots of praise and was allowed to graze for a few moments before I brought her back in. That in and of itself was a challenge, as it was going from bright sunlight into a dark barn - even though she'd been out the door, going back in, it looks completely different.
Although she snorted and showed me she was scared, after a minor hesitation, in we went. After that, I brought her back out to her field and released her to play with all her buddies. But not before giving her a final carrot, and telling her how proud I was and how grateful I was that she trusted me - even just a little bit.