Taina Beginning to Explore

Those of you who don't know Taina, she's one of the most damaged horses I've ever met. She came to us last summer as an extreme neglect case, she was emaciated and lame when she stumbled off the truck and up our driveway to her new home. Over the next few weeks we unwrapped layers of her terrible past. With X-rays and grooming the filth off her body we learned she's had the ligaments cut in her tail so it forms the "J" shape so popular in the Paso Fino shows. Her legs lashed with whip marks from dancing in pillars, and her trachea crushed from being roped in rodeo events. As her winter coat grows in the white marks of scars become more and more apparent all over her body. Emotionally she was much worse than physically, which is hard to imagine. When it was time for any sort of interaction she'd tuck her head into the back corner of her stall and tremble while we haltered her and began whatever treatment was needed. While she'd stand near the front of her stall and carefully take handfuls of treats from us, she would leap away at the first sign of danger. Soon her fear began to fade and her feeling of control expressed as aggression. She rapidly learned she could keep humans at a safe distance with her beautiful dragon impersonation.

She settled into this comfortable pattern of defending her stall and never wanting to leave. If we walked her out, she'd march herself back in. If we locked her out she'd pace frantically. She won't interact with any other horse or graze out on her own. The few times she attempted to socialize or enjoy the outdoors, the baby Celest would lunge at her and she'd flee back to her stall. While her days went smoothly and our little trainings were going well, the more she began to love her stall, the more avidly she defends her stall. She's become progressively more open around people, so long as we don't threaten her food or swing our pitchfork too quickly. But we're working step by step to help her become comfortable leaving her safety bubble.

Janneke is here and helped me come up with a game plan to help my sweet T expand her shrinking universe. As always we want to inspire curiosity and play, this contradicts the fear and defensive reclusiveness she's experiencing. We decided it would definitely be too stressful for us to try to lure her out into the world. Using clicker training to encourage her out would put undo pressure on the outside world and create a conflict. So instead we decided to bring bits and pieces of the world to her. We started with simple objects, toys, and food producing toys. She was comfortable with the ball like objects, and sorted out her treat ball quickly! The pool noodle was a bit more concerning but she sorted it out when it was brought half way out of her stall and she could approach it in her own way. Each day we introduce new objects into her stall, nothing concerning or upsetting, and allow her to take her time deciding how to feel about it.

We also spend some time each day doing some simple training. Recently we've begun spending time in the barn aisle training anything she'd like to work on. We've been training Wisp with the new tumble mats so I introduced Taina to them as well. I hoped she would explore them at best, but she confidently triumphed this new challenge!! She had no trouble stepping right on and enjoying the comforts of the mat. So today we worked on getting all 4 feet on the mat at the same time!! She did so well.

Since we started implementing these new approaches, she's been starting to inch out of her shell! We even caught her outside several times. The first time she was very anxious and when we went to jackpot her wonderful decision she couldn't quite handle taking the treats, even though she had brought herself outside. The next day however, I brought her a treat ball outside and she spent several minutes playing with it! But came back in when she saw I was cleaning her stall.