Taina’s Social Life

Taina has spent the last few weeks inside, she won't go out in the snow. She hates snow. We are introducing it bit by bit, bringing buckets in and hiding treats in the snow for her to snuffle out or paw in. She is starting to be ok with this idea. But this prolonged time indoors and our desire to stay in good spirits means we needed to look at ways to get her out of her stall. So we turned the barn aisle into an enrichment play pen for her. We scatter a variety of objects and toys and puzzle feeders around the aisle. This has WORKED!! Taina loves going out into the aisle, now if I open her door but leave her stall guard up she will whicker and buzz until I let her out to play. This is good for my heart. Until recently...

Now it's become the opposite struggle! I let Taina out in the aisle while I clean her stall but then she won't go back into her stall no matter how great the treat is! I always jackpot with her whole soup and lots of yummies in her stall, but it's not enough to outweigh the enrichment of the aisle. This is so good. It sounds like a problem, but really it's such a beautiful change in this horse. She eager wants to participate in her life. She wants to play, problem solve, and now even socialize. I have tried for the longest time putting her in paddocks next to other horses, or hand grazing her near other horses, or letting others into her paddock while she is in her stall. She has wanted NOTHING to do with other horses. Nothing. If her stall door was open so she could go out with the little ponies (Punk and Marshmallow, who are both very friend) she will run back to her stall and defend it violently if another horse comes near. If she is out in a paddock with another horse nearby she will pace at the gate of her paddock and panic, avoiding the other horses at all cost. She won't even try. But as she's become more in love with being in the aisle I'm providing less enrichment in the form of food. I save the food for luring her back into her stall. Now she gets to explore any new toys or objects we have out - or her new favorite thing to do is to take everyone else's things off their hooks. All the halters, blankets, and ropes are on the floor when she is done. She also loves to scratch her butt on Fable's blanket (the only horse in the barn who would actually be offended by this). But now she has explored beyond this, she has begun a routine of checking in with each horse who is in. She'll go and watch the donkey's play for a while - she is very curious about them! She hasn't figured them out yet, but they seem amusing. Then she and Fable touch noses and scream at each other many times. This is all very loud but not much else goes on. She goes and chats with Tank, this is also loud but tends to be short lived before Tank returns to eating. She loves to torture the baby mustang, Celest. She will spend many minutes outside his stall while he throws tantrums trying to chase her off. She is actually very much in love with Blitz and Wisp - while she still screams and pins her ears when they touch noses, she likes to line up next to their stalls and spend time beside them. She likes to watch the minis, but she hates the sheep very much, she would make an amazing sheep cutting horse! haha!

It's my belief that providing her with the ability to socialize with all the other horses in a way that she recognizes she is 100% safe from them was the best way for her to introduce herself. Her fear and anxiety about life was inhibiting her ability to socialize, but now she can do so in a way that she feels is safe for her. She also really enjoys smelling their blankets (especially if I've just taken them off), she will pull them off the wall and smell the insides. I think this really helped her get to know her new neighbors without the social pressure of getting along. I'm eager for Spring, I'm hoping her new appreciation for her equine friends will help further broaden her world.

 

We still do plenty of training sessions in the aisle, mostly we do targeting, stretches on her yoga mats, and playing with any new toys we have about. Her attitude has remarkably changed for the better. She is relaxed while we play (I mean she actually remembers to breath sometimes) and even enjoys a little problem solving. She is not as thrilled about people other than me and she hates things near her legs - but her time in the aisle has been helping her overcome this a great deal. Everyone has treats in their pockets and when they walk by her they give her a few. She gets used to us going in and out of the barn, going by her, moving objects like pitchforks and hoses around her - but with the space she feels safe. She can be a bit hostile about some of these things, but is rapidly growing more tolerant and relaxed with our antics. But this is why I can't always let her out in the aisle when we have things we need to get done without carefully skirting around her. Today she was doing so well socializing with all her friends and I had taken her blanket off without any big fuss. So I decided to see how she'd feel about being brushed. As you may have seen in the previous posts, we had tried desensitizing brushes - but there was much conflict and stress about any touch. Today however, we were in such a light and comfortable mood she happily allowed me to brush all of her, getting her coat fluffed up from being in her blanket. She even let me brush her legs, bum and belly. This is all huge. The whole time I was grooming her she was standing at liberty in the aisle, she was near the other horses and I'd step away before she squacked and shouted with the horses, but then returned for brushing. She seems very happy and relaxed! It was wonderful.