So, as some of you know, Stella can be a little bit spooky when she sees new things. Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not a scary spook, or even an overly dramatic one. She just kind of, well, stops dead for a second until she can figure out what she’s seeing. Then she moves on. Which isn’t so bad, but next year when she becomes a show pony, I will kind of really need her to stop doing that (imagine coming down the centre line toward the inevitable open horse trailer with people sitting in it…)
So, last Sunday, on a quiet, overcast morning, Stella and I set out with her rope halter and a camera to face our demons. We walked round and round the whole property, into and out of the barns, the wash stall, and the previously horribly scary new back barn door, until little miss Stella was confidently walking into, through and over every part of the farm.
Here’s a photo-journey of Stella becoming not afraid of everything she was afraid of:
We started with the old barn. See, Stella lives in the new barn, which is conveniently attached to the indoor arena. So far, the only times she’d been in the old barn were to have her teeth floated and her hooves trimmed. So it obviously wasn’t her favourite place. We practiced walking calmly in and out of the door (rather than her previous solution, which was to jump the rubber mat in front of the door and land in a skidding heap on the other side), and then we spent some time hanging out in the wash stall, just for kicks.
Next, we explored the path from the stable yard, along the side of the new barn, to the front paddocks. It’s a pretty narrow path, with a drop into the manure pile on one side, the barn on the other, and a rubber mat bridge certain to send a nervous horse over the edge (literally). A couple of goes, and Stella was managing it like an old pro.
With this under our belts, we felt it was time to move on to something a little more challenging – the path between the paddocks to the far end of the outdoor ring. Sounds easy, but because it runs along the paddocks, and the horses like to run up and see who’s walking along it, it can become a little nerve-wracking for a Nervous Nelly. Nonetheless, Stella handled it with ease (and even stopped along the way to pick at some grass).
With this feat under our belts, we felt we were ready to take on the biggest challenge of all – a walk up the long driveway to the road. It’s tricky, going away from all your friends, with cars coming and going, and pheasants and partridge jumping out of the bushes at you… but Stella didn’t even bat a pretty little eyelash. And I realized that the reason for that was that so far, she had come to no harm in any of the places I’d ask her to go.
Stella was starting to realize I would never put her in harm’s way. She was trusting me. And once you gain a horse’s trust, they will go anywhere, and do anything for you. And that, really, is what it’s all about. Right?