Do you remember the first week of your freshman year in high school? Getting used to the layout, your classes, where your locker was, making sure you were on the right bus to go home. Speaking of classes, I remember that first week was not too heavy on challenging your brain either, apart from filling out every possible form, reviewing the syllabus for the semester, and getting permission slips signed by your parents to participate in certain activities.
I believe that our teachers knew that we were on sensory overload, and didn’t push us as hard as they could have.
I feel this is a great way to look at a horse’s first week at their new barn. Think about it: they are in a new place, with new friends and possibly a bully, they are figuring out the schedule your barn works on, and when and where recess takes place. So this is why the first week having a horse at home I take it easy on them. I allow them to get comfortable with their surroundings and the way things work. I make sure I patiently explain the rules to them in a way that is easily understood.
Why not give a horse a chance to settle in before you start quizzing them? Why not take it easy and show them around the farm from the ground? Time is on your side in this instance and I believe taking that time with a new and especially a young horse helps increase your bond with them. Taking it easy that first week seems to build that ever so important trust with a new horse. After all isn’t the goal here to have your horse trust you?
More than likely that person you were friends with that first week of high school was the friend you trusted for the rest of the year, possibly rest of high school, and possibly long after. That is what this first week has been for Dancing Ruth.
I have gone out of my way to spend plenty of one on one time with her. I’m not asking too much of her but am taking the time to explain the rules that horses here are expected to follow. Mostly, I’m focused on building that trusting bond between her and I.
I have truly loved watching this mare settle into her new herd, her new home, and her new life style. You could possibly say that I’m smitten with her, and you would be right, but nothing warms the heart more than when a horse lets you in.
I have not pushed Ruth hard as I know this new bond is fragile. I want to be that teacher to her like the one I still look fondly back on today. That one that took the extra time and the extra energy to see me succeed.
Ruth has taken to this new home better then I expected. She has also figured out her place in the herd rather quickly. She knows the sound of my truck already and therefore knows when feeding time is. She has learned I am not a jungle gym to be climbed on but rather I am the one she will turn to when she has questions. Ruth is smart and this will be one of her greatest traits but could also be our biggest obstacle.
I believe putting in the extra effort the first week and giving your horse the opportunity to settle will pay dividends in the near future. Take your time, relax, and allow your horse to take it all in.