Her beauty was the first thing that caught my eye, along with the fact that she had a foal at her side. We were there looking for young horses to bring into the JMHA training program, and her foal was not only beautifully formed, but also seemed more calm than others in the holding pens. The colt was taken into training, was given the name "Tahoe" (pictured in my blog title bar) and quickly his sweet temperament made him a favourite with nearly everyone who met him. So each time I went to the holding pens I made sure I looked for "Tahoe's mom".
The next thing I noticed about this mare was her commanding presence. The first time I seen her she had not been in captivity for long. She was completely terrified. Yet, she didn't run about like the others, rather she stood and with harsh glances and flicks of her ears she orchestrated all of the other horses in the pen to act as a shield between herself and the humans she was afraid of. She struck me as not a typical boss mare, but somehow more regal, queen-like. A month or so passed before I returned to the holding facility. Things had changed some for #7283, she was calmer, more adjusted to her new circumstances, and she was in a pen with two different mares. Once again though, it was clear she was in charge.
I asked for permission to enter the pen to conduct a couple brief tests to check how she might respond to training. I tried to see how little it took to attract and keep her attention. It was easy to get her attention, but I could only get part of it because she was using the rest of her focus to manoeuvre the other two mares in the pen to stay between us. Her "body guards" were very reluctant because they were clearly terrified of me, but were also not about to disobey the queen of the corral! After a few minutes she was actually willing to take a few steps towards me, which really made her entourage worried because she was still insisting with extremely subtle cues, that they stay between us. By this time I was intrigued by her amazingly strong and gentle domination of the herd.
At our third meeting #7283 was in a pen alone, again I asked to "talk" to her highness. Right away she made it clear I was not worth getting upset about. I continued as before, doing as little as I could to hold her attention, soon she was consistently turning to face me. So then I upped the game, approaching straight to her face watching for the moment she seemed uncomfortable with my proximity. When I seen her get nervous I would pause for a second or two and then retreat to the far corner of the pen. After only a few minutes of that game she was taking the lead in the game, each time I took a step towards her she would start moving toward me, which of course I rewarded by retreating back to my corner. Before an hour was over I could just look at her and draw her forward one step. In that way I drew her one step at a time across the pen into my corner. She was less than 8 feet away from me when I decided to call it a day and ducked out between the fence rails.
After that it was decided she was too good a horse to be adopted by someone who would value her only for the foal she carried, she deserves a chance to prove her own value in the human world. We gave #7283 the name "Crystal" partly in honour of her son "Tahoe". Crystal Bay is the largest bay in lake Tahoe.
Crystal has only been here a couple hours and already she has made herself very much at home. We have "talked" briefly, and already she has approached me to closer than an arms length, but isn't quite ready for me to stretch my arm out in her direction yet. I plan to go very slow with her because I don't want to stress her out this close to foaling, and I will continue to be slow for the safety of the baby after it arrives. I will try to keep a brief, day by day, log of our training sessions and hope to have pictures and videos to add here soon.