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Diego -
a foster for Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society

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Introduction
Diego arrived on January second, a cold, bleak, and rainy winter morning.  It had been raining non-stop it seems like and the backyard and pastures were all wet.  The milk cows were looking out from the cover of the barn and the sheep creeped around the corner to see what the commotion was about. 
 
A lovely appaloosa gelding, Diego was nervous and unsure of his surroundings.  He wasn’t sure why he had come, only that his person had brought him.  We turned him out into the small pasture at the house and the sheep immediately came over to inspect him.  They nosed at each other and it was a great first start.  The cows moved out of the way, not sure what to expect from the new comer, but the calves were true to their curious and investigative nature-Diego quickly found himself surrounding by the little buggers. 
 
He found the shelter, the water, and the hay.  He examined the open stalls in the barn and noted the exits.  He was less than impressed with Sophie, the dog.  He was pleased to find the left over molasses lick I had put in there a while back for the milk cows.  There wasn’t much left but he sure went to work on it.  Most of the critters stayed in the barn that day.  It was cold, wet, soggy, and dank out. 
 
Day One
After allowing Diego a few days to settle I wanted to spend some time to get to know him.  We had been told that he trailers and that he is green broke.  Also that he takes some time to get warmed up to you and that he prefers women to men.  All this is great information and of course I’m happy to get what information I can but I try not to take anything as fact until I’ve been able to verify for myself where the horse is standing. 
 
Sunday I went out to the pasture with a halter.  He sure knows what a halter is, let me tell you.  The minute I walked through that gate and looked at him he was gone.  This is hardly my first experience with a halter shy horse so we spent a few minutes in the pasture learning that running away is hard work but standing still is easy. 
 
Once the halter was on he was still a bit jumpy but led well.  We walked around the backyard – practicing our walk-stop on the lead – and he did quite well.  He is definitely very sensitive to his handlers.  He watched everything around him and was very cautious. 
 
When I passed by the trailer, which was still hitched up from my last haul, I was curious to see just how well he did loading into the trailer.  So instead of going by it I just hopped right on and had him follow me up – which of course he didn’t.  Those four feet planted firmly in the ground and Diego’s head was going up. 
 
Now I’ve gone and done it, I thought to myself.  Because of course we can’t just end our introductory day on a refusal.  So we worked on trailer loading for a few minutes.  He was very quick to putting his front feet in and standing.  He did that well.  We spent several more minutes going back and forth – two feet in, whole horse out.  Two feet in, whole horse out – before he finally put all four feet into the trailer.  Immediately he followed me out the other door. 
 
For me that is a success!  It would have been nice if he had stayed in like a proper horse, but I hadn’t really intended on working with him this first day.  So I was happy with him going in and coming out.  Back to the pasture he went and he was so happy to go to his hay. 
 
Day Two
On Monday I was running around like a crazy person all day.  I didn’t actually make it back home till about 1700.  I had a few little things to get done and as the sun started setting I hurriedly grabbed the halter and headed out to the pasture. 
 
This time Diego saw me and took off running to the other side.  I figured I’d spend all my day light trying to catch him.  I followed him about half way across then stopped and waiting.  We went back and forth a few times, him trying to see if he could sneak around me and back to the round bale.  Me just waiting on him to stand still. 
 
Rather than that Diego gave me something even better.  He walked over to me and stood!  I pet him a few times, unsure if he would run off or not.  Then I took up the halter and put it on.  He did flinch, but he didn’t run.  I was very pleased with him. 
 
The first thing we did was some desensitizing with the lead rope.  I swung it around this way and that, over his head, behind his legs, on his back.  He started moving a few times but quickly figured out that the key to the game was to stand politely. 
 
I tied him up and he stood relatively well.  Sophie watched over the new puppy while I groomed Diego (new puppy and first time working with a flighty horse perhaps not the best idea!).  He did not care to be tied or perhaps groomed.  I noticed when I came back with the grooming box he was shaking.  He calmed after I spent some time grooming but each time I walked away (a few steps) to put one brush up and get a different one he would start shaking again.  I made a point to do this often and I worked on one side completely before starting on the other side. 
 
During grooming I noticed a few things.  He is definitely less then confident with a person touching all over him, though he will allow you to do so without moving away or acting aggressive (he has shown no aggressiveness at all).  He is more cautious on the right then on the left over-all, with the exception of his left ear.  He is very sensitive in the left ear and will pull his head up if you come near it.  I did get him to relax enough to brush out his forlock and mane but he was very nervous when I was around that ear. 
 
I was a tad concerned with doing his feet since he was so jumpy about everything else but he did very well!  I could feel his whole body shaking as I cleaned them out, but he was very polite and lifted each one when I asked.  He didn’t pull back at all.  The feet are way past due and I know he’ll feel much better when Jesse comes to clean them up. 
 
Each horse is unique and because of that it is important to be able to adjust your training schedule.  Diego is particularly sensitive and anxious.  Due to this anxiety I went ahead and sent him back to pasture after this successful session. 
 
Days Three thru Seven
During the week it is often hard to find extra time to spend with your equine companions.  I think it is a good thing for them to have time off also. With Diego, however, I want to be sure to spend a few minutes each day haltering him from pasture even if that means immediately letting him back out. 
 
He gave me various degrees of difficulty with catching him.  The best day he actually walked right up to me and offered.  The worse day probably took about five minutes to catch him.  There is already a huge difference from that first day.  He also is no longer visibly shaking when I have him tied up.  He will still flinch occasionally when I first go to pet him but he is doing fabulous and much more relaxed. 

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