Settling In Phoenix

When you buy a horse you often get a honeymoon period. Those few days where they are a bit shell shocked and quiet, taking in their new surroundings, routine, friends (equine and human).

Well, touch wood, Phoenix seems to have taken it all in her stride. We couldn’t have bought her on a worse weekend in terms of weather, but the frozen conditions did mean that she had longer to settle into her little herd.

I was told that she was initially difficult to catch when her old owner bought her, but with a treat she could always be caught. Well I’m pleased to say that within a couple of days (I suspect the miserable weather helped) she recognised me and came over to be caught. She’s found her place in the pecking order, and whilst fairly low down she doesn’t get intimidated by others coming over to me. She knows I only want to catch her!

We’ve got into a routine of coming in every couple of days, and being groomed. She doesn’t seem to have any ticklish spots and stands beautifully, picking up her feet when asked. On reflection, with both Otis and Phoenix, I bought them from an intermediary owner, who unlike breeders spend the time establishing ground manners. Which is actually lovely because I get a blank canvas to work with under saddle but don’t have to worry about teaching them to tie up, or lift feet up.

I think smell is very important to Phoenix because she likes to sniff my hand, didn’t like it when I wore gloves, and shied away from the detangler. However, once she’s smelt something she’s quite happy about it and I can spray the detangler all over without her batting an eye. I think that’s just her nature, so if she’s ever unsure about something I’ll make sure she can smell it first.

I’ve lunged her three times now, only for a short period. She can be a little inattentive, watching horses being brought in or people throwing rugs on, but this is totally normal for a youngster and as she’s used to a quiet yard I’d expect her to look at everything. After Christmas I’d like to introduce the Pessoa to encourage her to stretch over her back a bit more but at the moment we’ve got the canter to introduce.

I first asked for canter on Friday, and it was fairly unsuccessful. She powered into this Welsh show ring trot, looking a bit worried about it all. Sunday was more successful and we had half a lap of canter on each rein. I’m sure it won’t take long, but it’s nice to have something to work on for the next couple of months.

Another area I want to work on over the next couple of months is desensitising Phoenix to the whip. I was told that she was very scared of them, for an unknown reason. However, I’m keen to teach her that she has nothing to fear from a whip. Even if I never need one to ride or lunge her, I’d hate it if someone approached her whilst carrying one (perhaps at a competition or if I’ve asked a friend to hold her) and she got upset. Today, after our groom, we went to the arena with a pocketful of treats and I picked up a small jumping whip and just held it out to Phoenix. She’s definitely wary, her ears and eyes told me that, but the whip stayed still while I talked to and fussed with her. After a couple of moments she was sniffing the whip, putting her lips around the handle, and let me place the whip against her shoulder. With the reward of a few treats, she was soon relaxed while I rubbed the whip all over her shoulder and neck on each side. I’m pleased she trusts me enough that I’m not going to hurt her. I’ll keep showing her it until she accepts that it is not a threat in any form.

I think we’re building a good relationship, and I’m finding her personality very relaxing to be around. I’m trying not to draw too many comparisons to Otis, but anyone who knows Otis knows what a calming aura he has. He doesn’t demand attention, but enjoys it. And Phoenix seems to be of a similar mould. She thoroughly enjoys the attention, but if I’m talking or doing something else she just waits quietly. They also both have a way of taking things in their stride: looking around at flapping tarpaulins, focusing their ears on it and then walking calmly past. I really hope Phoenix does continue in this vein because it’s so therapeutic for me, and means I enjoy every minute of my equine time.

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