Malachi had a playpen. We knew from the beginning that Noelle would not willingly allow us near her baby so we had no choice but to devise a way to separate them in order to imprint and train Malachi. But this time around (Here We Go Again), Miss Saffron, like Noelle an unhandled mustang from the wild, tricked us. She has been so much closer, so much more willing than Noelle ever was. Miss Saffy ate from my hand the same night she disembarked from the trailer after a nine-hour trip back from the BLM facility in south Mississippi. Noelle took 19 days to do that. Three days after Saffy arrived she had her baby (we were told she was not due until May)… and the new mom allowed me to begin the imprinting process with her baby immediately. My hands were on Firestorm within an hour after she was born. She was in my lap shortly after that. So Kathleen and I both felt that perhaps a “playpen” wouldn’t be necessary this time. What we didn’t realize was that everything would change the moment I was no longer sitting on the hay bale, the moment I stood up. Then I became a potential predator and Saffy began placing herself between me and Stormy.
Wait a minute. I’m the same guy who was sitting on that hay bale!
Don’t listen to him Stormy, Mom said. React first and ask questions later.
That’s the way of the horse. Amplified in the wild where everything is considered to be a predator until proven not. I knew that. But Saffron had lured me into her web of gentle kindness. Something I had never really experienced with Noelle. I was certain I could overcome this resistance.
“Every time you try you are forcing more conversation from Saffron about why baby shouldn’t trust you,” Kathleen warned.”Best to bite the bullet.”
And, of course, she was right. So finally, after I had accomplished all I could sitting on a hay bale, I gathered the material and built the playpen you’ll see below. With dark panels of landscape cloth covering the bars Miss Firestorm might try sticking her head between. And giving her only one good view of mom, and that’s standing on a small pedestal.
Heading into the playpen – first day
That was yesterday. Stormy’s 22nd day on the planet. And the results were amazing. All while mom quietly chomped hay just outside one of the gates. It was a day of falling thresholds and “first-time-evers”. It was Stormy’s first ever day to wear a halter and lead rope.
The halter and rope had been sitting on my old hay bale seat for days. Stormy had chewed on them and dragged them around the paddock. So it was not at all scary when I approached. She stood perfectly still and quiet as I tied the halter on. Then I pulled the lead rope just very slightly taut. With minimal squirming, she demonstrated how quickly she “gets” stuff. I would hold the line taut, not pulling. Just taut enough to be a little uncomfortable. In very short order she figured out that if she took a step forward it would relieve the pressure… and bring lots of praise and rubs. It took less than ten minutes for her to be following me with slack in the line all around the pen. Malachi got that pretty quickly as well but it still amazes me that they can put things together so young.
Oh, I get it. If I take a step the pressure goes away. If more pressure appears, I merely take another step. Or, better yet, why not just follow Joe when he walks and there’s never ANY pressure :)
Next came sitting time on the bean bag chair. She was well prepped for this as well. It evolved on the hay bale out of her lying in my lap. Very cute.
After a few more turns around the playpen, next came the pedestal. The toughest task. Oh, this one was truly scary. Could very well be a horse eating pedestal. She did not want to take that step up. At one point she reared and one foot accidentally came down on the pedestal.
Followed by much praise and lots of rubs on withers and tail (her favorites). With a little encouragement she managed one and a half feet on the pedestal.
And that’s when I untied the halter and opened
the gate for her to trot out to Mom.
This morning she willingly put three feet on the pedestal and that won her the same reward. Back to mama. Kathleen was at school so no photo :(. But it’s truly fantastic to have my Sweetie re-inspired, taking brilliant beautiful pictures and loving it. She’s having fun. And so am I. I’m lapping this up like Benji laps up ice cream. It’s only taken us three years to get back to this.
Here are a couple more photos Kathleen shot last night before Firestorm and I headed into the playpen.
I love the rim light in that last one. These two photos and the one at the top were taken during our evening no-agenda time with mama and baby yesterday. Saffron was rounded up from the wild on August 1 of last year and has never been willingly touched until now. Her baby Firestorm was conceived in the wild on or around my birthday a year ago this month. And you see in these photos and those that have come during the past 22 days what a willing wonderful “wild mustang” she has become. And once again our life has been changed so much for the better. We are blessed.
Below are Saffron and Stormy’s first six posts:
(listed in chronlogical order)
What an Extraordinary Weekend!
Firestorm’s Amazing First Day in the Playpen
No-Agenda Time – So Much Value!
An Amazing Birthday Gift from a Wild Mustang!
Follow Our Entire Journey
From no horses and no clue to stumbling through mistakes, fear, fascination and frustration on a collision course with the ultimate discovery that something was very wrong in the world of horses.
Read the National Best Seller
The Soul of a Horse
Life Lessons from the Herd
…and the highly acclaimed…
The Soul of a Horse Blogged
The Journey Continues
Some of it. Some Priefert stall panels.
Great progress, Joe! Love the pics of Stormy playing and running – the sunlight is amazing! Could you refresh my memory as to why the platform is used in the training time? Have a good rest of the week!
The platform becomes a safe place, her place. A place where she’s bigger, more like mama. Where feet and other issues can be easily dealt with. Eliminates future problems like trailer loading, etc. Go to Allen Pogue’s Imagine a Horse and read more.