Katie-Kai has been here since just before Christmas. She’s a pony who arrived with several buckets of worry.
She was worried about ANOTHER new home (she reckons she’s had a few); new herd, and worst of all, new people.
She tried very hard to be a good pony, and yet was so worried that she might be punished that she flinched at everything we did. She was especially scared of humans carrying anything that looked like a stick.
She was scared of getting her legs trapped by anything.
She was terrified of bits, and worried that I might make her wear one.
She was worried about her feet, because they still hurt from the laminitis that could have been the end of her had she not been rescued by (hero!) Tracy of Kaimanawa Krazy.
She didn’t want to be caught, and whilst she could be eventually (helping hard to catch horses is a special hobby for me, like trailer loading) she was so skeptical and over humans that she gave feedback the only way she could. She ran away. She startled at things.
She still had a delicate tummy from the starving condition that she had been saved from, and the stress. Even a little bit of time without food could mean it would hurt again.
She snatched at food all the time, and even at humans. She was so worried about being starved again- snatch all you can right now, because there’s no grass allowed for laminitic ponies, and she did not trust humans to remember that she needed access to hay all the time to stop her belly pain.
She would snatch and flinch. Snatch and flinch.
She even worried she might be hit for trying to eat.
We gave her food.
We listened to her troubles and slowed everything down.
We found the best herd who accepted her and allowed her some respect instead of bullying her.
We gave her time.
During this time we spent a little bit together, when she could bear it, and never asked for more than she could willingly give. She came for a couple of walks with me. We explored the beach.
Eventually, each new day she started to trust us more.
A couple of days ago we had two visitors. One was a young girl. Instead of running away, Katie-Kai came up to her. Of her own accord. She looked hopeful. Optimistic instead of fearful. The girl looked back, let Katie touch her with her muzzle, and stroked her gently.
We had a problem with our water supply. It comes from the farm next door, and being the highest point in the system, any leak anywhere means we run out first. The farmer found several small leaks, but there was a big one still on the system because we stayed dry for several days. I welcomed the rain as it meant that at least our horse troughs were full, but we were having to bring water in for the house. The farmer was stumped. He couldn’t find the leak.
Yesterday, during a break in the ex cyclone Gita weather, I decided to take a horse and go looking myself. I had an inkling that it must be leaking into the creek, because despite the rain, the farm drains really well and the farmer could see no telltale pooling.
Katie met me at the gate. A volunteer.
Katie carried me carefully around the farm. She got to pick at grass while I looked and listened, following the creek. In the silence we shared, I heard the telltale chuckle of water where it shouldn’t be. It actually sounded like muted cicadas, barely discernible over the creek. Where was it?
Katie waited for me while I searched with my eyes, staring at a point in the creek, and finally saw an eddy that shouldn’t be there.
Katie waited while I climbed down the bank and across the knee deep water, and she kept a careful watch while I delved into the thick plants clinging to the far side bank. About a foot under the green mat of eucalyptus scented weeds I found it! A fair torrent hiding in the shrubbery, pouring down the bank into the creek below.
Katie celebrated with me! We shared an apple.
Katie carried me to the farmer’s shed way up the other end of the farm and we showed him the way back to the cheeky leak. She waited while I helped him.
Katie didn’t neigh for other horses, even though they were calling for her. She didn’t try and run away while I tore through shrubbery on the wrong side of the creek from her. She didn’t flinch when I got on and off as I searched. She walked out willingly. She trotted confidently to the far shed. She has never set a hoof on this neighbouring farm before. It was interesting. Different. She was calm, connected, responsive, and curious.
Coming home, the grass opened up before us, smooth and damp, and I asked her if she would she like to canter. You know what? Maybe she would!
A calm, smooth, completely loose rein to her halter, she carried us safely home.