Alexandra went down to the corral to do some hoof care and brushing. When our Nokota horses are relaxing after lunch on a warm spring day like this they show how trusty horses can be. They feel quite comfortable in having their nails done while taking a nap, it is not really practical but it is kind of fun to watch.
The first day off work in four weeks was also one of the warmest days yet, this spring. The nights are still close to freezing. The pasture has been shifting from red-brown dirt color as the snow melted with spots of white yellowish dead grass, but now there is definitely a touch of green coming up. The stable yard got cleaned up and a layer of new sand was added to keep the horses from dragging mud onto the porch and into their quarters.
While taking a break on the bench in front of the stable with our Cocker Spaniel beside me, watching the horses interact, I came to think about how well we have got to know our horses and their personalities since they arrived from the northern prairies of North Dakota, seventeen months ago.
Rosie, our youngest blue roan, was freshly weaned and a very cozy filly when we first met her. During last summer she grew into a proud lady, and a very athletic one. She is so used to be around us all the time and Alexandra has tried a saddle on her just to see what happens. That was a piece of cake for Rosie. A few months ago she got a little excited though; she was growing up and didn’t want to be treated like a baby anymore; she needed more space just like any teenager. They grow so fast, it is not easy to be a horse. Bluebell and Wendy, our red roan three-year old, did the job in setting limits for Rosie’s teenage outbursts. So now Rosie is much more settled in her new role, but again very cozy and cuddly. It is an advantage to get to know a foal as early as possible and to get her used to human ways. She gladly accepts everything and when she is among humans, fear does not enter her mind.
Wendy has always been cool and trusty. She is very keen to learn and so are we. We try to work things out together, listening and explaining to each other, trying to reach a way of doing things we all can feel comfortable about. It is obvious to the other horses that Wendy feels proud about her work and hopefully it rubs off. Alexandra got Wendy started under saddle last spring and they have been spending as much time as possible together ever since. Now when the days are getting longer and the summer holiday is closing in after a tough semester at school, there will be even more of that I recon.
Bluebell, or Bella, is our five-year old blue roan. Her personality is the most perfect imaginable, if any such thing exists. She is smarter than any horse I’ve ever known and she is very considerate and friendly to everyone. She keeps her little herd tight. She knows that when we walk up to the stable it is time to eat, so while we sweep the front porch (where we usually serve the hay) she makes sure the other horses stay off the porch so that we can do our job. Otherwise Wendy wants to stand on the porch by the barn door, blocking the way, while Rosie walks around sniffing at the broom. When we are finished, Bluebell steps up on the porch, walks up behind my back, makes sure I get the key right and then opens the door with her nose, making sure Wendy don’t step over the threshold.
Bluebell is very comfortable among humans she knows and trust. Initially she accepted all kinds of blankets and scary things pretty easily, as long as she stands still and nothing moves. Last summer Bluebell accepted us for some slow easy bareback riding, but when it comes to saddles and loose blankets she gets uncomfortable and trots away. With consistent join up work it would be easily fixed, but we have the luxury of not being in a hurry. This summer Alexandra wants to concentrate more attention on Bluebell. If we look at the half sisters Bluebell and Rosie we see they have much in common, but the difference is that Bluebell was almost three years old when she first got daily contact with humans, before that she basically lived among Nokota horses only. That gave her a good language and much valuable knowledge from the old mares of the plains. It means that she is very straight forward and reacts naturally, but she is also cautious about trusting humans. We don’t want to change her; we want her to teach us what she knows about horses. So we must not hurry. Fortunately Bluebell has a very nice cool personality and it is very safe to be around her. She really likes humans and it shows that she wants to get acquainted with everyone, but she is a little shy that’s all.