Dottie is a loving, gentle horse who would make a great companion. We have some concerns about her overall soundness as a riding horse but we are taking things slow with her to see where we end up. If she can only be pasture-sound, it would be nice to see her go to a home where she will get lots of attention. She just loves interaction and learning things. She’d be a great prospect for somebody who is interested in Liberty work, trick-training, or showmanship. She’s not going to be happiest as a “feed-me-and-leave-me-alone” kind of horse, though she’d probably accept whatever gets her by but we would love to find her a home were she can flourish.
From our experience with her so far, she enjoys opportunities to interact. In the past it seems that she has learned to cope with abuse by shutting down. If she was treated unfairly or in a way she couldn’t understand she just went to “her happy place” and easily shut down and now expects people to be unfair and the pressure to be unpleasant. The way she reacts, makes you think that her past wasn’t a very enjoyable place. Our work with her continues to rebuild her trust and allows her a space to safely engage. If you quietly connect with her you find Dottie loves to figure things out and works to please you. She thrives on petting, kind words, and praise.
From what we have gathered she seems to have somehow been taught not to move forward from any pressure anyplace behind her shoulder. She needs to unlearn whatever they taught her, and relearn that pressure at the cinch or behind means to go forward.
Right now Dottie needs careful, consistent handling with every small effort rewarded. She seems very comfortable with and grateful for leadership. When she reacts badly, it’s not at all out of challenging leadership but seems more out of fear of being wrong. When fair consistent leadership happens, she seems pleasantly surprised and engages quite well and quickly, she “wakes up” and is eager to learn. She is able to put together the correct response to what we are asking and seemed quite proud of herself and eager to try more.
Remarkably, given how shut-down she can be, I think Dottie is eager to give over responsibility to a fair, consistent handler who can make her feel safe and show her gently what the correct answer to cues. She doesn’t seem to mind verbal or mild physical corrections, as long as they were applied fairly and followed quickly by further instruction. She needs to know she can have as many tries as she needs to find the answer. When she feels like she is being heard and treated fairly then she likes being part of the game. It’s like at first she’s stuck and can’t go forward, but when she finally does, it’s all she does, and is a bit manic about it. She just needs confidence and consistency for a while and each day seems to be enjoying the work more.
We continue to take baby steps towards lunging. Working on smaller circles close to the handler where we can give her lots of clues, until she develops a consistent understanding of the cues to move forward on the lunge. When she shuts off, easy to see on her face, she needs to be gently brought back to attention and shown what we want from her, then with the correct response we celebrate her successes, no matter how small.
There are some things she’s kind of hung up about, but the more she trusts us the more she’s willing to take direction, even with those issues and that nervousness doesn’t seem to leak into learning new things. She’s willing to be a “clean slate” on new skills, which is really nice.
It’s really hard not to fall in love with this sweet, sweet girl. Dottie loves having her face hugged and petted!!! “Love me and keep me safe” seems to be her motto. I think she’d like to be a cat and just curl up and sleep in your lap if she could. Given her past it is amazing that she can still seek and find such comfort in people. She seems to really enjoy learning new things, as long as you’re loving, fair, and reliable in guiding her to the right answer. She actually does okay with “turning up the heat” as long as it’s in small doses, and works toward a goal that she can “feel” coming. She seems to really enjoy collaborating on new skills. In doing so, we are letting her be part of the process and make the decision to participate. This way we aren’t telling her what to do but rather asking and getting her acceptance. She is not a horse to be bullied into getting something done; she has probably had far too much of that approach in her past then any horse deserves.