Introducing Lady Gray

Once the snow started to fall, it did not let up for quite some time.  Image and Ember loved playing in it.  The hours of daylight continued to fade and the air became crisp with a chill that went straight to the bone.  We were glad we had gotten that third cutting of hay back in late summer since winter had settled in early and didn’t feel like it was going anywhere anytime soon.

Toward the end of December, we had gotten word that an ex-racehorse was in need of new home.  She would not be able to stay at her current home come the beginning of the new year for a variety of reasons.  We made arrangements to meet this horse to see if we could give her a ‘forever home’.  When we arrived, we learned that she had been alone for over a month.

All of her other ex-racehorse herd mates had found new homes and she was the only one left.  She was a bit nervous when we went in to the round pen with her.  But she settled down quickly and let us touch her all over.  Terry walked her around a bit and she was quite receptive to him.

Next Terry put a saddle on her.  This was probably the first time she had ever had a western saddle on her.  So far, so good.  Now the true test – see how she would act with a rider on her.  (She had not raced or been riden in over 2 years)  To our surprise, she did quite well.  Terry asked her to walk and she did.  He then asked her to stop and she stopped.  The only thing she did not know how to do was back up!  There is plenty of time later to teach her how to back up.  We were very happy that she exhibited no signs of wanting to bolt when Terry was on her.  We made the decision to give her a home…

We made arrangements to pick her up a few days after Christmas to bring her home.  She loaded into the trailer without any problems and we made the short journey home.

Abi knew immediately that something different was going on when we pulled the truck and trailer into the paddock.  All of her senses were in tune to the new girl.  We let the new girl out into the small paddock area above the main barn to let her see her new surroundings and take in the new sights, sounds and smells.  Abi squealed a greeting that was a bit high pitched and spoke volumes.  It was enough to send Image and Ember high tailing it over to the main pasture.

The new girl ran around a bit, clearly nervous and excited with all that was new around her.   Wanting to comfort her, Terry brought Touchy in to help calm her down.

Touchy is like the gentle grandma who just has a steady presence and a calm demeanor.  After she settled down and started to graze, Terry made himself comfortable in the middle of the paddock and waited.  She soon came over to him, curious now.  They started to form a bond at that moment.

Terry started to call her Gray.  I was a bit unimpressed with such a boring name for such an elegant being.  But until a better name came along, Gray it was.  We knew it was time to introduce Gray to her new herd mates without the barrier of a fence between them.  Abi, our alpha, was going to be the test.  We led Gray out of the paddock and into the barn yard.  She tentatively  walked around, already knowing that Abi was the new boss.  She just needed to meet her.  They eyed each other curiously.  And Abi knew she had to let Gray know that this was her turf.

They had a few things to discuss and it was over within a couple of minutes.  No contact was made, but the gestures were quite easy to read.

Curiosity got the better of Image and Ember and they came back over to meet Gray, who seems like a giant compared to them.  With Abi’s alpha status still intact, they all started to get to know one another.  It was an introduction that we were well pleased with.  Abi has a way of exuding her authority in a non-contact way, much to our relief.  To our surprise and Ember’s dismay, Image fancied himself in love with the new girl in town.  He was quite smitten with her.

Ember stayed back, not sure what to think of this new girl who had captured Image’s attention so easily.  She just didn’t see what all of the fuss was about.

The next test for Gray was crossing the creek.  She had never seen a creek, let alone crossed one before.  We led her to it, let her sniff it, see it, get used to it.

Instead of walking through the water, she chose to jump across.  It wasn’t graceful, but she got to the other side.  Once on the pasture side of the creek, we walked her around to show her the lay of the land and her new boundaries.  Not wanting to have his new ‘girlfriend’ out of his site, Image soon followed.  Image thought it was a good time to exude his authority as her next-in-line boss and have a chat with her.  Didn’t he realize that if she kicked, her leg would stretch for a mile????

After Gray and Image figured out that Image did indeed have status above her, they settled in to grazing the winter pickings of the pasture.  When it was time to feed hay, they all had to re-establish boundaries and hierarchy’s.

Gray found that she couldn’t go anywhere without Image tagging along.  They became inseparable.  Ember had always taken for granted that Image would always be by her side, ready to run and play whenever she wanted.  With his new fascination with Gray, Image spent less and less time with Ember.  This made Ember quite jealous.  She was not happy with the new girl who had taken Image away from her.  She became a bit angry and very grumpy.  She didn’t hesitate to let Image know how she felt about all of the time he was spending with Gray.

When Image ignored her pleas to leave Gray and come back to her, Ember turned to me, as if begging me to do something about the new girl who was ruining her life!

I just told her that she had better get used to Gray, because she was not going anywhere…

Not getting anywhere with me or Image, she vented her frustrations with Gray.  

It did not take long for Gray to establish her higher ranking with Ember.  My heart went out to Ember.  She was struggling with letting go of Image and welcoming a new friend into her world.  She needed to work through her own selfishness and realize that she just needed to deal with it.  Gray kept a calmness about her even in the midst of such turmoil and heated emotions.  She had truly earned her new name: Lady Gray.

Image carried on with his infatuation of Lady Gray.  He just couldn’t get enough of being in her presence.

Once Ember let her animosity toward Lady Gray go, she soon realized that this new girl could be someone  she could run and play with!  And Lady Gray proved to be much more challenging to run with than Image.  As Lady Gray’s stride is so much longer than Ember’s, it didn’t take long for Lady Gray to catch up to Ember when she decided to run. 

As winter wore on, Image, Ember and Lady Gray found themselves forming a tight bond that would be hard to break.  I think we can all learn from Ember’s experience with Lady Gray.  When we are faced with something or someone that we want nothing to do with, keep an open heart and mind.  You just never know who might turn out to be your next best friend…