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30.5.2013: Two new arrivals PDF Print E-mail

30.5.2013: Two new arrivals


"Baika" and "Dackel"


We have two new arrivals in our group of Sorraia Mustangs! One is called Baika, she came from France, and was a circus horse. The other came from Germany and is called Boavista (Beautiful View) - but on account of her very long back, and very short legs, she was immediately dubbed "Dackel" - German for Dachshund. Yes, I know - it's bizarre - the German language has a different word "Dachshund". Anyway, more about Dackel later. The one that has big "issues" is Baika.


We don't know much about Baika's background, other than she's 19 years old, we believe she has had 8 foals, and was at 2 different breeders in France. She had been used for breeding because of her colour (a lovely, silvery grullo), and rumour has it she used to be in a circus.


Baika's background


Whatever else lies in her background, she appears to have had some bad experiences, because she arrived with us with a pretty dim view of people.  She is not aggressive - just extremely cautious, to the point that she sometimes won't let anyone touch her.


We pretty quickly found that it was only possible to catch her by driving her away from you a few times, then she would eventually turn and look at you. Then she would stand as if nailed to the spot, so you could get a halter and rope on her, but she immediately became anxious again if you touched her, and her right side was a real "no go" area.


Baika arrived with us with her granddaughter "Bayladora" - a beautiful, 2 year old palomino (I believe she's correctly dunalino - but she looks palomino to me - and to others!), who will be a new riding horse for Claudia when she is old enough. Bayladora is confident with people to the point of verging on pushiness, and loves to be petted and scratched - so in character the two are as unalike as you can imagine.


When we separated them, it was Bayladora who showed the separation anxiety, and when we put Baika in with the Sorraia Mustangs, Baika was immediately higher ranking in the group. Not quite what I had expected - but maybe it's because of her age. Initially, I had been concerned that Baika's anxiety around people would rub off onto Bayladora, as young horses typically copy the behaviour of older, higher ranking horses. Obviously, not in this case.


Confidence building


Baika is now well settled into the Sorraia Mustang group, and Claudia and I are both working on increasing her confidence in people. Last week, I worked with Baika in the round pen, and Alex was kind enough to take some photos.


First thing was to get her to look at me on request and to turn her head to look at me. This is the first stage in opening up a dialogue, rather that her just looking at me and then shutting off. Each time she was distracted, I just gently guided her attention back to me.



Next, I tried to do the same thing with her loose in the round pen. First I had to ask her to move, then draw her back towards me. It was important to use just enough energy to encourage her to move, but not enough to set off a flight reaction.



Instead of just stopping and turning to look at me, I wanted her to then step towards me with all four feet, so that she started to feel comfortable about approaching me.


Baika is very strongly lateralised - meaning she has a very strong preference for having me on the left. In fact, it's very difficult to approach he right side at all. As she wanted to keep me in her left eye, it wasn't too difficult to get her to turn and follow me on this side. The right was much harder.  For this reason, I didn't worry about picking up her feet from the right on this occasion. She needs a lot more work doing on just having someong on the right before we can start working on her feet. Obvioulsy, she must have had her feet trimmed in the past, but it's clearly not something she is comfortable with.


The farrier had been unable to trim her feet the week before, so I too a bit of time working on confidence in picking her feet up on request. For now I just worked on the left, as she is very insecure indeed about people on the right.


Today, Baika and Levada have moved up to the stable block, firstly to wean Alegria (now 9 months old) and secondly to give us a chance to work more intensively on helping Baika feel more comfortable around people. Claudia and I will be doing our best to convince her that people are OK. I'll keep you posted on how we get on!


As always, do feel free to post any comments or questions on the Thinking Horse Facebook page!




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