Many folks get nervous in new situations. Horses get nervous, too.
In a brand new place, horses are filled with questions. So when Bellaria stepped off the trailer, I started answering her questions straight away.
Bellaria (looking about in panic): Where am I?
Dee (looking directly in Bellaria's eyes): With me.
Bellaria (skittish, nervous and high strung): Who are you?
Dee (calm and attentive): Someone you can trust.
Bellaria (looking anywhere but at me): What am I doing here?
Dee (letting out rope, then applying light tugs to gain her attention): Learning.
Bellaria (unable to stand still): What if I need to be afraid?
Dee (unconcerned): Check with me first to see how I feel.
Bellaria (moving close to me, still for the first time, low head): How about I eat the grass right here by your feet?
Dee (rubbing): Good idea!
I gave Bellaria the time she needed. She really wasn't all that interested in the grass. It was emotional eating, but the physical act produced some much needed endorphins. Easier to deal with than the adrenaline she was pumping previously.
My horses were hanging over the fence. New herd mates always undergo scrutiny. This mare passed every outward test. She's beautiful, well bred, a glorious mover, kind and gentle. As I asked her to come along with me down the driveway, the herd meandered along with us, keeping a sharp eye out for any inconsistencies in Bellaria's behavior. It wasn't long before they recognized the difficulty...
Bellaria balked at the fence lines, pulling hard left and right. She was started by the horses in the next pasture, the horses across the street, the neighbor's barking dog, the small puddle, the change in footing from shell to hard packed sand, droplets dripping from the trees overhead. Bellaria turned into one big nerve-racked, quaking snort.
You see, she has trouble determining what is going on in the world around her. She can't quite figure out what to be concerned about and what is unimportant. Therefore, everything is frightening. Bellaria doesn't trust herself and she doesn't trust other horses to give her the proper clues. She's here because she needs to learn to develop her instincts. My horses have a very dependable knowledge base between fact and fiction. For Bellaria, being in a balanced, well adjusted herd will help her learn about the world. As the leader of my herd, I will teach her that humans can be trustworthy educators, too.
The herd will teach her about the comings and goings of the real world, the one that happens out of doors, away from barns and stalls and arenas, where there is space filled with things that require consideration, but not fear. My job will be several fold - to teach respect, dignity, balance and harmony between equine and human. But first, she needs to learn to trust me, to connect with me, to find comfort in me.
This will be an interesting few months.