She arrived a little underweight and was covered in ticks. Thankfully, where we live the ticks just don't survive. We helped the process by using DE, but as for treating her specifically, that was a no go. She was as feral as they come.
Looking back, there are so many things I did wrong. I mean, I had no idea what was involved in a feral horse. Sure, we have had fearful horses, but in no way was I prepared for a horse that has had little to no handling, and certainly no positive experiences at the hands of human. Had I known, I probably would not have taken her. WHAT!?! Yes. While the ending to this story is good, it has been a looooong journey made that why by my inexperience.
Jewel started off in a 16'x32' quarantine corral. during that time I tried everything to get her trust. I'd move her around and around waiting for her to give a hint she was ready to at least negotiate a partnership. I tried treats. I tried just sitting and reading with her. It got me no where. Here's where it gets weird. I began watching and thinking about how horses approach each other. A confident horse approaches ears alert, head high, facing head on. A more submissive horse, non-confrontational, extending the proverbial olive branch would approach slowly, head down, from the side. So, when no one was around, I tried to mimic horse behavior. I'd always sigh deeply, relaxingly. I'd lick and chew. Sounds so silly right? I'm embarrassed I am admitting it and committing it to paper. I was just desperate. I was looking for any way to connect. She couldn't live in this corral forever. It worked.
Well, sort of. What it did give me was a connection. She began to let me approach her and we would exchange breaths. Our noses would touch. She began to approach me. The problem was, the minute my hands showed themselves, it was over. Again, she couldn't live in this small corral indefinitely. At this point, we had had a trainer come in (we had taken in Misty as well. Both of them from the bronc ranch). That trainer had been hurt by Misty. I brought another trainer in and she was wonderful but it was short lived. She ended up moving.
To get Jewel out of her quarantine corral and into a paddock, we had to build a chute. What a pain it was but worked perfectly and she joined Misty, Darby, Jube, and Brego. Sigh of relief as she was now out of a small corral, had the ability to move around, and could socialize. It did not help the gentling process. I should say, it didn't help using traditional methods. Jewel began to let her guard down then. It was very slow but the seed had been planted and she would seek us out. Over time, she began to allow touch. For the most part, she loved faces. She loved exchanging breaths and kisses.
We had bought ourselves time with the paddock, but we were a year or so into this and we had gotten as far as touching her and that's it. I am not a trainer. Our trainer did not have the time to a gentle horse prior to training, and we didn't have the funds to send her to a trainer willing. What were we going to do about her feet!?! So, my plan became 'get her into the pasture.' She could wear her feet naturally....and buy us more time. What was I going to do with her? I don't know but the pasture will give me time to figure it out. With a bucket of grain and a prayer I walker her to the pasture gate and she went in without a problem. Phew!!!!
Now what? She is in acres of acres of space with tons of other horses, donkeys, and bovines. She has absolutely no incentive to maintain a relationship with me. She could exist out in that pasture with little to no human interaction indefinitely. It bought me time but talk about not thinking ahead! I was winging it. Like I said, So many things I did wrong...or differently.
Over time, Jewel sought me out in the pasture. I still can't explain why. She didn't have to, but she pursued the relationship. She chose to trust. She dropped her guard. Over time, me who's not a trainer, got a halter on her. I got her to pick up her feet. She is now leading nicely. She is even backing up.
It has been over two years. I don't recommend this journey. All of the other mares from this group were gentled and under saddle probably before Jewel made it into the pasture. So many other ways I could have handled this. I chalk it up to inexperience. I had no idea. I was not prepared. Thankfully, we have all the time in the world here. No agenda as we like to say, but it was not the easiest road. I didn't write this to toot my horn. Not at all. I am sure many people watched from afar (at least they didn't see me trying to act like a horse) and thought 'she has no business taking in a feral horse.' They'd be right. Live and learn. I wouldn't trade it for the world. It was unconventional, time consuming, dumb, ill prepared, all of it....but Jewel and I learned so much. I have a better understanding of horses and their behaviors. I have learned what works and what doesn't. She has made me softer. I'm softer because it wasn't about taming the beast. It was about tapping into Jewel, finding the connection. Everything has been on her terms and by her choice. It may not be the recommended method, the most effective method, but it sure has been rewarding. I really look forward to the rest of this journey with Jewel. There is so much more to learn together. Thank you for being a part of it and I hope you stick around for the rest.