A few weeks ago we were gifted the world’s cutest pony. He has been all over social media in the ensuing days.
We housed Samson with the goats when he arrived. This would allow us to get to know him in smaller quarters, prevent him from having to be turned out with the big horses until we are able to supervise them together and see how he did with the goats. We don’t know much about Samson prior to when he was purchased from the kill pen about a year ago, but based on his behavior after arriving at our house I would venture to guess he was either mistreated or neglected in his past life. Try as I might I could NOT catch him! He would eat treats out of my hand over the fence, but if I went in the pen with him he would just run away from me. It drove me CRAZY because his little legs were covered with botfly eggs and I NEEDED to scrape them off. His eyes were a bit runny and NEEDED to be cleaned. He just needed some TLC!
I posted in a horsey Facebook group for advice and the in-a-nutshell advice was to have patience. Spend as much time as possible in his pen with him, but not forcing him to interact. I continued to give him treats over the fence anytime I had something in my pockets so he started coming to the fence pretty much anytime he saw me. Progress. A friend came over to ride with me the week of Thanksgiving and he ate cookies out of her hand when she was in his pen!
If I made any hand movement towards his face or his halter he would get away from me as fast as he could. I started giving him treats with one hand and petting his forehead with the other hand when I could. Sometimes he was OK with it, and sometimes he would back away. His reactions were getting less and less dramatic, but he still looked pretty darn skeptical of me.
Last week one of the goats had a kid. I always try to touch and handle the kids as much as possible when they are tiny so they are easier to work with when they get big and have horns. This was a surprise kid and I don’t think Samson knew she existed until I “showed” her to him and then he was FASCINATED.
I think it helped for Samson to see me handling the baby goat. He was very curious about it the first couple days it was in the goat pen and would come as close as he felt safe and stare at it when I pet and held it.
Our big turning point happened on Sunday this past weekend. I kept the horses in their pens all day and we let Samson out into the big pasture with the goats for the first time ever. I was a bit worried I would never catch him again since he was now out in about 6 acres. He toodled around and grazed and followed the big horses around some while I rode, but he generally kept his distance. He did seem fascinated by the barn, the runs and the big horses in general. I was cleaning tack in my tack room with the big barn doors open when I saw something in the corner of my eye that was small and brown sneak down the barn aisle behind me. I walked slowly and quietly out of the tack room to find Samson happily munching hay from the wheelbarrow in the barn aisle. I hurried over and closed the big barn doors so he was confined to the barn. I didn’t want to fight with him, but oftentimes if a horse has been caught before they know when they are completely confined and can’t get away. Well, it worked. I was able to walk up and give him some carrots and snap the halter rope onto his halter.
He was extremely tense at first, but I gave him a few more carrot pieces and let him continue to munch hay and he slowly relaxed. I got to work with my bot knife on his legs, then combed his mane, cleaned his eyes, picked up his feet and scratched him all over. He was apprehensive, but not scared. I was SO excited to finally get my hands on the little guy! He was pretty much nonreactive and let me do all the grooming I wanted.
We even went outside and did some selfies. He was way into the phone/camera.
I didn’t keep him contained for very long and after I removed his halter he got a final cookie. He came in the barn again later in the afternoon to steal more hay and he pretty easily let me catch him again. The more times I can catch him and provide a good experience, then hopefully he will become easy to catch even in the largest pasture! Hard-to-catch horses are one of my pet peeves and can be dangerous so I’m happy this is progressing so quickly.