I'm slowly starting to "learn" Missy. This has gone a bit slower than it might have, since I've been sick with the flu since before she arrived and today was the first day I felt reasonably well. It's also been very cold - daily highs well below 20F - and Dawn, Red and Pie have had 10 days off from riding. Considering that I was sick and couldn't ride anyway, that didn't matter too much.
I'm also not in a hurry with Missy. All we've done so far is some leading work, some head down/giving to pressure work and a small amount of lungeing so she can stretch her legs - she'll be in a pen and not turned out with the mares until she gets her shoes off on Friday. The bits of work we've done have been very short, since I haven't felt well enough to concentrate sufficiently for more extended periods - this sort of initial work requires a lot of concentrated attention to exactly what the horse is doing.
Tomorrow I think we'll be able to have a more proper session, since my energy level is finally starting to pick up.
Here's what I've learned about Missy so far.
Physically, she's not in shape and needs to build muscle, particularly in her hindquarters, so we'll be taking it slowly as she gets back into work. I'd also like her to gain a fair amount of weight - Mary says she has tended to lose some weight in the winter and she also apparently lost a lot of weight on her trip - this is common on long trailer trips - she's already picked up a few pounds since she arrived. She's getting some Ultiuum (a high-fat feed), and I'm slowly increasing the amount of that as well as giving her as much grass hay as she'll eat.
She has two physical blemishes, neither of which seems to cause her any trouble. Her left front leg has a large area above the fetlock on the outside which is completely missing hair - Mary told me about that - which looks like the site of an old injury. Her right hind has a sizable bone spavin on the inner lower hock joint. Both these features predate Mary's ownership of her, and neither has caused lameness, or changed.
In terms of who Missy "is", she's very calm and non-spooky - completely unfazed by goings on at the barn, strange objects and barn equipment. She does look around, but in an interested way. She seems very content in her stall, and not worried about anything, and eats well. She's also very low energy. Yesterday I let her loose in the indoor to see what she would do - this is a horse who hasn't had any real turnout since she started her trip last Thursday - and she just moseyed around sniffing things and then decided to just follow me around - no running, bucking or anything else. Some of that lack of energy could be fatigue from her trip, or due to her weight being below normal, but I think it's actually who she is - she's not a worrier and she's an energy-saver. The only time she's fussed at all is when I've asked her to trot on the lunge - there was a bit of ear-pinning and a head shake or two, but she complied. She is quite interested in other horses, but is not pushy about wanting to interact with them. Other than about lungeing, her demeanor is consistently friendly.
She's already paying very close attention to me, and when I've asked her to do things like leading in a way that is perhaps somewhat different from what she knows, she very quickly picks up on what I want. She's smart and a quick learner, which will make her fun to work with. She sometimes does things not because I've asked for them, but because it's what she expects to be doing, and is surprised when I ask her to do something different and wait for my direction. Her responsiveness so far is very pleasant - she wants to please.
A delightful Missy mare - Dawn and Red are jealous and say they are being neglected - Pie doesn't care so long as he gets his share of the food. I should be back to riding the three of them shortly, particularly as the weather is warming up to the 30s in a day or so.