Friday was a day off for us, and we went touring to explore the southern most part of Spain. Upon our return at the end of the day, Marion and Aldo were still here and we exchanged information. In our absence, a Spanish woman had brought her 11-month old filly to be boarded here. They had introduced her in the “oldtimer-group”. The introduction had gone off without a hitch, and throughout the day, Marion had regularly checked and everything was fine.
Filly stuck in gully
Yesterday morning, after taking care of the four horses “downstairs”, we decided to check the filly and get acquainted. As we entered the field, I noticed that most of the horses were in the upmost right corner of the field, seemingly transfixed by something. Not a good sign at all, and with rising concern, I hurried to have a look. What I saw there dropped a large stone in my stomach, for the filly was on the ground with her hind feet caught in the wire fence. She was wedged in a gully with her feet higher than her body, and her head lower.
The filly had obviously been there for some time. She was struggling to free herself, but couldn’t. Never having met this filly and not knowing her history, I cautiously proceeded while uttering what I hoped to be calming sounds. Fortunately, that had the desired effect and I was next to her, caressing her face. She stopped struggling.
Out of the cold, into the damp
We assessed the situation. I thought her feet were really caught in the wire, and thus thought we needed something to cut the wire. And a halter and rope. Christophe rushed back to the barn to get these items while I stayed with the filly to keep her calm. As we waited for Christophe to return, she made another attempt to get up. She failed, but she did free one foot and I could now see that the other foot wasn’t really caught in the wire. So I very gently moved to her hind end and freed this foot too.
As she made another attempt to get up, she slid further down the gully. She was now in a very dire position, with her head even lower. Horses don’t have very strong hearts, and I knew she would not last very long like this. I could see her breathing becoming more and more laboured, with ever longer pauses in between.
Back on all four!
When Christophe returned, we managed to slide a piece of bark under the filly’s neck and head, thereby at least raising her head a bit. There was no way we were going to be able to get her out by the two of us, so Christophe rushed off again to get help. And while he was away, the filly made an incredible effort and managed to get to her feet!
I was so relieved, I could have cried. She was shaking all over and breathing heavily, but other than that, she seemed all right. We waited for Christophe to return, with one of the guests (whom he had waken up). The filly was not inclined to move, but with a lot of patience and encouragement, we managed to convince her to exit the corner she was in. She took a huge leap over the gully she had been in, obviously having learned that gullies are best to be avoided.
As soon as she emerged from her corner, the other horses started quickly advancing on her. With the help of Christian, the German guest Christophe had woken, we managed to get her down the slope without the other horses getting near. They obviously had no love for her.
We moved her to the stable area where the downstairs herd of four was still having breakfast. We put them on one side of a fence and the filly on the other. They were quite curious and we let them get used to the idea of a possible addition to their group, but with a sturdy fence to keep them separated for the time being.
The filly, who goes by the name of Julieta, escaped from the experience with just some superficial scratches. She is extremely confident and afraid of hardly anything. Which is probably why the introduction went awry, because she doesn’t show the usual signs of submission either. Normally, foals will immediately lower their head and lick and chew to say “I’m only a baby, please don’t hurt me” when approached by another (older) horse. Any normal horse will respond to this by backing off. Lacking this submissive behaviour however, Julieta was chased by the herd, ended up cornered, and tried to jump the fence.
She’s doing fine now, but we have to keep her separated from the other horses. We made cautious attempts, doing 101 introductions. Fontanera wanted none of it. Azahar wants to be friends, but she’s too young to protect Julieta and too insecure to be alone with her. She just keeps running and looking for the others. Sinfonia seems friendly as long as there is a fence separating her from Julieta, but without some barrier, she too will pin her ears back and approach Julieta with bared teeth.
All we can do now is oblige the other horses to stay near Julieta for parts of the day, thus getting to know each other. So that’s what we do. We’ll see how things develop over the next days and weeks.