Monday - I didn't get to the barn until after dark, it was really pretty darn cold. Around 20, snow on the ground, just plain unpleasant. And the heater in my tackroom broke, so there was no warmth to retreat to other than a tiny heat lamp in the crossties. I go to get Xena out, it takes only about a minute to halter her. We go to the indoor arena. I let her loose because she seemed to have some energy to burn off. Since I have just discovered that she doesn't act like herself online, I want to see if she just wants to play by herself. My hands are already getting pretty cold, I turn around to exit the arena.
She was trotting around a bit, then she started trotting in my direction. She stopped, like she almost wanted to come up to me, but wasn't sure she could have that much opinion. I leave my back turned to her, so she can come up if she wants to. She walked right up and stopped next to me. So I started playing friendly game with her scratchy spots on her neck, and the one right above her freeze brand. As I move her mane out of the way, and actually get a good look at it, it kind of hit me for the first time what those symbols represent. This horse used to run on the wide open plains, and she just chose to stand next to me - a predator - all on her own. I get lost in my thoughts, and as I'm contemplating what her life was like before that freeze brand got there, she starts walking ahead of me. I think perhaps she just lost interest in me, when she suddenly starts nudging everything I had put on the gate. My parelli bag, the gate latch, a wood panel. Each time she looks back at me, as if she's wondering why I'm not suggesting she goes places. I walk up to really see what she's doing, and she kept putting her nose on things and looking to me for approval, and trying to move forward, like she's saying "Come on! This is the game we play! I always feel better after playing this game, play with me already!!" So with a pair of rather chilly hands, I put her halter back on. I haven't set up any obstacles since I hadn't planned on doing much, so I just use parts of the arena. So I send her to a gate, then a jump standard (which was really cute, because there were two next to each other, I didn't care which one she landed on, but she very definitively asked me which one I wanted lol!!). We find the muck bucket, which took a little convincing because its way in the darkest corner of the arena, so she was hesistant; I asked her once and when I could see she was thinking about it, I left her alone. Eventually she went and put her head in it. Then I started feeling a bit more focus from her, she was really asking about every direction change. We walk up to one of the doors, and she looks at it for a second, then puts her nose on the door knob! Awesome! Then we go to the other side, I aimed her for the mounting block since it was pretty obvious, but she says that was toooo easy - and she touches the light switch on the wall above it!! I felt I had just gotten way more mental connection with her than ever before.
Back to her stall. She stays in after about 10 sends, then our approach and retreat with the blanket routine, which is horribly difficult because I can't feel my fingers.
Well that took much longer than I'd expected, it's now 16 degrees out and snowing, my feet are so cold I can't feel anything below my ankels, and I go home absolutely glowingly warm on the inside... that connection was ALL worth it.