Pepper Pig: Cutie pie, or TERRIFYING BEAST?!(This is from when she first arrived, hence the poor sad hooves. They're slowly improving.)
After awhile two of the volunteers had to leave, so Harry and Nova went in, then Presley and Abby also left the ring and Aspen was left all alone with this silly human (me) who obviously didn't know that being alone is NOT ok. He tried to follow Abby right out of the ring, calling after her even after we stopped. I tried the normal stuff I do- I kept tension on the lead rope and clucked at him to move forward, I put my hand up to try and get his attention, I moved him in a circle. He didn't calm down much though and kept trying to pull me toward the gate.
I don't know exactly why things clicked for me. Maybe it was because I got more sleep than usual, or had just done really well telling a bunch of little kids how to empty grain into feed buckets, or because Bopshe wasn't there that day to tell me what to do to fix things, or maybe it was because of the really dramatic sky this afternoon but things shifted around in my brain-meats and not fully thinking about it I blurted out "don't worry buddy! I'll protect you!" And I realized that that's what he was really looking for- his herd had left and he didn't think I was going to keep him safe. So I tried moving us forward again but this time I thought about everything, real or imagined, that might be out to get a lone horse in a sand ring and mentally vowed that I was going to beat it into the ground if it messed with us. We were going to be unstoppable. I was going to protect this house! er horse... and I set out across the ring in a dictator-ly march. Amazingly, Aspen believed me. I swear to goodness. We went between cones. We went over wood bridges. We WENT PAST THE PIG. All without stopping to even look at them. (Ok, maybe he glanced at the pig, but I was so busy internally destroying all in our path that it was only a little glance.) When I stopped at the gate he stopped right next to me. I don't know if this is a thing that will ever happen again, but I am super glad it happened today. Maybe he will feel a little safer, be a little braver... and someday in the future maybe he'll even trot over to say hello to Pepper, the terrifying horse-eating beast.