A good friend of mine has jumped into the amazing world of rescue recently; literally living one of my dreams and I am so proud of her for taking the leap. Within only a month or so she has changed the outlook for two very special equines. With proper nutrition and care they have been restored to good health and are now ready for work and eventual placement in new homes.
At the moment my living situation doesn’t allow for horses at home. I board my one and that’s all I can afford. Someday I will own property and rescue one or two horses of my own. Until then I have been given the opportunity to work with these sweet creatures. Meet Nash (red dun) and Phoenix (Palomino)!
Since the boys have regained some weight and were cleared by vets we are able to begin working with them to build their top-line, athleticism, and most importantly their confidence. Although we have a very good trainer involved my friend has enlisted my help as another hand in the process (the three of us are busy women!). I’m excited because I get the opportunity to see new horse personalities and tackle new challenges. I use the Clinton Anderson fundamentals series for groundwork to build respect and confidence.
My first day working with Phoenix went well. He demonstrated his intelligence immediately. In our first session together we took it slow to get to know one another. I began by desensitizing him to my lead line and then to the stick and string. Once he was comfortable I yielded his hindquarters. He caught on incredibly quick and even over-achieved…he just kept moving! Finally we got to a point where he realized it’s okay to stop when I ask for it. We also lunged in both directions, and learned some back-up methods. Backing up was a little challenging for him. He was confused and quickly got frustrated. He reared twice, and although it made me nervous at first my mind went directly to Clinton’s training videos. I kept my cool and proceeded. In only minutes he figured out what I was asking of him so I ended our session on a good note. I finished his lesson with neck flexion and found that he had a stiff neck. Using massage and myofascial release I worked on releasing some tension from his head and poll. The expressions on this horse blow me away! Phoenix melted in my hands almost instantly.
A week later I revisited Phoenix for more training. It had been a whole week so I was astounded when I saw that he had retained everything from the week before. He flexed his neck more easily. He lunged more calmly. He stood still when I rubbed him to a stop with the handy stick. I spanked the ground with the stick and string and Phoenix relaxed, licking, chewing and taking nice deep breaths. I was even able to helicopter the string over his head and around his body without raising any concern from him! When we backed up he did so immediately and willingly. From there we began to learn yielding the forehand, sending, and circle driving. I’m so pleased with his aptitude and attitude.
I also began working with Nash who is a little more hesitant and shy. I haven’t spent as much time with him and realized he may need more prioritization. Most of our first lesson consisted of desensitizing. He flinched every time I swung the lead line lightly at him. To help his confidence I made a big deal out of his successes; I want him to know he’s doing a good job. It breaks my heart to think of who might have made him this way.
We also yielded the hindquarters, lunged, and back up a bit. He learns slower than Phoenix but does eventually figure it out. His movement suggests a history of western riding. He carries his head low has a beautiful long trot/jog and a big low canter/lope.
Nash is still quite shy and doesn’t want to be caught. I also suspect he’s a stoic type. He hides his expressions more than his pasture-mate. In time he will realize that work doesn’t always have to be tedious or torture. This will take time and patience which we have. During our first session we took a lot of breaks so he could graze and we finished his session with some soaked alfalfa.
I’m not a professional and there are many others more skilled than I am; I have no issues with admitting that. Despite me making some mistakes both Nash and Phoenix have still forgiven me; and they have improved significantly in only 2-3 sessions. I can’t wait to see what else they have to offer!
How fortunate I am that I’ve been given the opportunity to take part in the rehabilitation of these boys. Nobody knows their history, but thanks to my friend they have been saved from a short future destined toward slaughter. I look at my own horse and wonder what can make somebody condemn their loyal companion. Selling is one thing, but slaughter? I have almost given up on Blade, almost sent him back to his original home…but I couldn’t do it. He wasn’t from a bad situation, but even on his bad days and even as he gets more un-ridable I have vowed to be his person. The person who stands by him and supports him until his last breath. It’s a commitment, it can be a sacrifice, but it’s one I’ve chosen to make.