Since I am new to blogging and people who read my blog are new to me, I am using my first posts to talk about the things that are most important to me. Equine Rescue is near the top of the list.
I had no real clue about horse rescue until about 10 years ago. I was dedicated to doing the best for my 3 horses but that took all my energy and funds. About that time I learned about Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP), an exciting new treatment modality in the mental health field. I went to several trainings and in addition to learning how to do EAP, I found out that older, retired horses were great for doing the work because their rammin’ jammin’ days were over.
Once I put out the word, I had so many calls I couldn’t respond to all of them. My first contact was from a local rancher who had 3 retired horses he wanted to donate. I headed out to his place with an empty trailer and came home with Bud, Whitey and Johnny Green.
Bud was a retired racehorse off the track. His legs had been pin fired and he had such bad feet he could hardly walk. Johnny Green was a little guy who had been abused. Whitey was an old ranch horse who was about 28 years old. When they came to work in the Pathfinder horse therapy program., I saw firsthand what living with us, being taken care of and having a job meant for them.
Bud was just a good soul. We set out to try and fix his feet. We got him trimmed and shod . We tried every type of shoe and did the wedge pads til he was cross eyed. It helped some but he was still uncomfortable. The illustrator of the Quincy the Horse Books, Michelle Black, was an early proponent of the natural hoof and she wanted me to let him go barefoot and see how he would do. I could see he was at the point where there was nothing to lose, so I tried it. We got him some boots with pads at first but finally he was able to go barefoot. It was really amazing. He could even be lightly trail ridden and he loved that. He could also be used in exercises where the client sits on the horse and is led through activities.
Johnny Green was a little pistol. Of the herd of three, he was definitely the head horse and he was always telling Bud and Whitey what to do. He had been terribly abused and he had broken knees so he could not be ridden but equine therapy is not riding based. It is almost entirely done on the ground. Johnny was very respectful but shy and hard to catch because he did not trust anyone so he was a perfect equine therapist. I took care of him for 10 years but he still moved away from me and startled sometimes. He was like a Viet Nam vet with PTSD. He was the bravest animal I have ever known. With all the pain he endured, he still gave back when he found the job at the therapy program.
Whitey was, surprise, surprise, white. Whenever a new client came to the program, he/she tended to choose Whitey as the first horse to work with. He was gentle and agreeable. Whitey only had one problem. He hated spray bottles and woe to anyone who tried to use one in his presence. One of my assistants, Peter, had incredible patience and love for Bud and Johnny and Whitey. He did a lot of their care the first few years they were at Pathfinder. He spent an entire summer trying to get Whitey over his fear of spray bottles but he was too set in his ways. Whitey’s other issue was that he always colicked once a winter. He would go to Animal Haven, our local veterinary hospital, where his friend, Dr. Joe Quintana, would nurse him back to health. When he got sick I always wondered what I would do if he could not come back to work in the program, and I marveled at how valuable a 30 something horse could be.
That was my personal experience. It made me very interested in Equine Rescue. There are many rescue programs around the country and they need help. They need used equipment, extra supplies and feed. They have fundraisers and silent auctions to raise money for taking care of horses. An Equine Rescue facility is a great place for kids who do not own their own horse to volunteer and learn to do things with horses. Older kids can go on their own. Younger kids need a parent or grandparent do it with them so this is a great family activity. The facilities with therapeutic programs give horses jobs to do. There are also horse food banks that collect hay for people who are having financial trouble.
Anyway, I tell people about Equine Rescue every chance I get. With all the options for making some sort of contribution, it is easy to get motivated and it all adds up.
Here are some pictures of Johnny and Whitey and Quincy relaxing after work.