Was I really going to look at another horse? A rescue horse that was deemed a killer and had been standing in a field for a year?
My heart said yes, but my brain was trying to take over, producing all the reasons I shouldn't do this. For starters, I was already leasing a nice older mare and I had barely recovered, emotionally and financially, from losing my last horse to colic.
But there I was pulling into the horse rescue parking lot. When I first saw the horse that I'd only previously seen on the rescue website, I thought, This isn't Bailey; this must be another horse.
The horse in the photo was clean and had a nice shiny coat. The horse I saw was woolly, dirty, and wild-looking. He wasn't skinny or neglected, but I could tell he hadn't been touched by human hands very often.
Bailey looked scared and worried. That was how I felt, too. I held out my hand to him. He backed away, looking suspicious. I withdrew my hand, waited a few minutes, then tried again, more slowly. He finally let me approach and put a hand on him. He trembled under my palm.
The rescue owner then tacked up Bailey, led him to the round pen, and mounted up. As she cued him forward, he looked out of control! She pushed him forward constantly to keep him from bucking.
Well, I thought, at least he moves beautifully for such drafty looking horse. This was to keep my mind from the other thoughts that were trying to make their way in, such as, Holy cow, he's half wild!
Now it was my turn to get on, it was required by the rescue that you show you can ride the horse before you can adopt. Fortunately, my experience training horses for the Colorado Horse Rescue prepared me for riding unfamiliar equines. I knew I had to stay calm. Bailey needed to know from my attitude and body language that it was going to be OK.
He felt like he was plugged into a high voltage wire; I could feel his fear. I did my best to calm him down. We managed to get around the round pen at a walk, then at a frantic trot.
As crazy as this sounds, I thought it was a great first ride. He felt so powerful and yet so afraid. I, too, was afraid of a lot of things in life. I didn't know it at the time, but this horse and I were going to face some of our biggest fears together.
Cate Lamm, an avid horsewoman, has been a part of Colorado Horse Rescue (www.chr.org) for 10 years. There, she's served as head of the adoption committee, has acted as general manager and now works as a rehabilitation trainer. Lamm has owned a number of her own rescue horses and has 20 years of equine experience.
If you want more information on rescue horses or you want to locate a rescue near you, please check out AHomeForEveryHorse.com. Equine.com and the Active Interest Media Equine Network have joined forces with the American Horse Council's Unwanted Horse Coalition to launch A Home for Every Horse Project.
This project helps find homes for America's 170,000 to 200,000 horses in need of care and shelter.
Here's how it works:
- Begin the search for your next equine partner at AHomeForEveryHorse.com. You can search horses waiting for homes at nonprofit shelters across the country. Browse by rescue horse, or find rescue organizations in your area.
- Visit the site's "Services" section to learn about your local rescue organizations. Find out how you can volunteer, donate, or simply spread the word.
- Look for upcoming stories on EquiSearch.com related to horse rescue.
If your 501(c)(3) rescue organization would like to join the Home For Every Horse Project, call (866) 467-7323. Equine.com is a part of Active Interest Media Equine Network.