Story told be Sue Whitman, D.V.M.
Horse-Angels, Inc. Horse Rescue is located on 120 acres in the beautiful hills of southern Indiana. Our rescue receives our horses only from law enforcement, other rescues, animal control departments, or the Indiana Board of Animal Health. We are a 501c3 non-profit organization with a mission focused on rehabbing our rescues to the best physical and mental condition they can attain. Those that are eventually healthy and able to be ridden are professionally trained, and then are adopted to a carefully selected new owner that will be the correct personality match and the proper level of rider for the horse. Often, this involves giving some classes or lessons in horsemanship to the rider before the horse goes home, as well as careful follow-up after adoption. Since we do not choose which horses we bring in, and take animals from those removed from appalling situations by legal authorities, we have many horses that are in their 30’s, or are blind, or have serious medical conditions. Those horses remain at Horse-Angels under the care of our on-site veterinarian, and each will have a job as an educator for visitors or student interns, teaching the values of life and hope. Our most difficult (and rewarding) cases are the animals that have aggressive attitudes or dangerous habits as the result of physical and psychological abuse. Patience and acceptance, and of course time, eventually heal these forgiving horses!
This is the story of Guy, one of many horses that have given joy to their Horse-Angels’ caregivers, and later to their adopters by their devotion, comfort, and a sense of horse humor (which some horses can find, even during the worst of circumstances):
Guy came as a starved horse from a metropolitan animal control facility that was frustrated that he was not regaining weight or improving in their care. In fact, since receiving Guy with a body score of 1.5, he had declined further. Guy’s name when it was chosen at Animal Control was Bandit, and he did not respond at all to it. In fact, it appeared that he had given up on responding to anything. He had dull eyes and hung his head, refusing food. He knew how to behave in a stall and knew how to keep his sleeping area clean, so I suspected he had had a loving owner in his past. In an attempt to lift his spirits, I spent time grooming his bony body and singing to him, hugging him, and anything else that might reach his broken heart. He would eat when hand fed, but never made eye contact with me. He had come in early winter with a skin infection that was causing hair to fall out with scabs attached, and would soon need a blanket. Three days after his arrival, the temperature was going to drop to zero, which meant the interior barn would be in the mid-twenties. I selected one of our best blankets for Bandit, and took it to his stall. As I opened its folds and approached, I saw a slight light in his eyes! He side-passed toward me to receive his blanket! He practically put that blanket on himself, and I had the sense that this horse had spent many happy days with an owner that pampered him. His head was held higher in his blanket, and I saw a glimpse of what I believe was pride in his beauty! I said, “So you are a beautiful show horse, stuck for a time in a lowly rescue with common old horses, aren’t you?” I imagined a horse with a tail sock in place and a “stretchie” on his head and neck to keep his mane perfect, and I went about dressing him as he was likely accustomed. Bandit began eating that evening! He even began to argue about taking medications and having skin treatments! Now he cared and wanted to live, and I was thrilled!
A few days after the blanket discovery, an animal communicator came to our barn and offered to volunteer her services. I wanted her to meet Bandit and told her he was filled with pride in himself and his appearance, and I hoped he would let us know what name he might prefer over “Bandit”. She said he certainly did not like the name Bandit, and would be more satisfied being called “Sir Gawain!” I told her to ask if we could call him Guy for short, since Sir Gawain was hard for volunteers and helpers to get right. Sir Gawain accepted the abbreviation, and from that point forward, Guy began his adventure into his new life with hope. He loved farrier and dental work, seemed used to blood draws, and baths, and loved being dressed in sports boots (although our donated used ones did not meet his standards!) He was bossy to other horses, especially lowly ponies or clearly mixed breed animals!
Within 2 months, Guy was fat and was beginning exercise (by free lunging, which he knew well) and building muscle. By spring, he was shiny and sleek! It was time to be evaluated to size up his riding skills. If a horse allows saddling and comes to us acting as though it has been ridden, we always start in a simple O-ring snaffle bit. Our trainer had only been on him a few minutes when he said Guy could be directed by leg and seat alone and was apparently advanced. He asked for a shanked bit because he was sure this horse was going to neck rein. Guy not only neck reined! He could spin, run backwards, canter circles and change leads. What a show off! He had apparently reined and maybe shown in western pleasure as well. He could side pass to open gates, walked among cattle in our cattle pasture, and was an amazing trail horse. But when I put a volunteer on Guy that was not confident in her leg cues and rein handling, he shut down and said “This one is not worth my time.” Finding an adopter might take a while!
After several inquiries about adopting Guy, and several mismatched riders on Guy, I received a call from Emilie. She had always wanted a horse, and had taken years of lessons, but had never found the right time for a horse of her own. She had focused on career, and then a marriage going poorly instead of finding the horse that she had always dreamed of. Now, as her divorce was finalized, she was alone, and held on to her horse dream! She brought her lesson teacher to ride Guy, and Guy could tell that teacher knew her stuff! Emilie rode Guy while being coached, and it was a match!
Guy has given Emilie her confidence after her sense of failure in a marriage, and he regularly teaches her new equitation skills. Each time Emilie takes a lesson, they discover more skills that he has been holding back as he waits for her own skills to catch up! When she masters something and he proudly responds, her excitement at the accomplishment puffs that Guy’s pride up even more! More importantly, Emilie grows with each ride in more than equitation! She has excitement again in life and confidence! I’m sure if Emilie dates again, Guy will need to give his approval!