In my last blog entry, I began telling the story of Max, my project horse from the Colorado Horse Rescue. He was a comedian, with a dark side. Specifically, he liked to scare and bite people.
All the staff members at the rescue were afraid to handle Max, so when it came time for me to take him to my barn, I had to halter him and load him into the trailer. Our first meeting turned out to be important.
My method of training horses is based on seeing the horse as an equal and a partner in the process. I work with horses through love and trust, not violence and fear. So, how was I going to communicate to Max that he was loved and safe, but that his dangerous behavior wasn’t acceptable?
My own rescue horse, Banjo, had also been deemed dangerous. His dangerous behavior was driven by fear. He needed to gain confidence through patient work.
But Max’s story was different. His behavior had a certain amount of premeditation to it. I decided that when I met Max, I’d do my best to keep things pleasant. But if he tried to bite me I’d have to defend myself. (I’m not a fan of hitting horses, but when it comes to a biting horse, you have to protect yourself.)
On the day I went to get Max, the weather was cool and sunny. When I entered the big, dry pasture, he left the large herd and started coming toward me. That was how he approached most of his “victims.”
I was stuck by how handsome he was—this big, solid-black Quarter Horse with a devious twinkle in his eye.
When we reached each other, I began to stroke him and tell him how handsome he was. He seemed relaxed and ready to go. No sign of viciousness.
I slowly moved around to his left side to put on the halter. Then, with no change in his expression or any type of warning, he swung his head around, teeth bared, coming for my shoulder with tremendous force!
I was ready for him. I brought my hand down hard on his nose. He stopped short with a surprised expression in his face. Shock actually. Then he calmly turned his head around and waited patiently while I haltered him.
As I walked him quietly to the trailer, I could see the wheels turning in his head. Was he was plotting his next move? I easily loaded him into the trailer, and off we went.
Round one goes to Cate. But what would happen in the coming weeks?
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.