Saturday, January 8, 2011

Two Week Baby Steps Report

Angel arrived at my house fourteen days ago. She is making baby steps. This is what a baby step looks like. This is the start. Angel's head is high and her neck is braced. This is actually an improvement from how it was when she arrived two weeks ago, but it will give you an idea of our starting point.
Here is the same high-headed brace, looking the other direction. She stands like this a lot. This is the posture of an anxious, worried horse that is ready to run or rear.
Here she is, responding to my request to lower her head. Good girl! She will respond to this request "most of the time" now. This is a baby step toward helping her to relax and trust. A horse that has its head lowered like this is trusting those around it (human or horse) to keep it safe from danger, because it cannot scan the horizon for danger when its head is lowered. When the head is up ("up periscope") the horse can look all around for potential horse-eating mountain lions, bears and T-rexes. This head-down position is the posture of a relaxed and happy horse.
This photo is Angel's biggest accomplishment so far. I am rubbing the top of her head and her poll, rather firmly. Two weeks ago this motion would have sent her into a full-blown rear. Now she is willing to accept petting, stroking and "messing with" both ears, her poll and her forehead. Good girl!
A very legitimate question is, "Why bother with a skinny, abandoned horse with an unknown history and a habit of severe pulling back? Why not just put her down and focus on the many good horses that are available for free these days?" That is a very reasonable question well worth asking, especially in light of today's economic challenges.

Here is my answer to that question. I do not know what Angel's future holds. I do not know how she will respond tomorrow. But here is what I do know today:
1. Angel came along at a time when I had an empty paddock and a broken heart. Working with her makes me realize what a wonderful relationship Nick and I had together. But that relationship was the result of a lot of time and a lot of hard work (and a lot of tears of frustration!). Angel came along when an opening existed in my life.
2. I have limited resources and cannot do much about the suffering of so many, caused by the current economic climate. But this is one horse, found in my neighborhood, that I have the resources to help. I can afford to buy hay and I have time to play with her. I want to do my part to alleviate suffering in the world, however small my part may be.
3. If the situation were reversed, and I was an abandoned horse found walking down a road by a stranger, I would hope that someone would give me a chance to show what I still had to contribute to the world.
4. So far, Angel is doing her part to give herself a good future. I want to respect and honor her efforts. She has been behaving very well (except for her encounters with the vet staff, and she has promised to work on that!). She seems to be very people-oriented and willing to trust humans again. If I had been under-fed, mistreated and abandoned, I am not sure I would be willing to give humans another chance. But so far, she is.
5. The truth is, I like a challenge. I have always liked working with challenging clients and I have the patience to try to put the pieces together and figure out how to reach a challenging human or a challenging horse. And I love to see hidden potential unfold in humans and horses!

Lendon Gray (Olympic and World Championship dressage rider) said, "It is the difficult horses that have the most to give you." Nick taught me the truth of that saying. I think he would tell me to give Angel a chance and see what she can do, just like I gave him a chance many years ago. I will continue to work with her as long as she does her part. And she asked me to let you know that, yes, now she does like carrots!


  1. What nice softening pictures. I am proud that you have come so far with her already - tribute to all your many skills and dedication to those horses who fit "outside the box."

  2. I really enjoyed the post. I'm friends with Melissa Abbey, and am glad to be able to read a bit about Horsepower. Though I don't own a horse, and am in a suburban area, I enjoy watching horse training on TV, and this was fun to read!

  3. Not to mention a wonderful story about humans being caring.. We hear too much about evil in the world, and I for one find hope in posts like this..

    Now if only I could do that with my spooky cat!