Viewing entries tagged
rescue horses

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Two Ears Tuesday

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This weeks between the ears shot is a throw back to my month spent on the beaches of Africa with Mozambique Horse Safari. I believe the ears belong to Spice Girl, one of the many amazing horses the Retzlaffs rescued. The book 104 Horses follows Pat and Mandy Retzlaff's journey from Zimbabwe refugees herding horses across the war torn nation to horseback riding outfitters in the safe haven of Vinculo.

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My journey through Africa wouldn't have been complete without this experience with the Retzlaffs and all the people at Mozambique Horse Safari. This is a once in a life time adventure I highly recommend to any equestrian.

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Adulting Like a Grownup 

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Adulting Like a Grownup 

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I am clearly adulting correctly lately. Although adulting hasn't made it into Webster's yet, its become a highly used slang to describe Performing tasks that are associated with adulthood. I am usually trying to postpone adulting, like leaving my laundry until the last minute. This procrastination is usually the result of working for a boss, i.e. I have to do this or I will get in trouble. However, there are days when adulting produces outstanding results and overwhelms me with a since of accomplishment and responsibility. This go getter attitude is a direct result of being my own boss. There is no one to blame but me.  Two things have happened lately due to my adulting. First we received our first repeate booking. When I found out I danced around the house chanting, "We're a legit biz!" Then it dawned on me. We're a legit business, I've got more adult things to do! I would like to think that our client would have booked again this year regardless my little prompting email I sent a few weeks ago. However, my adulting ego was proud of my follow through and was thuroghly beaming.  

  My next great success is Mia, our little tiger striped dun mare. She is  our first foster from The Horse Shelter and my first horse to pick out on my own for the business. Most of the time Mom and I visit the rescues together, pick through a few candidates and work together to choose our newest foster. Last year, due to illness, I trucked out to the shelter on my own, waded through the candidates, and settled on Mia. Since then she has become my pet project, with her snarky attitude, big doe eyes, and huge heart. And as we began this journey together we are finalizing it tomorrow when a representative from the shelter will come out for a home inspection and will have Mia's adoption papers in hand. I'm so happy to say Mia will be joining our heard as a ranch horse and will be avalible for clients to ride this season. 

    

My adulting is simply trusting that I can actually do adult tasks effectively and realizing they're not as daunting as I believed. When I complete a project, a blog, or even the laundry I feel a since of order and accomplishment. It gives me the drive to do more adulting, even when I sit in my pjs all day binge watching Gotham. 

  

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A Master Locksmith

Harry and the Snowman is the newest documentary about Harry de Leyer and his grey gelding Snowman. ThIs is one of my absolute favorite equine stories. In 1956 Snowman, an old plough horse, was standing in a trailer waiting to be sold for slaughter. Harry took one look into the horse's eye and knew he could be something great, however he didn't recognize the horse's talent until after he sold him to a neighbor and the big grey jumped the fence to return home. The pair went on to win many prestigious hunter jumper classes and even made a guest appearance on the Jonny Carson show. This eighty dollar, Cinderella horse became a priceless champion. This story has been immortalized in books but it Is listening to Harry speak about Snowman that offers the true insight into their exceptional relationship. These two had to fight to prove that they were just as good as any team competing. Harry knew that "every horse has a different personality, just like a human, and it's like finding the key for the lock." Apparently Harry was a master locksmith because Snowman trusted his rider completely and would jump anything Harry pointed him at.

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I believe that in order to find that key a horseman must understand the type of lock they are working with. Here at Enchantment Equitreks we come across many different horse personalities and usually we have limited or no information as to what created the lock. So we have developed a series of exercises to divulge the mechanisms of the animal. The easiest lock to rekey is the tune up. Horses like Teddy have all the working parts and foundation needed to be an excellent trail horse, however some bad manners and a threatening disposition landed him at a rescue. We recognized that all he needed was a little work to re-instill that training, kind of like a rusty padlock that pops open with a little D-W40. Then there are locks so mired in fear, frozen in pain, and welded shut in mistrust that the only option is to take the mechanism completely apart and slowly put each piece back. Our Jake is that type of horse. With each layer of gunk that we wipe away another deeper problem is divulged, which can be frustrating. This is when you have to start looking at the key you're trying to use and retool the method. Often with Jake we have to reevaluate how we are approaching his training and adjust to better suit his needs. We also know we can't force a lock like Jake and sometimes he needs a step back to be able to move forward.

There are as many locks, as there are horse personalites, as there are keys. I live for the moment the mechanism slips open and the horse places its trust in you. However, it often doesn't mean the horse is fixed, all locks need a little grease to keep them working properly, keys need to be refashioned , and parts reassembled. This is what makes rehabilitating rescue horses so intriguing and fulfilling, they are a constant puzzle just waiting for the correct code.

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Zena aka "the boss"

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Zena aka "the boss"

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Zena in some language or culture has to translate as Queen, because that is exactly what this silvered chrome Appaloosa mare is, the queen of the heard. When we first encountered her at the rescue ranch, Zena had the attitude to match a spoiled and haughty monarch. She refused to listen to those she believed beneath her, which equated to any human with in biting range, and ran over those who didn't move out of her regal path. Yet, when you were on her back she made you feel like royalty yourself. Her walk is noble and proud, striding out with purpose and intensity. This is what Mel fell in love with. Now we all tend to favor a certain breed or type of horse, Mel tends to gravitate to big, solid, dark sport horses. Zena is smaller, stocky, light and spotted with pink rimmed eyes that gives her a wild looking disposition. Although she was not Mel's first choice of the herd, there was something about her imperious nature that presented a challenge. At this point Mel and I were volunteering on the rescue ranches training team. My mother had a knack for working with difficult horses and starting them on a new path toward adoption. Mel's fully intended to do the same with the appy mare but I'll never forget the day that changed her mind. While out trail riding, being a bit of an adventure, she turned Zena down a ruddy path that I hesitated to follow. The two crashed through brush and weeds as if it were a pasture of tall green grass. Cash and I picked our way through the rubbish left behind in their wake until we came upon them standing in the middle of the most beautiful meadow, Mel patting on Zena's neck. "I don't know Juss," she said, "I'm really starting to like this horse, she will go any where I point her."

Now Zena had never been abused or mistreated, she didn't have any traumatic wounds to heal. Her problem was she had always been the boss and it showed in her ground manners. She rushed through gates, walked over the top of anyone on the other end of a lead rope, she would bite and kick when she didn't get her way. However, for the first time in her life Zena met a human who was the boss, demanding obedience. It took Mel almost a year and hours of ground work to mold Zena into the intelligent and respectful horse we all love today. Every once in a while Zena will get in a mood and challenge my mother for her regency, like the white queen and the red queen battling over a spot on a chess board. So they return to the basics and Mel reminds her who is ultimately heard leader.

It is this matriarch quality that I love in both my mother and in Zena. This Appaloosa takes her jobs very seriously. As a trail horse she takes care of her rider, listening for dangers ahead, placing her feet carefully on precarious paths. As the herd manager she futs and fusses over each horse, protecting them from unseen predators, and guiding our youngest horse Rain to some day take her place. Yet there will never be another like her, stubborn, regal, bossy, and nurturing. We are so very proud to have her as our core horse, our boss mare, our Queen.

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Cash

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Cash

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The first time I saw the lanky bay thoroughbred he was in quarantine. A large abscess clung under his jaw with all of the signs of strangles. I didn't dare touch him, in fear of spreading the infection to the rest of the horses, but his kind eyes pleaded to be acknowledge. I was a new volunteer at the rescue ranch, mucking paddocks and grooming elderly horses. Each job there has it's merit but I wanted to ride, and I wanted to ride the bay. When he was released from quarantine, the threat of strangles begnin, I doted upon him like a little girl with her first pony. It had been over five years since I had lost my own mare to colic, his horsy smell soothed my wounded heart. Our trust grew over grooming sessions and long walks and so did my confidence. I was ready to ride. Yet, my stomach fluttered as I took him to the round pen for the first time. My basic horsemanship skills were returning, but I knew nothing about rescue horses. Would all that my mother so patiently taught me about horses relate to this forgotten animal? Cash looked at me from the end of the lunge line, I cued him to move, and he shot off running laps around me. Apparently he thought himself to be quiet the racehorse. After a big breath I finally slowed him down and he began to move, settling into the most beautiful hobby horse gait. My heart leapt, I couldn't wait to be on his back. Months passed as Cash and I worked. I still didn't know exactly what I was doing, but I knew I had to gain his trust on the ground before he trusted me on his back. When the day came to ask for his sponsorship, I still hadn't ridden him, let alone any horse at the ranch. I know many people were concerned that I had chosen the big skittish gelding as my maiden rescue horse ride. An audience appeared leaning on the fences like gawkers at an old fashioned rodeo. I was no longer nervous when I lead the saddled up bay into the round pen. I trusted him, and I was hoping like heck he trusted me. His ears twitched a bit, picking up on the crowds tension. With one foot in the sturrup, I swung up easily. Visions of our first encounter in the round pen flashed throug my mind as I picked up the reigns and urged him on. He walked out in a gental stride. Ok, so far so good, let try him at a trot. I slid my hands down the reign and I could feel him tense beneath me. Moving him forward he thrust up his head and roughly trotted about the circle. Seeing this shift my audience began to offer words of advise. "Disengage his rear end," or "Work the circle to slow him." I'm sure they were all waiting for a bucking bronc performance, but I didn't have a clue what they were trying to tell me. Instead I did just as my mother always taught me, relax and ride the horse. I dropped my hands a bit, relaxed my seat and trusted this horse. He must have felt that change because he trusted me too and relaxed. It was beautiful.

Today Cash has found his forever home with us as one of our core ranch horses. I'd like to say that each day with him is as profound as the first, however plastic bags have sent both of us back to the round pen over our five year partnership. He has taught me so much about listening to the needs of a rescue horse. Each one is different and has their own wound to heal, but if you trust them they learn to trust you back. Along the way they even find the way to heal your wounds as well. I trust this horse to the moon and back. <img src="https://enchantmentequitreks.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/20140527-203354-74034396the story of Cash .jpg" alt="20140527-203354-74034396.jpg" class="alignnone size-full" />

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