Abuse or Neglect
At the base level, it may appear to be the same thing, The terms seem interchangeable, and I guess in some ways, they are.
But for the purpose of rescue, many of us see these terms as separate in order to classify exactly what the horse has been through.
For HOP, we specialize in the Neglected horse, but we have come across and rehabilitated a large number of truly abused horses, as well.
The Neglected horse has been denied basic care. They typically have been without enough food, water, vet and farrier care. The owners are often ignorant of what the care is or they have fallen on economic hard times. Sometimes they have reached out to try to find the horse(s) a home(s) before the condition became bad, other times they somehow didn’t really know better. They didn’t understand the needs of an animal so large, so delicate. Sometimes, they didn’t really care that they were denying food, but psychologically, the horse still looks at the person as good guy. The horse thinks, “I’m going without. The person is doing without. We’ve all fallen on hard times.” The horse comes to rescue enjoying the company of people, holding no grudge, not psychologically damaged, just over zealous for food. The neglected horse heals fairly quickly, within a year, and you would never know he was neglected, as a general rule. The neglected horse leaves the past behind pretty easily, though that excitement about food, well, that can linger. Their recovery is almost assured once they walk through the doors of the rescue within a fairly brief time.
Alice is the horse we’ve chosen to portray the neglected horse. This horse had owners without the means, but the owners seemed to care very much for her, and nothing about the personality of Alice indicates she ever knew abuse. She certainly endured severe neglect.
The Abused Horse has been beaten, locked away or thrown out. Struck, harshly ridden, cruelly shod, left in filth day after day, years after year, run through rough auction house after auction house, they have known no kindness, no light touch or soft word. These horses virtually never forget. Years lessen the memory if the time spent with them is quality time. This is a far more challenging case to take on. Certainly, some of these horses are also neglected, but many also look perfectly healthy from the outside, while inside they are shattered. This type of horse requires an exceptional horse person to restore them; a patient and dedicated person. While the resilience of the horse is amazing, the memory of a horse is equally solid. They remember. You may find they dislike a certain height, hair color and dress. They become afraid when things make them recall a moment or many moments of terror. The alternative to terror is aggression. They have had to fight to survive, they have been bullied, now they have become bullies.
The road to recovery for these horses is much longer than that of the neglected horse. Those who work with these horses and adopt these have a very rewarding bond that can usually be built upon with time. Their recovery is one that can be lifelong. This sometimes discourages the faint of heart, but these horses have the ability to forgive if you show yourself apart from those they have known before, and they often are the horses which you can create the most powerful bond with.
A previously rescued and adopted mare, Skye, is a prime example of an abused horse. This mare was a discarded, failed Bronc horse. Roughly handled, used to being put into small spaces with poor behavior encouraged, she was sent to auction. She found herself thrown out into a field with a new, novice, owner who wasn’t able to handle her, growing obese and into a bully. She was sent to a so called trainer who bound her legs and terrified her into fighting back; causing him serious harm. Eventually, she landed into a stall in Ohio that was pitch dark, with everyone afraid to go in and handle her, clean her stall, never allowed outside. She became extraordinarily distrustful that people could offer anything decent. They had all failed her. None had proven a kind, firm leader. She busted down her stall door repeatedly and became unmanagable. She never felt secure or cared for. Skye’s case was so bad, she was facing euthanasia before volunteers from HOP came to her aid. Her journey was long and started with the Johnson family in Ky, where they read to her in her stall, taught her basic respect on the ground, showed her loving boundaries, and started her the correct way under saddle. Today she has found her forever home and enjoys a trusting bond with her owner, Jim.
We, here at HOP, are so fortunate to have put together such a wonderful team who is willing to go the extra mile for the many different horse needs that come under our umbrella.