I’ve encountered abused animals and people through out my entire life. Abuse and neglect are not the same thing. Neglect fades quickly, but a history of abuse is, at the very least, lying dormant behind a veil, waiting to show the carnage whenever something triggers a memory.
Trust. Honestly, sometimes it never returns.
The most important thing to understand is the regaining of trust is very much individual to individual. Just because one person gains it, just because one barn becomes a safe place, it doesn’t mean the next kind person and safe barn gets that same trust.
You start over, in a way.
This is why the abused horse is so difficult in a variety of areas. One person rebuilds confidence, and then a move to a new barn with new people tears it all apart.
Rory’s is such a story.
At 12 to 14 years old, she came to Heart of Phoenix almost entirely un-handled and obviously in mental torment and anguish. She was paired with trainer, Dan Hull, who spent almost every single day for 100 days with her almost immediately after her arrival to HOP. He developed an undeniable bond with her. And with Dan, she learned people can be kind, sensible and worth some while. She transformed, honestly. Her recovery with Dan stands, in my mind, as the greatest change I have ever seen in a horse, and I think you can, if you’re reading this, gather how powerful a statement that is coming from me after all this time in rescue handling so many amazing rehabs.
Cowering, shaking, shivering, darting. . . a broken animal went into training. A kind, quiet and trusting mare came out. It doesn’t always happen. Often, when a horse has been mistreated to that degree, it will not ever happen, actually.
But the competition ended, and Rory did not have a home waiting. She came back to us. Us. The US was a group of people she had no faith in, and within hours, she started to revert back to the broken, terrified animal that came to us 4 months before. And our hearts all sank.
Rather than starting right into work, we thought, “Let her unwind awhile,” and for the first time in many, many years, she was turned out on acres of land with a buddy to just be a horse. She had not, from the history we had, enjoyed this type of life before.
What we found was. . .she decided each day, simply letting people close in the field was horrible and scary. It actually seemed to become scarier and scarier to her as each day passed. We let the weeks pass because she was clearly at ease when people weren’t too close. . .just grazing with her new found equine buddy, Bug. We wanted her to have the “be a horse” time after all that work for the APPALACHIAN TRAINER FACE OFF, honestly, too.
But with each human interaction proving more and more scary, we began to worry about the future for this pretty bay mare.
Suzanna, her foster, along with her daughter, Raven, (who has started several HOP horses, like Alfie, in the past) decided an 8 week break was enough, and they began working with Rory again to really see. . .what could the future hold for a mare who proved willing to trust through the Summer but was still so concerned about most people. . .
In this video, Suzanna’s youngest daughter, is taking her back out after a farrier visit:
This was her email to me:
"I have revised my opinion on Rory. I think she is highly adoptable to an enthusiastic horse person. It took Raven about 20 minutes to catch her today, from the back of her work horse, Luna. She was able to halter her from Luna's back. Once this was done, though it was not easy, the mare was lovely and reasonable. When we put her in the round pen, I round penned her twice in each directions. She made inside turns. After that, she chewed and licked and wanted to come in. Having said that, she trembled all over the whole entire time. She came in, latched on to me and followed me all around the round pen. Figure eights, small circles, you name it. She trembled violently the whole entire time. I calmly haltered and re-haltered her 4 times in a row. The last time she put her head on my chest and sighed and trembled the whole time. Previously, I had felt her kicking at us when we approached was a "screw you" respond. In fact, she DOES want to be friends. She is just scared to death to do it. She has retained every single thing Dan taught her, and she wants to please. At the same time, she screams, "please be okay, please be okay, I know you are going to hurt me, please don't hurt me!" If someone really wants a partner, (not a push button, cute and easy horse), I think this horse will be one heck of one. It won't do any good to send her back to training, though. She needs to find her person and proceed with them."
And so, the quest is on for someone who wants a mare who received an amazing foundation during the ATFO with Dan Hull.
We will mostly just let her be a horse with some refresher days now and again, but all Dan taught her is right there. . .waiting for the RIGHT HOME.