In early 2013, we were contacted about a “very dangerous” 6 yr old mare that may have been pregnant. The owner got her 3 months before. The mare has been at the trainer’s for about 3 weeks – they said she was “dangerous” and “needed to go” and if we didn’t take her she would “go to big cats.” We made arrangements to meet a vet at the trainer’s the next day so the mare could be examined. I wanted to observe her with her owner, the trainer, and the vet to learn as much as I could about her. And we wanted to know if she was pregnant.
The next day, when the vet was examining the mare, she looked a little concerned, but the vet was very patient with her. She was sedated in order to be palpated and we learned that she was not pregnant.
We were told of inhumane things that had been done to her. She had been starved, beaten with a 2 x 4, and handled very roughly. We were told that she had an issue when in a small pen – that when you take off the lead she becomes unmanageable – she will try to flee and take you out with her if you’re in her path. When someone walked past her stall, she lunged out and hit the person in the head – knocking the human down. The mare had attacked two people – one had to go to the hospital. Another person got kicked. The owner sent her to a trainer but the mare didn’t do any better there. However, they said a couple of men got on her. I’m not sure what else happened but the trainer wanted her gone.
Based on what we were told, and what I observed, I think the mare was misunderstood. I think she may have been pushed too hard and too quick in trying to get her under saddle – especially after the horrible life she lived before the new owner got her. What I saw in her eyes was a beautiful soul behind a look shrouded by fear – but a longing for freedom from her past. I named her Gypsy. I felt good about giving her a chance and she arrived at the rescue the next day. Once unloaded, I took her into the quarantine paddock and rubbed on her neck and took her halter off while being reminded that she’s a bit nuts once the lead is off – I totally had forgotten all about that warning. However, she was absolutely fine.
Because of what we were told about her history, I didn’t allow anyone else to handle her for the first few weeks. I spend more time than the average person observing a horse when getting to know them but I learn quite a bit that way. I never went into Gypsy’s space looking for, or expecting, anything bad or negative to happen. I never felt intimidated or concerned. She seemed relaxed and comfortable.
The dentist did her teeth, without sedation, and she was great. She had a lose tooth that was pulled that likely caused her discomfort — especially if she had a bit in her mouth. Doing a little massage on her I learned she was sore in her left hip area. She likely has mental cobwebs from her past. She may have been told to do things she wasn’t comfortable with or just didn’t understand – maybe she was pushed too hard and too fast and her actions were misunderstood by humans. Perhaps she tried to defend herself or flee when she was confused or felt threatened.
I’m a firm believer of groundwork and building a relationship of trust – it’s a foundation for everything else for the rest of a horses life. Gypsy needed good experiences and to be set up for win-win situations. I take things slower than most people but I have to be careful – I am an incomplete quad and have no feeling, sensation, or awareness below my neck and I won’t take chances. Gypsy was smart and seemed to enjoy learning and interacting. We worked through, not around, any insecurities or fears. She wasn’t mean and I never felt that I was in danger. Gypsy never offered any resistance – she was honest and willing. It’s always hard to let them go but this is what we do as a rescue – she now lives with her own adoptive family and is a happy girl. If people would only listen more to their animals, perhaps they could better understand them. Listening is just as important as whispering, in my opinion, and bonds that can be formed are rather amazing!