After losing 3 rescue horses
to euthanasia recently this has left me feeling very flat, and downhearted with
the work we do of horse rescue and rehab……but then I took a step back and
thought about all the hundreds of horses we have helped, as well as the
fantastic people I have personally been privileged to meet along the way in
this journey of helping horses, and that gave me a great sense of hope and
purpose to be reminded that we do all make a difference.
I am proud to say we have helped many horses through our
gates over the last ten years, some of which have been extremely dangerous and
challenging, and most of these have been suffering from Mental Traumas brought
on by domestication and living in incompatible environments for horses, along
with diet related issues too……but thankfully 99.9% of these misunderstood
equines have been fairly easy to turn around once their diet was corrected, and
they were treated as horses by empathic handling and by living in a more horse friendly
environment with others of their own kind.
And this got me thinking about individual horses we have
helped……and this is one of them....
Ally was a 7 year old 15.1 chestnut TB mare, who was donated
to us in the middle of February 2012. She arrived as a highly strung mess who
had been involved with a tragic accident where her owner’s 23 year old sister
was sadly killed. The evidence suggested that Ally had over-reacted to the
approach of a truck while out being ridden along the road and that she had
reared up and gone over sideways, trapping the rider in the process.
Sadly nobody understood why she had over reacted like that, and
this terrible accident understandably took its toll on her human family. There
is no doubt that whist Ally was deeply loved by her owner, it was felt that too
many painful memories would forever be associated with her presence and the
owner was looking for a solution, so we offered to take her on, so the family
kindly donated her to Natural Horse NZ rather than sending her to be
Ally was a horse who had been passed around the block a few
times already with several owners, and she was known to be a bad floater and
had several behavioural issues including being very hot at times and had
previously been associated with being girthy too, and her owner expressed to me
that she was a general pain to be around other horses and dogs too.
So upon meeting Ally for the first time, and through
extensive experience with our previous rescue horses, this showed me that she
was suffering from severe trauma in relation to this accident amongst other
incidents with people, as she had some deep seated displaced behaviours, including
catatonia, as well as holding of her breath, and sucking of her tongue, and she
flinched away when anyone went to touch her which showed she had been hit by
someone at some point in her past. Her general demeanour displayed that she had
given up and the poor wreck she was then was heartbreaking to watch.
Another major factor that was adding to her troubled demeanour
was that she was suffering from Toxicosis, which is a toxic condition created
by eating poisonous mycotoxins contained in grass, hay, chaffs, and grass-grain
products that build up over time to cause serious physical and behavioural
issues, and I would suspect this is why she over reacted and the tragic accident
happened where the poor girl was killed.
Ally's symptoms were typical of those brought on by eating
toxins, though we have also seen that some horses don't have ALL of these: highly
agitated, hooded eyes, an over-reactive response to even the smallest stimulus
caused by dysmorphic vision and fear reactions associated with this, skin
twitching, head flicking, unwillingness to cooperate, retaining fluid in the
rump, slight swelling above the coronet area in the legs, tender footedness and
a general highly elevated behaviour for what appears to be no justifiable reason.
We immediately started Ally on our daily toxin binder, along
with our NATURAL HORSE Minerals, which we added to her food, and then we watched
while the symptoms gradually reduce as she came out of the hazy fog of her
toxic state, which doesn’t take long at around 5-14 days of being on the products,
so thankfully the transformation happens quickly. As she settled down due to a low
sugar diet, she became well enough to go out on our track to live with the rest
of our herd, which reduced her green grass intake without restricting movement,
so she was with many other horses from all walks of life, various breeds and
Ally immediately took a shine to Boy, another beautiful
soul, who had also arrived as a previous Toxic rescue horse-for which they are shown
here ……and they became inseparable, which we were all so thankful for, as to
watch these 2 lost souls come together was magical in a way words fail to
express, and Ally looked so much better for having an equine friend in this
magnificent Belgian Warmblood.
It quickly became apparent that Ally was a real sweetie who
loved cuddles and affection from people as she grew more accepting of us as
each day went past, and she starting following my then 8 year old daughter
around like a puppy …..And they quickly became good friends.
After around the 3rd week Ally showed a huge improvement and
had calmed right down and the water she was retaining on her rump and legs was
gone, her eyes were much brighter and she was ready to interact with us even
Like we do with all our horses, we started off by just
hanging out with Ally and spending undemanding time asking her for nothing. We
then progressed to getting her used to being around ropes and halters, gentle
throwing the 12ft lead rope over her back and draping it around her legs, head,
bum, shoulders etc... Then we used a carrot stick and string to stroke her all
over and although she was initially sceptical of these tools she soon realised
they weren't weapons and accepted them willingly :)
It wasn't long before Ally started really enjoying our
training sessions and soon she had progressed to climbing up on our pedestal
and weaving in and around poles etc….being happy to stand on the tarp which she
previously hated at first. Now you might ask why would that help her......but
please understand that as with ALL learners, human, canine, equine and all
species alike....THEE most important factor to that learning is .......wait for
And by rewarding all these fun and playful things that we
were doing with Ally, this gave Ally the confidence to try more and harder for
us and she absolutely loved it.
We always made sure she was with another horse when we
engaged in training as to give her more confidence as well as we rewarded her
frequently for the slightest try by relaxing and giving her comfort, something
that most people don't seem to understand around horses, and it wasn’t long
before Ally showed us that her normal mental state was that of a very brave and
bold horse, who had little fear of anything. We then progressed to re starting
her under saddle which also went well and she proved time and time again to be
an outstanding horse with a huge heart.
Now I won't bore you with all the other miniscule details of
Ally's retraining but her previous owner came by to see her a few weeks along
the line, and said she could not believe
it was the same horse-as she was now so calm and easy going, which was her exact
words ….and she is.
Sadly the reality of horse rescue is that you can’t save
them all as shown here with the other beautiful horse, Boy, who unfortunately didn’t
make it and had to be euthanized due to his degenerating oestoe chronditis, and
we still sadly miss him.
But helping this lovely horse in Ally was an absolutely
fantastic experience for all concerned...and we are very aware that Boys
kindness towards her was a big part of her recovery that we will all cherish
If there was once thing I could tell Ally, it would be to
thank her for letting me help her through her sadness as it's been a privilege
to get to know the real Ally and to help bring her back from her terrible
Ally now lives with 2 other horses, and a fantastic and
empathic owner called Beccy, who absolutely adores her. She continues to make
us all smile with her goofy antics and has turned into such a beautiful and happy soul..
Unfortunately we can’t save all horses but between us all, we can have a
blooming good try.....and make a real difference to the horses most of the time :)
Love and Light to All