I want to tell you about the sweetest appaloosa mare you could ever meet. I’ve only known her a year and only have some of her background before that. Some, my friend, Cali, and I have managed to piece together from working with her, like her obvious skills in western pleasure.
Cali goes to horse auctions from time to time. Most visits, she just admires the horses and finds out what horses are going for at a given time. Every once in a while, though, she comes home with a very special horse. Or two… Or three…
Last September, Cali went to an auction with her daughter, not expecting to buy any horses for herself. Instead, she came away with three. One, she now hopes to sell, but the other two are an important part of this story. An appaloosa mare (with papers and fully trained) was brought out, with her new foal. The mare was supposedly a good riding horse, wonderful with children. What Cali noticed, though, was how horrible she looked! This 23 year old mare was extremely emaciated and weak. The foal at her side looked better, but not nearly as plump as most foals. Cali couldn’t stand to see horses treated so badly and purchased the pair for $130. She found out that the mare, Babe, had been donated to be used as a therapy horse with disabled and/or low-income children. She was kept in a large herd, in a pasture that was nowhere near big enough to properly sustain all the horses. Her extreme weight was explained by her age and the new foal, Romeo.
Cali brought this pair home and put them in her friend’s unoccupied pasture, where they wouldn’t have to fight stronger, healthier horses for food. She immediately contacted a vet to find out exactly how to care for them and bring them back to a healthy weight. She also contacted the local sheriff to say that she had extremely thin horses that she had just rescued, still wearing their auction tags. She didn’t want any trouble if (or, more likely, when) someone noticed the horse’s condition and called the police. Next on the agenda was to come see me. She couldn’t have new horses and not inform me so I could see them! She also wanted pictures to document their recoveries. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any decent pictures until she’d had them about a month. Those who know about rehabilitating horses know that just one month can make a huge difference!
Over the next several months, Cali worked to get the horses healthy. Little Romeo grew and gained weight steadily, between being young and starting out in better condition than his mother. Babe took longer, but, slowly, but surely, she made progress, too. As I watched her, I wondered if she’d ever look like the pictures Cali had been given. She just looked so bad! I could see all her bones, sticking out sharply in all directions.
By this summer, Babe was looking pretty good. Cali decided to take her out and see what she could do. It was quickly determined that she was, indeed, a quality riding horse. Cali told me that I could ride her, but this summer was so insanely hot, that we didn’t want to take the horses out. So, Babe got to relax in the pasture for a bit longer. Finally, this fall, we were able to start some riding. We took Babe and Jade to the rodeo arena before going anywhere else. Babe was happy to be out riding and so beautifully behaved!
Since that ride with Cali, I’ve had Babe out riding several times, sometimes with Cali, other times just me and Babe. Isaiah has even been able to ride her (with me) a few times! If I’m going out alone, I just take her to the rodeo grounds because there are no dogs or kids coming racing in under Babe’s feet to make trouble. Since there’s nothing really to worry about there, we can both just relax and enjoy the ride. As much as she likes to just wander slowly, Babe also enjoys moving faster. When we’re at the arena, she’ll start bobbing her head and looking at me if I keep her at a walk for very long. As soon as I say “ok, let’s go”, she’s happy to pick up to a trot or canter and keep that pace for a while. The more I work with her, the more I see of her training. While, somehow, she never learned to ground tie, she does know how to square up, change gaits by the slightest touch or even a verbal cue (“trot”), speed up if I lean forward, slow down if I lean back and lead without a rope. I learned about the no-ground tying and perfect leading at the same time. I tried to take a step away from her to take a picture and she dutifully followed by my shoulder! I put the reins over her neck so she couldn’t step on them and started walking. She followed me all around the arena without me saying a word or touching her! She also leads nicely with a hand on her neck. Riding Babe with Isaiah has shown her experience with children. If he starts to lean to the side, she slows down and waits until he’s properly positioned again. She’s so gentle with him on the ground, too. She doesn’t get impatient with his somewhat sloppy brushing or spook when he moves to fast or talks to loudly.
It’s amazing to see how much Babe has changed in just a year, with a caring owner. She’s such a loyal, wonderful horse that I just can’t imagine hurting her! I will never understand how she got to the point that she did, but I’m so grateful that Cali happened to be at the auction that day and was able to buy her. Now she has a safe and loving forever home. She’ll be ridden until she’s too old, then spoiled rotten in the pasture to the day she dies. Life will always be good.