The first time I saw the lanky bay thoroughbred he was in quarantine. A large abscess clung under his jaw with all of the signs of strangles. I didn’t dare touch him, in fear of spreading the infection to the rest of the horses, but his kind eyes pleaded to be acknowledge. I was a new volunteer at the rescue ranch, mucking paddocks and grooming elderly horses. Each job there has it’s merit but I wanted to ride, and I wanted to ride the bay. When he was released from quarantine, the threat of strangles begnin, I doted upon him like a little girl with her first pony. It had been over five years since I had lost my own mare to colic, his horsy smell soothed my wounded heart. Our trust grew over grooming sessions and long walks and so did my confidence. I was ready to ride. Yet, my stomach fluttered as I took him to the round pen for the first time. My basic horsemanship skills were returning, but I knew nothing about rescue horses. Would all that my mother so patiently taught me about horses relate to this forgotten animal? Cash looked at me from the end of the lunge line, I cued him to move, and he shot off running laps around me. Apparently he thought himself to be quiet the racehorse. After a big breath I finally slowed him down and he began to move, settling into the most beautiful hobby horse gait. My heart leapt, I couldn’t wait to be on his back.
Months passed as Cash and I worked. I still didn’t know exactly what I was doing, but I knew I had to gain his trust on the ground before he trusted me on his back. When the day came to ask for his sponsorship, I still hadn’t ridden him, let alone any horse at the ranch. I know many people were concerned that I had chosen the big skittish gelding as my maiden rescue horse ride. An audience appeared leaning on the fences like gawkers at an old fashioned rodeo. I was no longer nervous when I lead the saddled up bay into the round pen. I trusted him, and I was hoping like heck he trusted me. His ears twitched a bit, picking up on the crowds tension. With one foot in the sturrup, I swung up easily. Visions of our first encounter in the round pen flashed throug my mind as I picked up the reigns and urged him on. He walked out in a gental stride. Ok, so far so good, let try him at a trot. I slid my hands down the reign and I could feel him tense beneath me. Moving him forward he thrust up his head and roughly trotted about the circle. Seeing this shift my audience began to offer words of advise. “Disengage his rear end,” or “Work the circle to slow him.” I’m sure they were all waiting for a bucking bronc performance, but I didn’t have a clue what they were trying to tell me. Instead I did just as my mother always taught me, relax and ride the horse. I dropped my hands a bit, relaxed my seat and trusted this horse. He must have felt that change because he trusted me too and relaxed. It was beautiful.
Today Cash has found his forever home with us as one of our core ranch horses. I’d like to say that each day with him is as profound as the first, however plastic bags have sent both of us back to the round pen over our five year partnership. He has taught me so much about listening to the needs of a rescue horse. Each one is different and has their own wound to heal, but if you trust them they learn to trust you back. Along the way they even find the way to heal your wounds as well. I trust this horse to the moon and back. <img src="https://enchantmentequitreks.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/20140527-203354-74034396the story of Cash
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