This past Sunday, our barn hosted a ground work clinic with an incredible trainer named Sara Vanecek. All of the horses were able to participate, including Alfie! Each horse had a handler, and the horses worked on lunging and there was even an obstacle course set up with lots of great desensitizing obstacles. This clinic was set up because of one very special horse in our barn, Flame.
Flame, or “curly fry” as I like to refer to him, was adopted from a local rescue about 7 months ago. He wasn’t at the rescue for too long, I mean, look at how cute he is, of course he was going to get adopted quickly. He came to the barn underweight, terrible rain rot in his mane, and an incredibly broken spirit. Suffering from PTSD not only from abusive former owners but being so small he was easily bullied away from food by his field mates.
I met Flame the day he arrived at the barn. When I first looked at him I saw a mini version of Alfie. He had the same scared look in his eyes, the same movements, the same mannerisms. If you took Alfie, and shrunk him – they would be twins.
Alfie spent the entire first day nickering and calling to Flame from across the barn aisle, and Flame answered him back. 2 horses that shared an abusive past, finding comfort in knowing they weren’t alone with their trauma.
Shortly after the rain rot was taken care of, Flame got a ton of burs stuck in his mane. It took 45 min., a ton of Apricot oil & paper towels, to go from this👇🏻
To this 👇🏻
After that, it was very clear, Flame chose me as his person. It wasn’t something I planned, although I did feel a connection to him because he and Alfie shared much of the same trauma, but this was all him. I would walk by his stall and he would yell for me. He would come in from the field muddy and dirty and I would brush him. Before I knew it I found myself singing to him. The scared tense face he had all the time slowly started to soften the more I spent time with him. He knew I could help him heal.
Leading up to the clinic, I worked on basic groundwork stuff with him for almost a month. Taking him from his stall and having him stand in the grooming stall so I could brush him. Leading him into the arena, walking over poles, doing a bit of in hand trot – all while my trainer Kari observed and gave some instruction when needed. Every now and then, something would startle him or I could see by his body language he was scared, and we would pause, I would pet him and tell him he was OK, and that I had his back. By the time we reached the day before the clinic, Flame was a much more confident little pony.
Take a look at some of things we conquered at the clinic:
These obstacles, these challenges, Flame showed great confidence. Sara the clinician said that Flame is at the right place and is working with the right people. She commended me for doing so much work with him, and told me we were on the right track with him. I told her, the only thing I want for him is a future filled with love, happiness and trust. I want him to be like Alfie.
Now Alfie. Alfie Alfie Alfie. The horse that was afraid of his own shadow not that long ago, did fabulous at the clinic. He was led around by my friend Nancy, the wonderful woman who has her goats living at our barn. Nancy has horse experience, and Alfie adores her so it seemed only fitting that Nancy get to participate with Alfie.
Now, everyone be calm…of course Copper participated in the clinic as well – did you think I was going to forget about my little Copperoni horse??
Copper was handled by Shea, one of the young ladies that rides him. They were the last duo – and you know, they save the best for last. Shea and Copper were AMAZING. He did everything in the obstacle course with such ease – he was the only horse to trot over 3 tarps! In fact, nothing scared him at all! So he really has no excuses when he spooks at the most random things in the arena anymore.🤣
Leaving the barn after the clinic, I had such a feeling of total bliss. I’ve made some amazing progress with Flame. I was so proud of both of us. As I watched Alfie take on all the obstacles with such ease, I realized he was able to do all of that because of me. Because of the trust he allowed himself to have with me because I showed him love and patience and I listened to him. I sheltered and protected him when needed. I exposed him to things at his own pace and I was there when he needed that reassurance that life was going to be OK. I can now pass all that I’ve learned from Alfie to help Flame. And my Copper. Copper is so incredibly smart. Our relationship has grown tremendously. He and I don’t always see eye to eye, but we both try so hard. He gives me 100% effort with every ride, and I give him 100% effort and support right back. I will continue to say it, I am incredibly blessed.❤️🐴❤️🐴❤️🐴