By Steve Bauhr
As most of you know, the practice of rescuing horses has become very common these days. The first I had heard of it was in the late 1990’s with the Premarin babies. These were a byproduct of the program in which urine from pregnant mares was needed to gather the hormone premarin. These mares were bred back, so they stayed in a state of pregnancy year round. The babies were in need of homes, and many had little to no handling. An outcry from the equine community called for the adoption, (some would say rescue), of these babies. Eventually, most of the premarin ranches were shut down once a synthetic product was produced.
There are many who believe the Wild Mustang program is also a rescue of those horses. We are now seeing ranches devoted to nothing other than rescuing horses. The reasons horses are rescued could be from abuse cases, where a legal entity stepped in and removed them. Another reason could be rescuing horses at kill lots just to save their lives. The term, “Rescue,” is relative and popular these days, almost in vogue to use it.
I have worked with many rescued horses over the years. For a time in 2005, most of my business was starting PMU, (premarin) babies. I then got involved with the Wild Mustang Program, starting lots of mustangs. I even competed in the 2009 Extreme Mustang Makeover. These days, I still get horses into training that have been rescued from every sort of situation imaginable. I also work one day a week for a local horse sanctuary; they bring in horses of all ages with all types of backgrounds.
I’m often asked if I work with a rescued horse any different than a horse that had been treated properly its whole life. For me, it’s case by case. If I have the benefit of knowing something about one of the horses who have come into the sanctuary, I can use that to help with my training. Especially if it was an abuse case, I would most definitely avoid any aggressive handling. That being said, it will not benefit me or the horse in the long run to skirt an issue. At some point it has to be addressed, and the horse must learn or re-learn to operate in our world.
Sadly, I meet many rescued horses whose owner has not been able to move past the fact the horse was rescued and possibly abused. Because of their emotions, (mostly feeling sorry for the horse), they cannot get firm or even begin any type of training. So the result is a rude, pushy, rescued horse.
Horses are no different than humans in this respect- they need a job, and they need purpose. This will lead to a sense of fulfillment. The horse, I believe, is a creation of God for Man to use. We are commanded to be kind to our beast, but we are to USE them. The happy horses I know have jobs. Sometimes they’re pretty hard jobs, but the horse knows its purpose and what’s expected of them. If handled in a correct manner, I believe horses definitely have a sense of fulfillment. As with us, that brings peace into theirs, and our lives. It’s the horses that do nothing most of the week that I personally feel sorry for. They also are the ones with the weird behaviors we hear about, weaving, cribbing, biting, whatever. As my friend puts it, “Idle hoofs are the devils workshop.”
At the sanctuary I work for, their main goal is to get these horses back into service, and back to loving homes. They address this through training, and not avoiding issues. They sometimes have information that can help us, sometimes not. We are trainers and detectives- allowing in many cases to let the horses tell us their needs. Many of the horses they get are wild and have never been handled. We have to make contact first; from there it’s getting a halter, and moving forward with their training.
In most every case, we’re successful. We have had some wild horses that were quite older, in which we could not make a solid connection. The trust issue for the horse was just not possible. In those cases, the sanctuary can sometimes still find a home for them, if not they can stay there. This sanctuary has sponsors who actually have an interest in a particular horse. It’s a cool idea, and brings in revenue. This sanctuary is a Non Profit group and they’re for real, and doing a great job with the animals!
If you’re considering adopting a horse from a rescue, here are a few things to consider: What’s the story on the horse? Does this horse fit your needs? Does the horse have any training? Are you prepared for a special project? This horse may not fit into your world right away. Can you put emotions aside, and bring this horse back into good citizenship? Lastly, are you prepared to go the distance with this horse? Whether it is professional training, or you training it?
Sadly, we see some horses come back because the adoptee was not prepared to stick it out. On the positive side, there will be no greater thrill than to give a horse a second chance. You will find out more about yourself in this project than you might imagine.
I did not write this article to promote one particular horse rescue, as there are many good ones around. I can speak personally on two that I have been involved with: Hope’s Chance Horse Sanctuary in Modesto, CA, and K.I.S.S. Horse Center in Galt, CA. Both do a wonderful job.
I hope this article gives you some idea with what’s involved in rescuing a horse. I also hope it might inspire you to adopt a rescue as well.
See ya out there!
Steve Bauhr owns and operates Bauhr Ranch in Chinese Camp, CA, a full horse training facility. For more info, go to bauhrranch.com, or find us on Facebook!