In March 2011 we had the great fortune to have Virginie Bernhard, a freedom horse trainer from Switzerland, come to stay with us. This was a great opportunity to work with horses in need and so a friend and I made the decision to each purchase a rescue. My brave friend went to a horse slaughter yard and purchased a horse desperately in need. I was sent a photograph of a grey gelding and I asked that she purchase him on my behalf. Unfortunately a friend of the operator had asked for the pony so he was not available. Then my friend remembered a chestnut mare at the yards. I rang the slaughter yard and waited anxiously for the answer…no she had not been slaughtered and yes I could buy her.
The following day my friend drove with her float and loaded both horses. It was a nerve wracking journey as she did not know how they would travel but she got here safely and we unloaded them.
It is hard to explain the feeling of taking an animal out of the slaughter house yards, the mud, the terror, the stench, the fear-laden atmosphere and then release them into a grassed paddock, with shelter, feed, clean water, fresh clean air, and peace and quiet.
Our quarantine paddock is a long way for the house and the stables. This is a good thing as it gives maximum rest and quiet for new arrivals. We took one look at the new chestnut mare and named her Sally, sweet Sally.
We let the two horses to explore and settle. Over the next days we observed them, waiting for one of the most rewarding moments. Exhausted after being put through sale yards, trucked, held at the abattoir, it takes a few days for a new horse to ‘trust’ their new environment. Then, and it is usually day three, is the wonderful moment when the horse lays down in the sun and sleeps, deeply.
Sally just ate and ate, slept and slept.
We had our first hint as to Sally’s past when I put a rug on her. Sally would stand quietly while all the straps were secured. Then the moment it was finished she would gallop, full speed and frantic, hide in the corner of the paddock, and not come out unless we removed the rug.
At the time we observed this we found that the other horse had been ‘through’ a bucking contractor, and had been sent to the knackery to die for his refusal to buck enough. Sally’s behaviour indicated perhaps she had experienced the same.
So slowly, slowly we worked to regain Sally’s trust with gentle handling based on freedom techniques.
Then Sally put on weight, and more weight and more weight. Wondering if she was in foal I had the vet do a blood test. At the same time a lovely woman contact, who had rescued an older horse from a riding establishment, sent me the sad news that her rescue had died. She suggested she could take a horse from us and so she was invited over to meet Sally. It was love at first sight, and pending the result of the pregnancy test, Sally had a new home.
Well it turned out Sally was just putting on weight due to good food, and so the day came for her to go to her new home. She was still a little challenging to catch but this day all went well and we loaded her without incident into the float.
On arrival Sally did not want to get off. In the end we had to push her back off. And then she looked around, accepted a proffered apple and immediately we could see, this was Home!
She joined three other horses, all geldings. Immediately Sally flaunted her stuff and was flirting like mad.
There has never been a backward step. Her lovely carer took the time to handle her with respect and care, utilised the advice of natural horse people, and now has a horse who welcomes human contact, and has become a big big smooch.
Sweet Sally is indeed living up to her name.
And as for the little bay filly in the background of the photograph os Sally after one week out of the abattoir….https://honeyspledge.org/2013/08/18/the-secret-hidden-in-the-rose-the-story-of-rosie/