Dixie is a little paint mare who was afraid of most everything when she came to CFER in the fall of 2015. She had been beaten and ridden abusively. She was especially frightened of hoses and water, and she may have been abused with a hose. Before her rescue, a guy driving past her on his way to work each day saw the abuse, and felt so badly about it that he bought her from the abusers. He was not a horse person however, and kept her in a chicken coop until he lost his job and could no longer afford to feed her. CFER then took her in.
At this point, Dixie had been taught to be distrustful, so she could not do the things that people expect horses to do. She might have wanted to be friends, but she was afraid op people.
About this time, I was helping with the rescues as a volunteer at Poplar Grove, but I was not a horse person either. Still, I was fascinated by the horses, and very soon, feeding them several times a week was not nearly enough for me, so I set about finding one of my own. Dixie had come to CFER at about that time, and I went to have a look. It was a miserable, cold, rainy February day at the Lillington Lane rescue barn – not a good day for horses. On our first meeting, Dixie showed me that she did want a friend, even though she was quite wary.
So I took Dixie on only as a foster, because I wanted to train her myself but was not sure I could finish her. I found a stable that would take us, and a natural horsemanship trainer who was willing to train me to train Dixie, and we got busy. I got help, advice and support from the trainer, vets, other horse owners, the web, and books. I worked with her daily, starting with desensitizing drills and ground work, and we went for walks on trails. She quickly came to trust me. Progress came in small steps, but after 9 months of work, the trainer expressed confidence that I could indeed finish Dixie, so I adopted her.
Dixie began work under saddle after our first year, and now, after another year, we are cantering comfortably, working on yielding forequarters, and building confidence on the trail. Our trip has not been fast or easy, and it is far from over, but it has been rewarding all along the way.
My two years with Dixie have given me a great deal of pleasure, and I want to emphasize that this experience is within reach for those with motivation, commitment and patience. You don’t have to be a master horse trainer; you need good support to keep you on the right track.