Love The Unwanted
I have always dreamed of helping animals in need. Rescuing them from their past, bringing them to their future, and giving them the care they need and deserve. So, when I was ready to get my second horse, I knew I wanted to rescue.
The process of adopting my mini horse, Optimus, was different than I thought it would be. I was hoping to feel an obvious connection with one of the adoptable horses. That didn’t go as planned because most of the minis were wary of people, so I couldn’t even get close to them. How was I going to know which one was meant to come home with me? All I could do was sit in the paddock with about fifteen mini horses, watch them from a distance, and try to feel which one was meant to be with me. I was eventually drawn to a little black and grey horse that came from a criminal neglect situation. I was told his halter had been left on so long that he developed sores on his face. At that moment, I promised him that nothing bad would ever happen to him again.
I then eagerly welcomed him home along with all of the baggage he might be bringing with him. He was still very untrustworthy of people. I had to gain his trust and he had to be confident that I was safe. Even then, I still had to move slow. He was and still is afraid of many things. For awhile, he didn’t like being in an enclosed space. Being in the barn with the doors closed would make him stress and panic. You also don’t know what kind of medical issues may become evident. A couple months after arriving home, he was diagnosed with Cushing’s and has a lot of allergies. Some people might have gotten upset to find out their new horse has medical problems. Being upset never crossed my mind. I now feel so relieved that I can provide him with the help he needs. Knowing that he had such a hard life prior to his time at the rescue facility makes me want to give him the most comfortable and enriching life possible.
In order to help Optimus be more comfortable in his new home, I mainly gave him time. He needed time to adjust. Everything was new to him. He was in a new pasture, with a new horse and with a new person. Things weren’t going to change overnight or even in a month. He has been with me for 8 months now and it has taken around 4-6 months for him to truly settle in and show more personality. And that’s perfectly ok. You can’t rush things like this.
I used a lot of positive exposure for him to see me as his safe person. I made sure that every visit with me had a good outcome. I wanted him to know that I wasn’t going to hurt or scare him, and I am a person he could trust. I used things he really enjoyed like food, scratches, and enrichment activities. I had to build our trust piggy bank so when he gets a little nervous, he will hopefully recover faster from it and still know that he can trust me to keep him safe. It wasn’t long before he seemed to enjoy spending time with me. I will always remember the first time he ever came to greet me. It was one of the most rewarding feelings and I couldn’t keep a smile off of my face. He finally knew that I was his person! It was really all about working at his speed and not pushing him farther than what he was comfortable with.
Optimus has helped me grow so much in just the short time he has been with me. He has made me try new things if something wasn’t working for him. He has especially helped me with my timing during our training sessions. He has also pushed me to gain more knowledge as an equestrian. I had to seek out information on Cushing’s and how to manage a horse with it. I would have never gone into so much depth on the topic if it wasn’t for him. He has helped me see everything as a learning opportunity and I’m so grateful for that. He has changed my life so much for the better. I now have more knowledge for the future when working with other horses. Maybe they will have some of the same struggles as Optimus and I will know better how to help them. I also now have more experience of what it is like to work with a fearful and spooky horse. He still jumps at little things but that’s ok. We are both learning and getting better as we go along. Knowledge is power and he has taught me so much.
I think that he is grateful for the situation he is in now. He shows me unconditional love and can always make my day a little better when I see his tiny legs running across the pasture to greet me. He is so enthusiastic during training. You can tell he loves to have his mind working. He has also brought so much joy to my other horse, Jena. He was the buddy she so needed.
I believe in rescuing over purchasing for multiple reasons. First of all, rescuing is all about saving animals in need and finding their forever homes. However, rescue facilities only have a certain amount of space and horses they can take at a time. Whenever you rescue, it opens up a spot for them to help another. Don’t get me wrong, Jena was purchased, and I absolutely love her to death, but I find it so unbelievably rewarding to have helped Optimus and the rescue. The cost of the adoption either goes to saving another horse or feeding and caring for the ones they already have.
Rescues are a place where the “unwanted” and neglected go to find the love they need. We don’t always know their stories. We can only imagine what they have been through. My hope is that people with great hearts will continue to save these horses from abuse and neglect so they may be rehabilitated and find their forever homes.
I find nothing more rewarding than helping animals in need and rescuing Optimus has made me fall in love with it even more.