Holistic Horsemanship Institute of America™
Off the Track Thoroughbred: Magic (coming soon)
Adult Retraining: Winchester (coming soon)
Injury Rehabilitation: Louisa (coming soon)
Cherokee was a household pet for a decade before he came to live with me. He had had two weeks of formal training when he was very young and then nothing else. His only job was to follow his mother, Sadye, on the occasional trail ride.
Sadye, Cherokee, and I moved to the St. Louis area in 2006 and began to get to know each other.
Cherokee was unweaned, which means he would be impossible to train. So the first step in his training was to separate him from his mother. Sadye seemed relieved and Cherokee was beyond scared. Cherokee's solution was to latch on to me emotionally. It was the start of an incredible friendship.
At first, Cherokee didn't have much patience for learning and could only handle about 20 minutes of training at a time; very much like a 2-year-old even though he was ten. We worked a little bit each day and within 2 months, he was ready for his first riding student.
After a year apart, I reintroduced Sadye and Cherokee to each other. Cherokee ran to her and quickly informed the rest of the herd that she was "his." He needn't have worried. She missed him, too and clearly loves being a mom.
Cherokee has continued to build his knowledge base; he loves to learn and as a result, has become a very skilled teaching partner for me.
Starting Adults: Cherokee
Hudson (Adopted as a 3-Year-Old Tennessee Walking Horse) was a Longmeadow Rescue Ranch baby. He and his herd were the unfortunate victims of a widow's sentiment. The breeding facility he came from was owned by two older brothers who passed away within a year of each other. They left the herd (approx. 8 horses) to one of the widows who did not know anything about horses. The widow was offered a hefty sum for the whole herd, but didn't take it. So Hudson spent his two-year-old year uncared for (no hoof care, no nutrition, no attention).
In the spring of his third year, Longmeadow Rescue Ranch confiscated the herd. Hudson was 630lbs (see above) as a 3.5-year-old when I adopted him. Sadye, the head mare, adopted him immediately. Radiographs confirmed that his legs hadn't suffered permanent damage from lack of hoof trimming. Longmeadow and I weren't sure if his growth would be stunted or not. Because of his condition, he needed time to grow before he could be trained to ride. We spent the next year doing ground work in the round pen to help continue his body's development and to expend his boundless energy! We did some walking the trails, too, but he wasn't excited about going slow!
I rode him for the first time when he was 4.5 years old. He was very cooperative and curious about the whole experience, but mentally not ready to work; likely a result of his unfortunate past. Since he's my private horse, he wasn't on a time schedule and so I opted to let him be a baby. I rode him only a handful of times over the next two years, but we spent a lot of time playing together in the arena! He would get frustrated with me when I'd get too worn out from running around with him and needed to sit down to catch my breath!
Hudson grew to 15.3hh and reached 1300lbs while he learned from Sadye how to run his own herd. In January of 2011, Hudson was ready to ride. We worked in the arena, round pen, and on the trails. He's fearless and so his first trip off-site was to Forest Park (see below). He loves to spend hours under saddle and doesn't care what we do as long as we're "doing something!" He gets very indignant if he catches me riding another horse! Learn more about Hudson on our "About the Horses" page.
Starting Babies and Abuse/Neglect Rehabilitation: Hudson
Titan was a 6-year-old Quarter horse in dire need of rescue, as you can see from his hollowed out frame above. I was his second rescuer; the first rescuer helped him gain a lot of weight and settle into a safe environment again. As sometimes happens, when I first went to look at him, there was an immediate connection, which his first rescuer hadn't been able to acquire from him. She saw it, too, and told me I'd better be taking him home now! I did.
Titan had a ways further to go in his physical rehabilitation, but was also a dominant horse and needed immediate training attention as a result. Within a few months, we developed a very strong bond with each other and he was progressing well in his ground work.
Six months after I purchased him, he colicked. We weren't far enough in his training to be able to get him into trailer to get to Columbia, MO for surgery. The vet later confirmed it was a genetic trait and even if we had done surgery, he would have colicked again many other times.
Titan and I fought together for 18 hours. We had a lot of help walking him, but he didn't want anyone to walk him, but me. I walked him until I was too exhausted to help anymore and the others had to take over.
He did not survive, but when we put him down, his head was in my lap. That's the hardest part of horse rescue - it doesn't always work out like you hoped. At least he was really happy for his last 6 months of life.
Nancy, a beautiful Missouri Fox Trotter, broke a bone just above her back right hock in 2010. Her owner and I suspect that she was kicked by a shod horse in the pasture.
The bone break very quickly turned into a bone infection. Her prognosis was grim looking, but Nancy is her owner's "once in a lifetime horse." So her owner opted to try several months of antibiotics selected based on specific testing to determine the infection type. Two different veterinarians were pretty sure that if she survived, she would never be ridden again.
Challenge 1: Help Nancy survive physically while she was on 3 legs. As many people know, a horse isn't meant to spend much time on 3 legs and the opposite leg will often give out after 8-12 weeks, resulting in having to put the horse down. Nancy was already trimmed with the Strasser Barefoot method and we firmly believe that's why she survived.
We watched Nancy's good leg bow outward as time went on and crossed our fingers. I also spent many hours stretching her out to help the rest of her body survive the several months she would need to be on 3 legs. She got to the point where she would refuse treats from me, but instead would turn her butt to me immediately so I would help stretch her out (the first stretch is a tail/spine stretch).
Challenge 2: The vets didn't think Nancy would every be ridden again. When Nancy was solid on her leg again, about 8 months after the initial injury, I began working with her physically. It took many careful, painstaking hours of rehab to bring her around.
In October of 2011, 1 year after her initial injury, I rode her for the first time. I started her bareback to ease the physical limitations on her during her first ride and so that I could better help her with nuances in muscle use and balance. I was prepared for her to buck/rear or anything else that suited her during this first ride, but instead, she went right to work (see the photo above of her first post-injury ride). In February 2012, she was ready for a saddle again.
Today, a trainer can pick out the hitch in her step, but your average rider cannot. And, most importantly, Nancy is healthy and active again.
Tuff (Purchased as an 11-Year-Old Quarter Horse Gelding) was about 150lbs underweight and in a lot of pain when he was first purchased; it was my job to help my student understand this and the risks with taking on essentially a "rescue." The challenge was to be able to assess what his personality would be like once he was feeling better. Tuff was unmistakably depressed and just trying to survive. My student needed a challenging, playful and active animal and that certainly wasn't the horse we met that day, but I saw just enough to know he had it in him!
Tuff spent several months recovering physically from incorrect collection and balance. It is likely that he had a permanent headache when he was first purchased because his "solution" to the body position requested from a previous rider or trainer was to bend at the poll and pretend that was balanced collection. His muscles were severely overdeveloped at the poll and underdeveloped everywhere else in the neck, abdomen, back, and haunches. Inspection of his legs and hooves told mehad also foundered sometime in his past and recently abscessed in one hoof. Careful nutrition, natural hoof care and months of patience resulted in a very healthy, solid tank of a horse!
Tuff had to start fresh in his training. He was in so much pain originally that my guess is he's spent most of his life in pain and doing the minimal to get by. He didn't understand play between horses or between horse and rider. Once he was feeling better, his true, very dominant, personality came out. He had to learn the basics including the rules for leading with a halter and lead rope! And, oh by the way, charging your trainer in the pasture a dozen times isn't the way to start off on a good note!
Needless to say, after 4 months of training, Tuff is a happy, playful, friendly, and engaging animal! His favorite thing to do is dressage; his first session lasted 1.5 hours because he was so fascinated by it. He's becoming well-versed in higher level dressage now, including the piaffe and the levade! His second favorite thing to do is to play with his owner. He's fond of goofing around enough to exasperate her! But she loves a challenge and as I suspected, he's an excellent match for her!