This story is Part 2 of one that The War Horse Project’s Registered Psychotherapist, Wendy Lange-Faria, tells in her sessions with our participants. Where necessary, we’ve changed names to protect privacy.
When I came to see him, he was literally a rack of bones with overgrown hooves, living in his own dung, mane and tail reaching the ground but completely matted. A far cry from the magnificent coal black stallion some years before! No human socialization. No herd to belong to. No other horse companion. He hadn’t been touched or even left his tiny paddock in a full eight years. He became dangerous. He didn’t trust anyone anymore. No one trusted him either.
Horrified by this sight, Tom and I boldly approached the house. In no uncertain terms we told the woman who answered the door that she no longer owned the horse and were to consent then and there to let us take Legend or bylaw would be getting involved. We went to the truck, my friend pulled out his chainsaw and created a hole in the fence. I went in and haltered Legend (he was so weak he could barely walk so no attacks were forthcoming) and gingerly walked him to freedom. We led him into the horse trailer we had brought and took him to my friend’s farm.
The first focus was to feed him and get some weight on his bones. Then we carefully brushed his coat and de-loused him. Next was a good worming and lots of love and attention. That was the physical stuff, the things we could see.
In some ways, that was the easy stuff. . . we also had to build his trust again. Humans had not been good to him – depriving him of love and food and comfort. Horses are very social animals and normally live in a herd – Legend hadn’t seen another horse since the day he entered that paddock ten years before. He had to learn how to get along with our herd and it wasn’t easy. He lacked social skills and the other horses flatly rejected him. It was sad to watch.
He kept to himself – mostly because every other herd member would just chase him away. He ate last and had to wait for the others till they had their fill of water at the trough before he ever got a turn.
But he wasn’t alone. We spent lots of time with him – talking and touching gently, going at his pace, not our own ideas of “progress.” Gradually, he learned how to fit in with the herd too. He had to learn how to be a regular horse again.
Part 3 of Legend’s story will be posted in the next few days. Stay tuned!