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OTHER ITA SITES:
The Equine Redemption
A friend of mine was looking to buy a horse that could be a backyard horse for her and her son to ride around and be friends with. She didn't want to spend a lot of money, so I suggested we go to the local auction to see if we could rescue one of the horses from that fate... For those of you who are unfamiliar with horse auctions, many times the meat buyers end up taking most of the animals at low prices. There are usually some horses there who have plenty of life left and just need someone to show up and recognize their value, see their heart.
We found a couple of older horses who seemed to be dumped at the auction but still had life left and love to give. My friend decided to bid on two of them.
As the auction proceeded, the horses she liked both went to good homes at good prices. In fact, at that auction, most of the horses went to good homes. It was refreshing, actually.
Toward the end, the cowboys herded two young bay Arab/Arab-cross stud colts into the ring. It was clear they hadn't been handled and were not in good shape. I didn't see them out in the paddocks before the auction - I think they may have been brought in at the last second. They ran around in front of the auctioneer, and nobody wanted to bid on them. I'm not sure who ended up buying them, but I suspected that they went to the Mexican rodeo.
The following month my friend and I went back to the same auction yard with high hopes. Again, she found one or two horses she was interested in, so we found our seats and waited to see what happened.
The auction went by much like the last one, the horses she liked went at prices higher than she wanted to pay, and had good homes.
And just like the last month, at the very end of the auction, the cowboys herded in one young bay...gelding. I immediately recognized him as the smaller of the two that had been herded in last month. This poor horse was clearly traumatized, terrified and clearly in pain.
The auctioneer started the bidding out at $500. No takers. $400. No takers...the price went down and down, and still no takers. My heart was just breaking seeing this young guy in such dire straits.
Finally, the auctioneer announced, "$50. Who will take this guy home for $50?"
...Me, apparently! I suddenly found my arm stretched into the air, announcing to the entire crowd that my heart was the softest. BANG, the gavel came down, and I now owned a 2 year old Arab-cross with no training and a terrible start in life.
I did not go to the auction looking to buy a horse, for crying out loud! At that point in my life I wasn't sure which way was up! I sincerely did not know if I would have a home the next month, but I could not have left him where he was.
I paid my $50 plus tax, and bought a disposable nylon halter in the auction office - like I said, I was unprepared. People in the office said to me, "Oh,YOU'RE the one that bought that colt. Be careful with that one. He's out to kill someone." I wasn't worried.
Out in the paddock yard, people were collecting their horses, either the ones they bought or the ones they're taking back home. I saw my new horse alone in a large paddock. I stood at the gate for a while, watching him, letting him see me, smell me, feel me.
One of the cowboys, walking by, playing with is lariat, said to me, "You know, that colt is dangerous. He's out to kill somebody. You probably won't be able to handle him. It took six of us to get him in the trailer last time. You let me know, and I'll come rope him for you when you're ready."
"Ok. Thanks." I said.
I stayed quiet, and started to notice what kind of condition he was really in. He had patches of bare skin where he had fallen, or been whipped down to the skin. He had scars where his mouth had been tied shut. His legs were full of cuts and sores, and his one white sock was hard to see through the dirt and dried blood of a wound just a bit higher on his leg. I was convinced he had been at the Mexican rodeo.
But his eyes were bright. He was aware and alive. His spirit was so strong, totally committed to resisting anyone who would try to force him into servitude. I was already in love with him!
After about 15 minutes of standing quietly, watching him, keeping my own mind clear, my own heart open so he would have the best chance to know who I am, what I'm about, and that I was here to help him, I stepped into the paddock. He was facing away from me, and turned his head around to the left to look at me squarely.
I said, "Hello", silently. I did not approach him, I did not reach out to him with my hand. I stood still, about 20 feet from him, holding my $7 halter and lead rope. He refocused on me, scanning me more deeply, and as he did, I took half a step back, letting him know that I intend no threat. After another five minutes, I turned and left his paddock.
The cowboys KNEW I was crazy. After all, it took six of them to handle this guy...
I took a break, walked away for ten minutes or so, talked with my friend about bringing the trailer around. She backed her four horse stock trailer up to a wide chute area, and the cowboys planted themselves on top of the fences to watch.
"Yer gonna need a rope!" they reassured me.
"Ok. Thanks." I was really grateful for their attention, because I wanted them to see what kindness can accomplish...
I went back to my guy's paddock and walked directly in. I stepped within about ten feet of him and showed him the halter.
Silently, telepathically, I communicated to him, "I'd like you to wear this halter and follow me up this aisleway to a large trailer where there is hay and soft bedding. I want to take you where you can eat grass and rest with no whips and no ropes."
He sighed and lowered his head in acceptance. His eyes became softer, although not submissive.
I walked straight up to him and haltered him. I turned myself toward the gate as if he and I had already done this walk hundreds of times together. With a very slight pressure on the halter in my direction, and a gentle release as he responded, he understood that trapping him was not my intent. He followed me directly, out the gate and up the aislway.
And the cowboys were watching...silently!
This young horse, my new hero, felt a bit claustrophobic in the aisleway, surrounded by fences and gates, shadows and sounds, but he chose to trust me and come with me. When we made it to the other end of the covered paddock area, to where the trailer was waiting, we had an audience. But my horse and I were focused on each other. I was focused on bringing him gently, safely, into the trailer. He was focused on not being beaten.
We walked into the wide chute area toward the trailer, and again, I approached the trailer as if he and I had done this already a thousand times. I held thoughts and pictures and sensations in my mind of a young, spirited bay horse travelling safely and comfortably to a place with a large grass pasture and the company of a three year old quarter horse mare. I saw the picture of him walking gently into the trailer, I felt, even before we stepped into the trailer, the rocking of the trailer floor, the sounds of hooves on the trailer floor, and the rattles you hear when it's holding the weight of a horse. I felt how this particular trailer, on this particular day, was destined to deliver a special horse to freedom.
He followed me straight into the trailer like an old pro. No hesitation. He walked in, grabbed a bite of hay, and let me know he understands. He's ready to go. It was more than I had even hoped for.
Without ceremony, I closed up the trailer, said goodbye to the cowboys, and we drove away.
I named this little horse Dufresne (pronounced du-frane) after the lead charater in The Shawshank Redemption, one of the most satisfying movies I have ever seen. Andy Dufresne, in the movie, was wrongfully imprisoned for over twenty years, endured ridiculous abuse, and finally, quietly, revealed the injustices of his jailers and escaped through the sewer pipes to spend the rest of his days on a Pacific coast beach.
Dufresne settled into his new pasture home instantly. His wounds healed faster than you'd think wounds should heal. He was immeasurably happy to give his attention, to learn to be saddled and ridden. He eventually when to a new family, to live out his new life. Each moment with him was filled with gratitude and love. He is an amazingly strong and beautiful individual.
The picture of him standing in his pasture with grass hanging out of his mouth and a big smile on his face embodies a whole new beginning. The look in his eye is almost indescribable. A kid in a candy store, like he'd been born again, into a completely different world.
This was $50 well spent.
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Travel Part B