Annika + Splash
Color Red Sabino Overo Paint
I was planning a move to Oklahoma to work the summer at the main location of the rescue I work for. My boss kept mentioning a gelding out there that he was convinced I would love, and showing me pictures of this gorgeous red and white paint. I was apprenticing under him as a trainer, and he thought this horse would be a great challenge.
The day I arrived, I walked out to see him. After quietly following him around a few minutes, he walked up and sniffed my hand. Everyone was amazed. I knew little about him other than his color and name, as my boss wanted to keep me in the dark to keep any preconceived notions from hindering my perception of Splash. Apparently, my boyfriend (who is my boss’s son), my boss, and my boss’s former ranch manager had all tried unsuccessfully to get him to warm up to them, but it seemed he had no desire for human contact at all.
The story my boss got from Splash’s owner was that he was 12 years old and green broke. At two, the man had sent him to a trainer for 30 days, and the trainer had gone on vacation for two weeks of that time. As soon as the owner got Splash home, he saddled him, hopped on, and went flying about 40 feet. The man put Splash out to pasture and never touched him again. I’m not sure how much of that story I believe, but whatever happened, I’m eternally grateful that he ended up with us.
We have taken things very slowly, working pretty much from the ground up. It broke my heart to see him panic at the sight of a saddle and flinch if raised my hand from my side. A lunge whip sitting in the yard sent him running into pile of wood, and I’ll bet you can imagine how he reacted to the sight of a hose in my hand. It took time, patience, and a lot of figuring each other out but, I can honestly say I have never met a horse that I’ve had this kind of connection with.
In just a few months, he’s gone from fearing everything in sight to one of the bravest and most curious horses I’ve seen. Even with his lack of experience (and mine as well), we’ve built a bond of trust that has allowed us to progress faster than anyone believed possible. He’s one of the steadiest, most sure-footed, most attentive horses that I’ve ever had on a trail. Last week we galloped around an arena carrying a flag, and he didn’t blink an eye. We sorted cattle and he had the time of his life. We raced his best horse friends, Max and Gift, through trees on a windy day and he never lost focus or stuttered a step, even when a small branch hit him in the shoulder. He’ll jump logs, ford streams, cross roads. Everything I’ve asked of him – or or not even thought of asking of him – he’s done and done splendidly. He surprises me every day with his courage and willing attitude, especially his ability to trust me not to put him at risk.
Splash will be returning to California with me this month. My boss decided there wouldn’t be a better match for him. I’m over the moon, and don’t think I would have been able to stand watching him be adopted to anyone else. We’ve grown so much together these last few months, and I can’t imagine having made this journey with anyone else. This horse is my soul mate, and I can’t wait to see everything we accomplish together!
To me, a #RightHorse is all about connection and growth. At the rescue I work at blind adoptions are not allowed. As my boss says, “People come in and say ‘Ohhh that one’s pretty! I want that one!’ And it don’t mean jack. We don’t adopt on pretty.” Not the most eloquent statement, but it proves true every time. We won’t allow an adoption until the person has come and spent time with all the horses, worked with them, given them love, and they’ve really decided which horse is a good fit for them. You could go out and spend thousands on a bombproof, guaranteed champion horse, and not click with them at all. Then both you and the horse are miserable and going nowhere. That’s why rescue horses are so great! I’m not recommending someone with no experience go and pick out the wildest, rankest bronc on the lot and try and go all “cowboy,” that would just ruin both. But I believe if you wait for that horse you have a true connection with, there will be that compatibility of experience already set in place. No one is going to connect with a horse they’re utterly intimidated by, or on the opposite end, a horse they aren’t challenged or stimulated by. Challenge and stimulation on the part of both horse and rider are key for a good relationship. The #RightHorse is the one that provides the rider opportunity for growth on both sides, and allows for the development of a more enriching bond between horse and person.