Earlier this year, I was contacted by Elizabeth Lorenzen, an acquaintance of mine who runs Peacefield Equine Sanctuary, a small equine rescue outside of Terra Haute, IN. In the past, I had donated fine art projects to silent auctions to benefit Peacefield. This time, however, Elizabeth was looking to tap into a different skill set of mine. Peacefield had taken in a 14 year old TB mare that had been labeled as “dangerous” by her previous owners (the people who surrendered her). Apparently, they had had quiet QHs that they trail rode. They wanted to do the same with Deb (the mare), but she wasn’t having any of it. Somewhere along the lines, she scared her previous owners — and realized that they were scared around her. Deb used that to her advantage, and she wound up at Peacefield.
Over the summer, one of the Peacefield volunteers had really connected with Deb and ended up riding her throughout the summer. Deb was taught to lunge and she seemed to go around quietly enough in a bitless bridle. Knowing all of this, I went out a few weeks ago to meet Deb and try her out. This would give me the opportunity to decide if we were a good fit. I lunged her for a bit, then she was tacked and I lunged her again before getting on. I was a little nervous about riding in a bitless bridle, as I really don’t feel that there is a lot of control there — in case of emergency. However, Elizabeth assured me that Deb was very light in the bridle and easy to control with seat aids. Deb had learned somewhere to toss her head while being ridden. I simply did one rein stops whenever she started that. It took about 15 minutes, but she then stopped tossing her head. Then she decided to try backing. Again, I went to the one rein stop. I simply took the inside rein and she was required to circle (while stepping under with the inside hind). Pressure was released as soon as she stopped moving. So long as she kept moving forward, I was happy to keep a light and consistent contact. Remember, this was in a bitless bridle.
Despite her antics, which really turned out to be smoke and mirrors — no real threat behind them — I really like Deb. I could see that she really just needed to have firm boundaries set. Mares, more so than geldings, tend to be that way. They run the herd and either you are in charge, or they are. There is no middle ground.
And so after a couple hours together, it was decided that Deb would be a good project horse for me over the winter. If nothing else, having Deb at the barn would give me an excuse to get out and work my own mare, Jewel. Linda and I picked her up on Saturday, Nov 15. Deb put up a tantrum about getting on the trailer, but showed no true signs of fear. After about 10 minutes of “pretending” she was not going to get on, she hopped right on the trailer and stood like a pro. She settled right in to life at her new barn.
On Sunday (the next day) I went out and played with her a bit. Elizabeth’s experience was that Deb did not cross tie, so I made her stand ground tied in the grooming stall. She was not allowed to dance around or move at all.
We also tried a bridle with a bit on. This is a french link Baucher, which lies flat across the horse’s tongue and doesn’t pop them in the roof of the mouth when contact is taken. I did not ride, but I did lunge her in it and she was just fine.
A conformation shot. She is put together fairly well. Her neck is set on a little low for my taste, and due to the depth of her chest and girth, it will be a challenge for her to lift her wither. However, because she has a shorter back, it should be easier for her to sit and lift, versus if she had a long back. And she has quite an engine!!
Here are a few shots I grabbed from a short video I took. And yeah…that’s snow.