It was a cold January day when Windy and Fanci came. I purchased mother and son from a downstate owner who I had found to be disreputable, after I had already paid in full. Windy (Foxwin Piaffe) an older registered Morgan pony was for my daughter and her 4 year old son-royally bred drop and dead gorgeous– was to be our second breeding stallion. We already had a breeding stallion on our farm but Fanci was “so quiet you’d think he was a gelding” and available for such a great price I couldn’t pass him up. I was very green back then. They arrived in a rickety trailer, Windy was unloaded and the owner pulled Fanci out by the tail to demonstrate how docile he was. The mare was thin and poor; the colt, clearly with deferred maintenance, was solemn. It was too late to back out; the money had already been sent weeks ago so I chalked it up as a learning experience.
Foxwin Piaffe, Fanci’s mother had been born at Foxwin Farm in New York. She was a rare survivor as an equine twin but her sibling had died in the birth process. She had been well loved and well trained by Pat Ross and sold to a trusted friend but somehow she wound up in the hands of someone whose care for her left much to be desired. I traced her history and contacted Pat who, after hearing the story, was relieved she had finally come to us.
I was right about one thing, it was a learning experience, but it was just beginning. I had gotten way more than I’d bargained for.
The next morning when I went out to feed, the solemn colt from the day before was a nutcase in my pasture. He was charging wildly and when I attempted to get near to quiet him, he would have no part of me. This went on for days. My children were afraid of him, I had no place to contain him, I couldn’t get near him, and it was the dead of winter. I was way over my head. I sought input and learned that most likely he had been sedated when he came.
I had been learning natural horsemanship with my other stallion, a lovely black I had purchased to be our herd sire a couple years earlier but I was insecure about my knowledge and reluctant to attempt any kind of training with Fanci. However, the need was imminent. His feet were in bad shape, but we couldn’t do anything with him never mind pick up his feet. I tried hiring a trainer to work with him thinking this would be best but Fanci was resistant to the harsh, traditional method. As I watched their sessions, I could hear him screaming but the trainer was deaf to his cries. In my heart I knew it wasn’t right for him. I was scared but something about his tortured soul called out to me to step up. I didn’t know if I had what it took but I became willing to give it a shot.
Fear is a strong motivator and task master. Fanci and I faced ours together and the outcome was a beautiful thing. We made little steps through daily encounters to develop trust. Before long I could halter and tie him. It was longer before I could touch him all over, brush him, lead him, and pick up his feet. Once Fanci and I started feeling safe together we began to dance—he was so light to my cues, so eager to please, so open to learn. I was enthralled by this horse and so was everyone who met him. Fanci was so quiet and willing by spring that I let my daughter Katherine, then 14 years old, help with his saddle training and she was the first one on him.
Everybody loved Fanci. He was the prodigal in our pasture and we witnessed his homecoming. We were transformed because of him and this profoundly changed the course of our lives. For me, I realized I loved the transforming nature of the relational process, particularly with troubled horses, and began to volunteer for the local rescue and through that experience I discovered that my education as a therapist and my love for relationship based equine training intersected through equine assisted counseling and education.
This experience, combined with significant issues in our family (which is another part of the story) gave us a new vision. We gelded our stallions, began selling off the mares and proposed the development of an equine assisted therapy center to the Paraklesis Inc. board of directors. We sold Fanci to some friends’ downstate that had purchased another gelding from us the year before. They are great people and we knew he would be loved and well cared for and he was. We sent “Windy” back to Pat Ross who was thrilled to get her beloved pony back only to lose her a few months later to Potomac Fever.
Yesterday, Fanci came back. Our friends are facing a health crisis and Fanci needs a new home. He got off the trailer like the perfect gentleman he is. He looked to his “mom” for comfort in this new environment, she choked back the tears. He’s all grown up now, but he hasn’t changed a bit.