Fiona is a 9 year old, Clydesdale cross mare that came to PEACE Ranch in May 2013. Rescued in November 2012, she had survived starvation, mistreatment, and serious illness and was partially blind in one eye. She was incredibly frightened, still needed building up physically but mostly she needed to learn to trust…
She received daily care and training so little by little, Fiona began to relax and enjoy being with people. We started using her in our community outreach program. She made significant progress and the worst seemed to be behind her, until today…………….
The following are my journal entries.
I have to admit, I never saw it coming.She has worked so hard and come so far—yet here we are, now what.
Fiona came from Southern Michigan’s Starry Skie Equine Rescue.She was part of a government seizure after being abandoned on a farm with another horse for several months.She was up to her elbow in manure , partially blind, thin , and frightened.Soon after she contracted a serious skin infection which was very painful and took several months to resolve.When she came to PEACE, the infection was gone but she was still very skittish.
She was put in a small pen with one horse, Ben, who connected with her immediately. She began to rely on him for comfort and safety—he was her first friend. We started slowly building trust, little by little, day by day. It was slow but every day she took at least one step forward. Once she was easily haltered we moved her into the big pasture with a few more horses. She made the adjustment easily. After a few weeks, she started coming out to Hug and Groom and really began to love the brushing, doting and attention. We had started her basic training and all was going along well.
Every morning since the day she came, I feed her.I have witnessed this shy, unsteady giant become more confident and friendly.I thought it odd a couple mornings ago that when I brought her food she seemed a little snorty.I couldn’t see anything wrong and eventually all was well.We are all entitled to a goofy day once in a while.Then yesterday, again, strange, nervous, I noticed a little tear in her eye and I wiped it gently with some cleaning solution.Maybe there was a little dust that caused that tear.Today, there was no mistaking.I brought her food and she was nervous.She paced and going close too close to one of herd members, she was pushed away on ly to run into a post.
It hit me like a brick- Fiona can’t see! Things got worse during Hug and Groom (our community outreach program) when we started taking the herd out. She panicked that they were leaving but was too frightened to be haltered and come with them. We tried a number of ways to get her into the paddock but she was franticly trotting through the pasture, running into trees, the electric fence, at one point we thought she would come through the gate following her buddy Ben but she ended up smashing her face on a post. Clearly she could not see anything and now were both petrified.
My mind was racing, I knew we couldn’t catch her, how could we keep her safe? How could we get her to settle down? Once I could get my mind to shift from the swirling jumble of “O NO”s the answer became obvious. Move the horses back in with HER. You see, horses are herd animals and they experience a sense of safety when they are together. She was already feeling scared because her vision was impaired but taking out the herd was removing all sources of comfort and safety.
We put all the horses back and she did settle. For now she was safe. My heart in my throat, I went back to my administrative responsibilities pushing back my own feelings of unsettledness.
In the evening at feeding time we put all the horses in the paddock. Fiona, still reluctant to pass through the gate from her encounter with the post earlier responded to my gentle herding from the rear and made it through. We started their feeding time together in the paddock and later moved the extra horses out. I walked the perimeter of the fence line so she could get a sense of her surroundings and after some time, left her for the night.