Annie

Annie was donated to a rescue organization by her owner. They had bought Annie to be their daughter's first horse. The seller assured them that she had owned Annie for years and that her grandchildren had spent hours on Annie's back. However, once Annie's seller delivered her to her new home, her new owner discovered that she had lied about Annie's background. She had actually bought Annie at an auction just a few weeks before. When the new owner called Annie's previous owner he told them that Annie was a dangerous horse. He advised them to sell her at another auction or send her to a slaughterhouse.

Luckily for Annie, her new owners realized that they might be in over their heads - but they didn't want to send her through another auction or to the slaughterhouse, so they donated her to the rescue where she met The Equine Behaviorist.

Jennifer spent the first week handling the mare and getting to know her. She was reserved and quiet - but she displayed no dangerous behaviors. She lead well, was easy to catch in pasture, and was respectful when fed. After a week, Jennifer brought Annie into the barn to groom her and start working with her. That's when she discovered her dangerous behavior.

Jennifer tied Annie up so she could groom her. Annie stood quietly while Jennifer groomed her, but the minute Jennifer walked into the tack room to get the saddle, Annie sat back violently. She pulled and flailed. She went down, got up, and kept pulling until she broke her leadrope. Jennifer caught Annie and retied her - this time with two leadropes. For some horses when they break one leadrope by setting back but are still caught by a second leadrope, they will stop setting back because it doesn't "get them free". However, Annie was not one of those horses. She broke the first leadrope, found out she was still caught, and set back again to break the second leadrope.

Many horse owners proceeded to give advice on how to break the mare of setting back - however after the first time the mare set back, she panicked anytime she was tied. She was dangerous to herself - threatening to hurt herself as she flailed. And she was dangerous to her handlers - in her blind panic she would run over anyone who got near her.

In this case, Jennifer decided to manage her behavior instead of fixing it. She was no longer tied - she would stand still if her leadrope was thrown over a hitching post (as long as it was not tied). She stood quietly for saddling, bridling, and grooming. Although she was tense under saddle, she did not buck, kick, or bolt.

Annie was adopted by a family as a companion and pet. They understood that they could not tie her - and they did not care. Annie's case is a lesson that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you cannot safely correct a bad behavior. However, most bad behaviors can be safely managed. A second lesson from Annie - what one person considers an unfixable, dangerous behavior can be either fixed or managed by someone else.

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