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
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.