Cloud the day she arrived at the rescue.

Cloud two weeks after arriving at the rescue.

Cloud after about 6 months - healthy and used to people.

Cloud was placed with a rescue organization after being removed by law enforcement officers from a neglectful owner. When Cloud arrived at the rescue she was several hundred pounds underweight and was very scared of people. In fact, she was loaded through a chute system so no one would have to touch her and she was allowed to walk off the trailer on her own and was herded into a stall.

While Cloud certainly needed to gain weight, the rescue also needed to be able to catch, halter, and handle her. Jennifer decided to take on this challenge.

Since Cloud was so thin and hungry, Jennifer used food as a motivator. For Cloud's first meal, Jennifer stood in her stall holding a bucket with feed. Cloud stared at Jennifer for a few minutes before she decided to eat anything. After her first bite of grain, she kept eating - taking a bite and then stepping back to watch Jennifer while she ate. Jennifer talked to her while she ate but made no attempt to touch her. They repeated this routine for her next few meals.

Within a few days, Cloud was comfortable eating from the bucket while Jennifer held it and talked to her. Although she was leery of humans, it was obvious that she was not a truly wild or feral horse - she had been handled at some point in her life. While Cloud ate, Jennifer reached out to scratch her neck. Cloud initially jumped back, but she was more hungry than scared so she came back for another bite. Jennifer reached out and scratched her again. After several times, Cloud settled down to eat and let Jennifer continue scratching her neck.

When Jennifer tried to scratch down her side, Cloud moved out of her reach. She would let Jennifer scratch her neck, but she would not tolerate Jennifer touching her anywhere else. Jennifer needed to get a hold of her and push past her comfort zones, so she slowly reached out and clipped a leadrope to the halter Cloud wore. (Jennifer does not recommend leaving a halter on a horse in most situations - if you have a wild horse or one you cannot touch, use a breakaway halter or a leather halter so they can break free if they need).

Jennifer stepped out of Cloud's stall and let Cloud walk around, trailing the rope. Jennifer stood outside the stall to watch Cloud in case she got tangled and needed help. When Cloud stepped on the leadrope, she felt pressure on her halter and threw her head up (horses have a natural tendency to move into pressure until they are taught to move away from it). Once she relaxed and lowered her head, the pressure released. After stepping on the rope a few more times, she learned to stop moving, lower her head, and even step back to get relief from the pressure. She had taught herself to give to pressure.

Jennifer entered Cloud's stall again and picked up the leadrope. Cloud initially pulled back when she felt pressure, but Jennifer held the rope still and Cloud gave to the pressure. Jennifer was able to hold Cloud still as she moved closer to her and began rubbing her neck and back. Since Cloud let Jennifer pet and touch her, Jennifer left her alone to eat the rest of her meal - a first for Cloud.

The next day, Jennifer once again snapped the leadrope on Cloud, held her as she pet her and worked her way down both front legs. Whenever Jennifer touched a new area, Cloud would tense. Jennifer kept rubbing the area until Cloud again relaxed before moving to a new place.

Cloud had an injury on her leg that Jennifer needed to examine. She slowly worked her way down Cloud's leg until she was near the injury. When Jennifer went to examine the wound - Cloud snapped at her. Jennifer reprimanded her with a loud "No!" but did not hit Cloud. She continued rubbing the area around the wound until Cloud relaxed. Jennifer believes that Cloud snapped at her as a defense. She felt uncomfortable and was warning Jennifer to back off. Unhandled horses can be very defensive, so it is important to watch their body language and keep yourself safe while working around them.

Next it was time to work on leading Cloud. Cloud acted like she did not know how to lead. Jennifer stood to the side of Cloud, pulled her head to the side, and put pressure on the leadrope until Cloud took a step forward. She then let Cloud rest and scratched her neck (something Cloud seemed to enjoy). She then asked for another step. After several tries, they were able to walk in circles in Cloud's stall - a step at a time. After practicing leading in her stall for several days, Jennifer decided to try leading Cloud to a paddock. The entire area was fenced, so if Cloud got away from Jennifer she could not go too far.

Slowly they made their way to the paddock. Cloud took only a few steps forward at a time, but when they got to the paddock she seemed happy to be free to eat some grass. Jennifer used a little grain when it was time to catch her, and they made their way back to the barn.

Each day, Jennifer spent time leading Cloud or rubbing her. She began using brushes to gently groom Cloud. As Cloud grew more comfortable, Jennifer was able to do more around her. After several weeks, it was time for her to move to a new foster home. She could now be caught and was leading better, and she was allowing people to rub and handle most of her body. Cloud's foster home continued the work Jennifer began and eventually Cloud was leading well and was adopted as a pet.

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