Since 1986, my family has owned and operated a rescue ranch for horses. We occasionally rehabilitate a mule or burro—but our herd is usually rescued horses. We have a proud Sioux heritage, and feel a close bond with these wondrous creatures.
Most historical accounts opine that Spanish conquistadors introduced horses to peoples of North and South America. It completely revolutionized our way of life. The Sioux are some of the best equestrians among Plains tribes. For us, horses are ingrained in our culture as brothers—not just work animals. No wonder it came naturally to my family to establish an equine rescue ranch.
It surprises me that many horse owners do not know a lot about horse behaviors. Although most of these people take excellent care of their equine pets, the horses may not be as happy as the owners assume. This is the reason that we all need lessons in “horse sense”.
Do you own a single horse? You probably have found the unique attachment that humans and horses can have. It is about cultivating a relationship built on trust and understanding equine instincts. Even if your horse loves to spend time with you, he/she still needs socialization with other horses. Due to their herding nature, they thrive with company of their own. If you cannot buy another horse, then consider socializing them with neighboring horses. Socialization is part of our responsibility for their welfare.
On our ranch, I have found that one of the most healing therapies for abused animals is wide open space for running. Many of the horses that are brought to us have been locked in cramped stalls, void of human or animal contact. Such neglect may trigger depression and even aggressive behavior. Wild horses run for miles, and their domesticated cousins need open fields for running and exploring, too.
Like humans, horses have distinctive personalities. They are highly intelligent, and have well-defined social roles in their herd. As a lover of horses, you will notice that they can be brave, loyal, stubborn, and can even display a sense of humor. When you adopt a rehabilitated equine, it will take time before your friend trusts you enough to show his/her personality.
Adopting Other Horses
While herd relationships can be quite close, some horses have no problem adopting other horses into the fold. Sometimes, the newbie can be another animal species. Our rescue ranch features an unusual friendship between a mare and her fine-feathered friend.
Some of our friends from the Animal Welfare department confiscated abused horses from a cruel breeding farm last year. One of the rescued animals was a lovely brindle mare we named Lacey. She was emaciated and worn out from overbreeding. It took months of medical treatment, proper nutrition, and kind socialization to bring her back to life.
Because Lacey still has problems with arthritis, we do not ride her. She has limited running ability; however, she does spend time with her fellow equines in the field. Lacey loves for us to pet her and give her fresh, crunchy carrots. Her BFF is not another horse or us humans—it is a boisterous rooster named Simon.
Mostly, our barns and fields are filled with rehabilitated horses. We also have a couple of dogs and a barn cat. No one knows how this feisty fowl got to our ranch. My husband thinks that someone knew that we rescued horses, so they figured they could drop off a chicken, too. After his mysterious appearance, it was clear that he was here to stay. Our little boy named him Simon, after the sharp-tongued British judge on music reality shows.
True to his name, Simon the rooster called the shots. He quickly let our dogs know that he would not be intimidated. A couple good floggings from his wings, and they learned to stay out of his way. The horses paid him no mind, but Lacey seemed fascinated with him. Simon often stood on the top board of her stall, crowing at the rising sun.
It was not long until the rooster made himself at home in Lacey’s stall. When she was roaming through the fields, Simon was never too far behind. Now, the rooster perches right on Lacey’s back. While she grazes, Simon will cluck with contentment and scratch for some tasty bugs. Then, he hops back on Lacey and they come back to the stalls in the evening.
These two unlikely friends are inseparable. Simon scolds the dogs if they get too close to Lacey, and stays glued to her back. Sometimes, she whinnies, and he chuckles, as if they are sharing a good joke. Lacey does not mind when Simon eagerly pecks out goodies from her food trough. These two animals healed their lonely spirits with an exceptional friendship.
Many visitors to our rescue ranch have heard about Lacey and Simon, and want to see them. A rooster perched on a horse is an ideal photo op. Their story has brought more attention to our ranch, and our adoption program is booming. As for Lacey and Simon, they will always be together.