Rescue Report

Wild Mustangs: What You Can Do

August 24, 2016

Sensei happy in his new life.
Working with Sensei, a once-wild mustang stallion rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management, awakened my compassion for wild horses. Sensei’s journey was full of trials and tribulations, pain and loss, but lucky for him it has a happy ending. That’s not the case for thousands of mustangs in the United States.


You’re likely familiar with the plight of wild mustangs like Sensei and the loss of their grazing lands. This awareness may have led you to ask, “What can I do to help?” Sensei’s courageous heart, deep intelligence, and unexpected gentleness have led me to ask the same thing.


When I see how far this little brave mustang has come in such a short time, I can’t help but think of the thousands of wild horses and burros in the BLM’s holding facilities--45,000 at last count.  


It occurs to me these animals are just like Sensei—scared, untrained, and amazing. They combine all the fierceness of a wild animal coupled with a gentle heart that responds to patience, kindness, and consistency.


Sensei’s willingness to show up and “try” every day is nothing short of miraculous. His journey and history with humans wasn’t a pleasant one. After being rounded up, he was sent to a holding facility. Then Sensei was adopted by an individual who abused and neglected him so severely, he was removed by an animal welfare organization.


Yet despite Sensei’s past, this little horse would push aside the trauma and pain of the past to show up and try in every single session. I believe every horse has this try in them and deserves a chance at partnership.


How can we help horses like Sensei? Well, the first, most obvious option is to adopt a mustang for your next trail horse. If this option appeals to you, check out this article to see whether adopting a wild mustang might be right for you:


If you’re interested in a mustang with some training, check out these valuable resources: or


If adoption isn’t in the cards right now, reach out to your congressional representatives. Let them know how you feel about the plight of the wild horse. Here’s a link to help you get started:


You can also volunteer at a mustang rescue or with the BLM. For information about how to become a volunteer with the BLM, go to


These majestic symbols of the American spirit are in need help. Just one small gesture could make all the difference for one mustang or many. 

Lessons from Sensei

May 18, 2016

My little black rescue horse, Sensei, taught me so many lessons. In my last blog entry about Sensei, we’d just successfully mastered mounting from a mounting block.

This time, I want to share with you how Sensei and I became balanced together. As I’ve mentioned before, he was a small gelding, only 14.1 hands high. He’s also fine-boned. I used light tack, but my 5-foot, 5-inch build was plenty for this little guy.

As I rode Sensei, I could feel him balancing my weight. He would become nervous as soon as I raised my center of gravity by tensing up or tightening my neck and shoulders. He would feel the shift in my weight, then try to compensate. It was like balancing a plate on the top of a stick. His movements would make me nervous, and a vicious cycle would ensue.

Over time, I learned that if I relaxed my neck and shoulders, dropped my center of gravity, and talk to him, Sensei would soften, and we could become one together. But when we were out of balance, he would rush around and hurry.

Sensei wasn’t able to produce slow, powerful, balanced movements that felt good. Any horse that’s tense and rushing isn’t working his core muscles properly and is at risk for spine and neck issues. Not to mention, it’s just not comfortable for the rider.

As you ride, you and your horse should be relaxed enough to access the deep, strong, core muscles that enable balanced, strong, smooth movements. So, take a deep breath and relax, and your horse will, too.

For more tips for staying relaxed during your rides, check out expert horsewoman Linda Tellington Jones’ article, “Calm Horse Calm Rider.”


Spring Ride

March 31, 2016

Spring in Tennessee has sprung. The earth is bursting forth life. The birds are singing, the trees are blooming, and the grass is growing. It’s a beautiful time of year to ride! 

My rehabilitated rescue horse Banjo, and I recently took a short ride in Bowie Nature Park. My friend, Hilary, and her lovely 3-year-old Thoroughbred mare, Annie, accompanied us.
Bowie Nature Park is a convenient place for easy, relaxing riding. It’s located about 40 minutes from Nashville in Fairview. 
The view is definitely better than fair. The park offers over 700 acres of forest, lakes, and green rolling hills, as well as 17 miles of well-groomed trails. 
The park is open from sunrise to sunset each day, but closes if there’s been a heavy rain. If you go, it’s best to call ahead and check, just in case. 
There’s a $2.00 access fee for trail use, if you come from outside the local zip code. This is a small price to pay for all the trails the park has to offer. 
The trailer parking area is large and has ample room for pulling through or turning around. There’s also a small hitching rail and a wooden mounting block. 
It was only a 20-minute trailer ride for Banjo and Annie, but they were eager to hop off the trailer and see the sights. 
There are several loop rides available at the park. We chose the short 1.14-mile Horseshoe Trail Loop to start with, as Banjo is still a little out of shape and adapting to life without back shoes. Also, Hilary’s horse is a hunter/jumper and hasn’t done much trail riding. 
Once mounted up, we had a little trouble finding the trailhead, but once we got on the trail, we enjoyed the lovely loop. We even had access to a Walmart store, if we needed it. (See the photo in slideshow.)  
The trails were mostly soft and sandy, with pine needles. There were a few rocky areas where the spring rains had washed away the topsoil. 
Banjo and Annie were doing great. They were getting along like they’d known each other for years, even though this was their first outing together. 
As things were going so well, Hilary and I decided to go on the Loblolly loop. This 1.09-mile loop passes the picnic area and Lake Van. It was a good opportunity for 3-year-old Annie to see some new sights. 
This trail passed though rolling green hills, as well as a lovely budding spring forest. Canada geese swam in the little lake. 
This ride went well, too. I’m looking forward to trying out the park’s longer rides, such as the Perimeter Trail, which is 4.45 miles long and goes around the entire park. 
There are also several short connecting trails throughout the center of the park. You can combine these trails in different ways to enjoy a variety of options. You could spend several days just exploring. 
When we arrived back at the trailer, I could tell Banjo was a little tired, but he was in great spirits. Nothing beats the first trail ride of spring!
Happy spring riding! 

It's a Dance

October 03, 2015

Fall is in the air! The days are getting shorter, the nights are cooler, and the leaves are starting to change into their brilliant fall colors. It’s the best time of year for horseback riding, if you ask me.

While I love to ride, there was a time when getting on a horse made me a little nervous. I had a bad experience with a horse that bucked me off the minute my rear touched the saddle. I didn’t even have time to get my feet in the stirrups.

Mirlo, the little black mustang I worked with at Colorado Horse Rescue, had also had an unpleasant mounting experience.

Once, while mounting up on Mirlo, a rider had gotten a foot caught in the stirrup then fell off the mounting block. This terrified Mirlo. He took off, dragging the rider. Both were just fine, but Mirlo didn’t forget this scary experience.

So, when the time came to put my foot in the stirrup to mount, both Mirlo and I were a little nervous. To prepare, I used grounding exercises to help lower my energy. I knew this would help Mirlo relax.

When I felt relaxed and ready, and felt I had prepared Mirlo the best I could, I placed my foot in the stirrup. Mirlo stood still, but started to shake all over. I knew we’d have to take this slow.

That’s how it goes when you work with horses that have had bad experiences. It’s a dance: two steps forward, two steps back. The key is to never rush.

I spent days with Mirlo, standing beside him on the mounting block as we slowly worked on the process. I’d put my foot in the stirrup, then take my foot out of the stirrup. I did this again and again, until my foot being in the stirrup no longer caused him alarm.

We continued this slow dance until I could place weight in the stirrup and lean my body weight on him while he stayed completely calm.

I finally swung my leg over and settled into the saddle. Mirlo stayed totally relaxed. He even glanced back at me as if to say, “Well, it’s about time.”

Mirlo stood still, and we enjoyed the new change in our relationship. Then I dismounted and remounted several times, from both sides. With slow and patient work, we’d overcome another challenge.

Note that it’s important to teach your horse to accept being mounted from both sides, as you never know when you might need to mount up on the right side on narrow trail. Mounting from both sides also helps work your horse’s back muscles equally.

For more on mounting from both sides from experienced horsewoman and trail rider Heidi Melocco, click here:

I hope you all get out and enjoy the fall trail riding! 

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