first time I saw Riley was on the internet. He was half-way down
a page of photos of horses on a feedlot scheduled for slaughter.
He was one of two horses that had caught my eye. When I heard
from Gail that the first horse had been safely rescued, we began
to discuss the concept of rescue as opposed to purchasing. I have
owned several horses and some very expensive ones as well, but
that was when I was younger and much more of a "rider"
than a horsewoman. Although I knew exactly where my last three
horses had ended up, great homes and then retirement, I had a
vague sense of unease about my first horse. He was an ex racehorse
that never really got the hang of being a pleasure horse, I don't
know what happened to him after I traded him for a more suitable
mount for a 12 year old girl.
is the bottom line, I felt it was time to do something unselfish.
I was going to rescue this bay horse.
pulled some strings and got me an appointment to buy this horse.
Not an appointment to try him or to negotiate, as this horses'
value was already determined by a per pound price, but to put
the cash down, period. Gail informed me that any wavering or renigging
on my part could hinder her work in the future and endanger horses
from getting new homes. With butterflies in my stomach and $800
in my pocket, I headed for the feedlot.
a feedlot horse flies in the face of everything we are taught.
The list of never do this, never do that, is long and well-advised.
But then this was not a purchase, it was a rescue.
I arrived, by luck the feed lot man had to go to the doctors and
I was left alone to wander the pens. The Bay gelding I was rescuing
was in a back pen with an old Thoroughbred mare. It seems he was
too dominant to be left with the other horses. I walked into the
pen, no halter, just me. He turned and looked at me. I stopped
about 12 feet away and showed him my side (an invitation to say
hello) He walked right up to me, kissed me on the forehead, rested
his muzzle on my shoulder and heaved a huge sigh. Then he wrapped
his whole neck around me a gave me a horse hug, and begged to
be scratched. I felt this little tap on my shoulder from the hand
of a loving and merciful God and felt a warm flow of peace enter
my heart. That was it, he was mine. I peeled off the cash (they
wrote me a bill of sale on a scrap of lined paper!) Now to get
him out of there and home!
spending two weeks on a private ranch to be sure he did not get
strangles or some other disease, I was able to get Riley to his
new home in San Juan Capistrano. It was a a real big day for both
of us. He got here dirty, cut up from the trailer ride (his feet
were so bad, he injured himself jumping in the trailer) and very
scared. When you rescue a horse, you find out real quick
who your friends are! All of my "serious" riding friends
thought I was nuts. Some even turned up their noses at us! But
I also found a new group of friends, you know them, you see them
at every stable. The people who love their horses and sometimes
even give up many of life's niceties to keep their horses safe,
healthy and happy (these folks are usually found around the pipe
Rileys new stall was not yet ready, I had to put him temporarily
in one next to another dominant gelding. Well my new horse, proceeded
to rear and strike at his new neighbor. The barn aisle now sounded
like a a hollywood movie featuring fighting stallions. After two
hours, the screaming stopped, after 5 hours they were best friends.
really took my time getting to know my horse. He had been through
a lot, including an auction and complete trust was going to take
time and effort on my part. I decided not to even think about
riding until I had gotten his attention and co-operation. He was
sound, but I felt he had gotten some muscular damage in the past
few months. We started out with, working on ground manners, leading
manners and whoa. Lots and lots of hand walking. I was real nervous
for his vet check-up. Usually these things were performed BEFORE
purchase (but remember this was a rescue). He passed with
flying colors, the vet, not an over-emotional type was surprised
that he came from the feed lot. He was going to need some chiropractic,
and my saddle didn't fit him, so that would have to be replaced.
were able to read his tattoo and this is what I found out about
him from the jockey club. Riley (aka Baba Ruhl) is a six year
old registered Thoroughbred who raced successfully for two years
earning over $20,000. He is the great grandson of Native Dancer
and Bold Ruler as well as Nasrullah on the sires side.
and patience are your tools with a untrusting horse, but I had
to be sure he knew I was the top of the herd dynamic, the alpha
mare so to speak. Using a combination of Marv Walkers round pen
techniques (very similar to Monty Roberts) and Linda Tellingtons
TTouch and Labrinth work I saw tremendous changes in relaxation
and attitude. Horses are very much lead, follow, or get out of
my way types of beings. Riley continues to challenge me everyday,
but the signs are subtle and you must be listening. I require
him to stand stock still for grooming, ground tied. Period. When
he is deciding to test me, he shifts his weight, them moves. If
I look straight in his eye until he drops his head or chews, he
will stand still for several more minutes. If I pretend he has
not challenged, or even if I over-react and scold, in a few moments
he will be walking away with an "I don't have to listen to
you" attitude. If I take this approach in grooming it carries
over to all other training.
first time I rode him was an un-eventful happy experience for
both of us. He still thinks he is a race horse and I figure that
is our next re-training phase. Lots of quiet walks and slow trotting
circles. No canter work for a while.
is and continues to be so much more that horse ownership. Every
little improvement brings with it so much joy and happiness. As
it turns out I got a very nice horse and maybe even someday I
will be able to show him. But that just isn't the important thing.
The important thing is that by challenging myself way past the
comfort zone, I am making a difference in the life of one of God's
noble creatures. The end of the story just doesn't matter, it's
the daily journey with it's risks and rewards that counts.
Gail for my Riley,