“How do you choose who to save?” This is a question I am often asked. There is no satisfying answer, not one that will make the pain of the many lives that are lost every week, go away or lessen. There is the only answer I know. These horses choose me, a stirring in my heart, a whisper from my intuition. I just know that I am meant to share their journey. Each one of these souls are special, each one has a story to tell and a lesson to teach us. Then there are those that come along that change everything as we know it. Then there is Roanin.
In June of 2016, it was another week of watching all of the amazing horses that end up taken to auction, are purchased by a kill buyer and end up on a feedlot, one infested with disease and cruelty. As usual there are mares with foals, some only a day or two old, pregnant mares, yearlings and two-year olds, geldings, young and old, draft horses and stallions, retired been there done that horses, the ones that have given everything to their humans and were then thrown away. All of them put out together in general population, not one safe from the bickering, fighting, stampeding, all in the name of survival. Many if not most will ship to slaughter, some will be saved, and those left behind, the young, the babies the mini’s if not saved will succumb to sickness and die on the lot.
Today in the herd is a young, well-built blue roan stud. Hanging out and protecting a younger Palomino colt. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I knew someone would pull him right away. I hear it all the time, how in demand blue roans are, that blue roans never ship. So, I watched and I waited knowing that his safety was certain…….
It’s now almost 10pm the night before the horses are sorted, loaded and the trucks roll. You guessed it, no one has stepped up for the stunning, young blue roan stallion.
Heres what I do know, stallions are the first to ship, so few are given a chance because they are stallions, many with little to no human handling or, because they are unnerved from the stress they are under and appear difficult or unhandled.
That voice in my head, the stirring in my heart the whisper of intuition said, Candice its time…. So I rallied the troops and we bailed him. Whew….. safe.
***please understand, that what we do involves many amazing people behind the scenes. Without them none of this would be possible….it takes a village.
The next day I headed off to my first experience with equine facilitated coaching and learning. The experience that lead me down the path I am currently pursuing. My love and understanding of horses finally made sense, I knew what I was meant to do.
As I sat in a circle with an intriguing group of people, our coach shared a story of one of her horses. This horse had come a long way, from being troubled, difficult and misunderstood and he was her heart horse. As she told her story, and overwhelming sense of Roanin came over me, I can’t put it into words, other than it was an all-encompassing feeling of love and fate. Funny really cause I had not even met this horse yet…….
Fast forward, several days later I made the trip to Lake George to visit Roanin in quarantine. I was filled with anticipation of uniting with this horse, this horse that the feeling of him had completely filled me up. The knowing that we were meant to share an incredible journey together.
Surprise, Roanin hadn’t gotten the memo. He was aloof, standoffish and wanted nothing to do with me. Wow, was the only thing I could whisper under my breath. I must have been caught up in the moment and imagined the feeling that had come over me. It must have just been a longing for a relationship that has eluded me this far.
Roanin spent a little over 30 days in quarantine, regaining his health and getting into trouble. Yep this little (14 hands maybe at the time) stud, who was in a small panel enclosure, decided that the little paint mare down the way was way to attractive and deserved his attention…and with that this little, however mighty and determined stud cleared the panel enclosure and proceeded to have a date night with the little paint mare. Both were unharmed and no baby horses were made in the process.
Roanin arrived at Dreamcatchers Equine Rescue, healthy yet thin from being sick. We were so happy to get him settled in and on the road to complete health. We did discover that he was halter trained and still wasn’t a big fan of humans. With a little time and persistence we were able to approach and halter as needed. Thank you Julie Demuesy for all of your help and expertise. Then it was time for a vet to check him out…. and our discovery was, without a doubt, Roanin was a cryptorchid, which means one or both of the testicles have failed to descend into the scrotum. Low and behold, this had most likely been Roanins one way ticket to auction. Breaks my heart to this day, that someone threw him away due to this condition.
The focus was now on helping Roanin get up to weight and healthy enough to have surgery. We knew this would be a costly and higher risk surgery than a normal castration. Over the next several months Roanin and I got to know each other, work on a mutual trust. During this time span there were hundreds and I do mean hundreds of offers to purchase Roanin. I knew this wasn’t an option. He was hyper reactive and in the wrong hands would be ruined and potentially hurt someone, which would only ensure his ride back to auction and certain death. Something in me said no, this horse is meant to be with me.
Fall was upon on us and the flies were finally gone, time to proceed with Roanins surgery. Roanin was still super reactive and a little distrusting so the trip to CSU could prove interesting. Much to our surprise, he loaded up, trailered and even made the long walk on the concrete floors without any issues. He was hesitant, curious and never crazy.
It was hard to leave him there, I never wanted him to think he was being thrown away again, not to mention this was a serious, invasive surgery. This was not a procedure done under light anesthesia. I waited anxiously for the vet to call, and was so relieved to learn that Roanin did great and was up and awake. Roanin remained in the hospital a few extra days to ensure his recovery.
At this time, I decided that I needed to get Roanin closer to me so I could work with him daily, due to his sensitive nature. After spending a few days back at Dreamcatchers under Julie’s watchful eye, we moved him up to a new facility less than 20 minutes from me, one with an indoor arena so I could start training with Roanin. So it began, believe it or not this is really the beginning of the our journey together, because in less than 3 months everything changed. I was out-of-town at one of my companies annual conventions when I got a call that Roanin wasn’t himself, his cheek was swollen and he wasn’t acting his happy energetic, reactive self. The vet was called immediately and it was determined he had developed a jugular thrombosis in his left jugular vein from his surgery 3 months ago. The vet wasn’t concerned, he was put on antibiotics and hot packs. I arrived home and Roanin was acting his normal self, running around, snorting and playing. This too was short lived…in less than 24 hours his health took a huge turn for the worse, the swelling in the jugular area was continuing to grow, it worked its way all the way down to the front of his chest. Roanins white blood cell count was high which could indicate infection, The vet told me they had done as much as they could in the field and to get him to the hospital as soon as possible. Thanks to the amazing Teri Jacobsen, Roanin arrived at Littleton Animal Hospital shortly after the vets recommendation. Roanin then spent 4 days in isolation, going through tests to rule out infection of any kind. Roanin improved and though not 100% yet the vets felt he was stable and his medical regime could be continued at home, so home he came. For the next 2 months, twice a day, rain, shine, sleet or snow storm, I was with Roanin. Roanin received 2 different antibiotics by mouth twice a day, banamine, Ulcer guard, electrolytes, potassium and aspirin. On top of all of this, his temperature was to be taken twice a day and his neck wrapped with heat wraps for 20 min twice a day. SIGH…. The crazy thing is Roanin became more and more at ease, he took all of this in stride, never stressed or difficult. Always happy to see me, talking enthusiastically any time I entered the barn.
Two months later blood work looked good and he was off all meds, except for a three-week regimen of Equiox and I reduced the wraps down to once a day for another month.
What a journey, scary and emotionally overwhelming at times. If you follow me, you here me say all the time “out of every challenge a miracle is waiting to be born.” The miracle is the bond Roanin and I share, a bond forged in the fires of all the medical mishaps. He truly is my heart horse, hidden underneath insecurity and fear was this truly special horse, with so much love to give, just waiting to let his inner sage of a horse shine through. He has taught me what can happen through the giving of unconditional love, and the tenacity and faith to NEVER give up on someone or something you truly believe in, that anything, even when faced with the fear of loss, can happen. Step forward in faith and love and BELIEVE.
Lots of lessons learned in a short amount of time, one would think that this would have been enough for one horses lifetime (and mine too) and….. we weren’t done.
We experienced, yet another scare with Roanin. He cut open his nose, being a silly youngster playing with the horse in the stall next to him. For his own well-being we moved him down with the mature ladies so he wouldn’t get into trouble. What we didn’t know was, Roanin did not want to be out of the limelight. He loves his daily interaction will all sorts of people. This caused him stress and he experienced an impaction colic. Thank god we made it to Littleton Large Animal in time. It was touch and go on the ride there. Blessed to all who prayed for him and that he made it through without surgery.
Happy to say Roanin is back home, up in the barn where all the action and people are. He gets daily love from many, plays with the water hose and light-heartedly sprays the volunteer who is watering him at the time. He nickers to all, inviting them to come spend time with him.
Last week I started working him under saddle. He has evolved into calmest horse I have ever started, (frankly ever seen) so much so, I have to believe he was started as a 3-year-old prior to being taken to auction. Frankly I was so worried about how calm he has become that I had the vet check his lungs and heart. For those that have never witnessed a re-breathe test, a plastic garbage sack is placed around their nose so that when removed they will take a deep breathe ( you can’t ask a horse to take a deep breathe)
OK just the plastic sack gave me cause for concern, I had never worked Roanin with any kind of bag or flag……
Up came the bag and around the nose, and not even a flinch, he took it all in stride. He continues to surprise me daily. Most importantly, he is a healthy 4-year-old horse. One that has come into his own.
Tomorrow we ride for the first time. I’m not nervous or scared, as we do this as a team. One that trusts each other and knows that we are meant to share this journey and that we can look to each other for guidance.
Roanin will start his career as an equine coaching horse this fall. God has blessed me with this fantastic animal and Roanin is going help change lives and make a difference in the world as only he can.
The message in all of this…. don’t believe that the horses that end up on the feedlots and go to slaughter are there for a reason…. really? SO NOT TRUE.
These animals have so much to give, if given the opportunity to know love, and kindness. If we could find it in ourselves to work with these horses at their individual pace, to listen to them. The horse is never wrong, it’s up to us to figure out what they are telling us. 99% of the time the issue is a people problem. The horses, like Roanin, that we take in, there is no agenda, no time-frame. It is truly about each individual horse and helping them back to health, happiness and security. Not one story is the same as the next. These horses will find their calling, just as Roanins true self was allowed to shine through so will the other horses in our herd be allowed to find their way. Some may sanctuary with us, because their covenant with man is irrevocably broke, some will find their forever home and human, some will become equine coaches. All will be given the chance they deserve in the time they need.
This is only the beginning of Roanin and I’s journey together. We were brought together to make each other whole, to teach and learn from one another and to embark out into the world to help humans, to share the gift horses have to give and to make a difference. Our goal is to leave the world a better place than we found it. I truly believe we were destined to share this-worldly experience together. Thank you to all for your support, prayers and for following and sharing with your friends. If you would like to be updated on upcoming events, our horses stories and coaching opportunities please subscribe below.
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Liberty's Legacy Inc. dba Journey with Equus is a 501c3 non profit organization committed to the rescue and rehabilitation of at risk horses and to the development of programs for at risk individuals as well as leadership training through equine facilitated coaching and learning.