Very often we hear about horses that need homes – desperately, right now! They can be horses that are rescues, or horses that have fallen on hard times, just moved from place to place after having had a long life with people who love them. Sometimes the people can’t take care of them any more. This has happened a lot since the economy crashed and more horses ended up without homes. A divorce, serious illness or job loss can be disastrous for much-loved family horses.
Sonny and Moon are two such horses that came to Leslie and William McBride after having lost their person. Their owner is very ill with lupus and a brain tumor. As her health deteriorated, she asked a friend to take the horses to a pasture near Rowe Mesa, New Mexico, because she could no longer provide care for them. Last spring he went to check on them and found them very thin and stressed. He told their owner they needed a home. He brought the horses down from the mesa and they ended up in a garbage-filled yard in the middle of a trailer park. Sometimes Sonny, the Appaloosa, would escape and be seen standing in the middle of the highway that runs through the town of Pecos!
For those who don’t know our area, Rowe Mesa and Pecos are higher elevation, mountainous areas near Santa Fe, and the winters are very harsh, with very little natural forage and a number of predators. Horses that are wintered up there would need to be hayed regularly to be able to flourish.
“Somehow Cindy Roper heard about them and emailed me,” said Leslie. “For years I had been asking for horses and my husband’s response was always, ‘Too much time, too much money, too much responsibility.’ When I told him about Sonny and Moon he said, ‘Go get them.’ I said, ‘I don’t think we’re ready–they are too much time, too much money, too much responsibility.’ Haha. He assured me that we were ready. Since I didn’t know how to trailer them (or anything else), her friend drove them here the next week. Thank God. I have never been happier and feel like the luckiest woman in the world. They are such great horses and such amazing family members. I have learned so much about horses, about myself emotionally, about patience, about communication….. I have a trainer that comes 4 hours per week to teach Sonny, Moon and me. It is fantastic. After they got here they got a bit too much hay and have recently been on a diet. They are both back to fitness weight and they look gorgeous. Moon’s winter coat is similar to that of a Sasquatch. They have been part of the McBride family since May, 2012.”
Both horses are registered Spanish Mustangs from Horse Head Ranch in North Dakota. Sonny (registered name: Morning Son) is 16 and Moon (registered name Mexican Moon) is 21. Leslie said Moon comes from a line of endurance champions. Sonny’s brother is an endurance horse in the UK. Sonny is a beautiful yellow Appaloosa and looks like he is sun-dappled.
When I saw the horses last summer just after they had moved in with the McBrides, Leslie was worried that Moon was “standoffish.” Sonny was more friendly. What I got from Moon was a great wave of sadness when we started the work. Sonny wanted to be as close to the people as he could be. Leslie and I did some liberty work (Waterhole Rituals by Carolyn Resnick) with them both, just sharing territory. At first Moon was disinterested and then he came over. Sonny was very in-your-face, so we had to establish our boundaries. I showed Leslie how to do this and how to lead from behind. We also worked on energy, eye contact and taking space. In less than two hours the two horses got to the point of companion walking a few steps and Sonny even understood “whoa” very well. Moon understood the turn to the left, following the lead of a person as though there was an invisible lead rope leading him. He has a very strong connection that is a great building block to future Waterhole Ritual work. Even though Leslie has had no prior horse experience, she had no trouble getting her energy right and I could see she will be a good leader for them.
Sharing territory with these horses was immensely important because they had been without regular human contact for so long, and it also allowed them to accept their new person as a member of their herd. Leading from behind furthered their understanding that Leslie could not only be part of their herd, but could move them off their food just like other herd members would do. This was a comfort to both horses because the rituals represented the forming of a relationship and are not performance-based. As the horses had been endurance horses and were ridden a lot before, it was easy for Leslie and William to soon get on and ride them over their acreage, enjoying the horses they had waited so long for.
The grief that we saw in Moon is very typical of rescued horses. It takes awhile to work through. He is the older one, and I got a sense that he felt he was in charge and needed to take care of things for both himself and Sonny. It took longer for him to trust a new bond. I think these horses had suffered some neglect, not physical abuse, so that grief was able to start dissipating with the ritual and energetic work we did and most importantly, the love given by the McBrides. As in the story of Sharif, Cindy Roper’s rescue horse, it takes time to restore the body to a healthy state after any situation where food has been deprived. Older horses may have trouble with joint soreness, adrenal stress and other organ stress, and perhaps some tissue damage.
Ten months have passed and it sounds as though these two have settled in very well. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all horses could find people like these to take them on and give them so much loving care?
Photos by Cindy Roper two-three weeks after they came to live with the McBrides. Trail riding photos in the Gallery are taken by Leslie and William McBride.
Related links on Body Language:
Cindy Roper’s website for horses that need homes:
Private sessions and gift certificates are available for bodywork and liberty work, by calling 505.501.2478 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org