Saturday, December 20, 2014

Baby Steps - making my way back

This is filthy fuzzy Misty, today at my trainer's farm, waiting to be tacked up, but more interested in the horses being ridden across the street. They are usually napping.

I'm working my way back, slowly, from my July trail riding accident.

My first, ride about four weeks ago, I simply sat in the saddle while my trainer gave me a leadline ride.

(I wear an elbow pad on my left elbow and a brace on my right knee; they still hurt.)

 I felt awkward and had no balance. Once in the saddle, I wasn't sure how I was going to get out of the saddle with my bum right knee. I have to slide slowly down Misty's side to ensure my left foot meets the ground first. It feels odd, but I'm getting better with practice.

My second ride was great; just at the walk but I rode independently in my weekly O.L.D.G. lesson. (Affectionately O.L.D.G. = Old Lady Dressage Group, coined by the husband of one of the old ladies.)

Then there was an attempted ride at the next group lesson, but my knee hurt and my confidence waned. Silly, the wind was picking up, there was an unfamiliar horse and rider in the arena, the lesson group was moving at a faster pace than I could handle.  I got on, then got off and went home; mad at myself for being such a wimp, and afraid I'd never be able to ride, let alone rejoin the group lesson.

So today, I opted for a private lesson. My trainer worked Misty on the ground and lunged her so she was supple and relaxed for me. I mounted and we worked on half figure eights along the rail, 20 meter circles, and serpentines at the walk.  And breathing and engaging the "sit bones" and turning my shoulders (my left shoulder being one of my injured body parts). 

Baby steps. I'll probably take a few more private lessons before rejoining the group. But it feels good to reconnect with my horse and I'm not giving up.   We'll continue to take it slow.  Fortunately for me, the walk is my favorite gait.  There's so much to learn and improve on just at the walk.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Speak Up For The Horses

Are cases of horse abuse or neglect taken seriously where you live?

Concerned citizens often complain their reports of horse abuse fall on deaf ears, particularly with local law enforcement.  We appreciate our sheriff and police departments who are spread thin, often risking their lives, combating serious crime against people.  At the same time, it is disturbing and frustrating to see crimes against animals treated as a low priority, if not an outright nuisance, by law enforcement.  In Colorado, the community is trying to change how horse abuse is perceived and handled by those with the authority to stop it.  The public wants to help.

Horse Advocates of Colorado brings up excellent points to share with law enforcement and government agencies.  Ignoring horse abuse, or prolonging neglect before action is finally taken, is not just cruel and harmful to the animal, but financially costly to the community in the long run.

Shared with the permission of Horse Advocates of Colorado:

Abuse -The Story is the Same. It’s time to do better.  

Pippi, Mini-mule Rescue
 Roberta was the first to leave a comment on the Horse Advocates of Colorado blog. Here it is:
“The laws need to be changed. I have reported my neighbors for neglect and abuse on their horses, more than I can count! They finally got a ticket for animal cruelty, but it stays the same and the sadness never ends! I’m done calling Jeffco, because its the same ol’ song and dance. I’m the bad person for harassing these people on welfare that have horses!!! REALLY!?!?!?!?”

Back in October, some of us met at a town hall meeting to talk with officials about the Black Forest Abuse case. There had been a huge public outcry, partly due to a famous horse, Dual Peppy, being recognized in this herd of abused and neglected horses.

At that meeting, people lined up at the microphone, one after another to ask questions. The first question asked was, “How can the public help?” The panel gave an enthusiastic response, affirming that they depend on–and are grateful for–the public coming forward with tips.

Then for the next two hours people recounted stories like Roberta’s comment above. People had filed reports but the animals continued to suffer. Months passed with more calls to authorities about the same horses, who were still suffering. Frequently the person reporting was threatened.

We are fast to say the laws must change, but knowledgeable people say we have a good animal cruelty law in Colorado.

The challenge seems to come in enforcement. Story after story all had the same conclusion. Calls were made repeatedly and the horses were still suffering, but it wasn’t seen as life threatening. If the animal wasn’t on the brink of death, suggestions were given to the owner but frequently no charges are filed. In one current case in Calhan, there were over 20 welfare checks made by sheriff’s deputies in a 7 month period with no real improvement. Perpetrators have no fear the law will be enforced.

Two things: First and foremost, these horses need care now. The longer they are left, the more damage is done, meaning the eventual rehab gets more costly and long-term. Chronic malnutrition can cause internal problems. If hooves get poor care, chronic lameness is a possibility. And no one even mentions the psychological problems that result from neglect and abuse–frequently the largest challenge of all. By being slow to help, we heap extra cruelty of our own on top of what the horses are enduring to begin with. Instead of coddling the perpetrator, our goal should be to hold focus on the victim and get help to horses sooner.

The second line of damage is to people who care enough to report. It isn’t just that they are not taken seriously or that they are not thanked. Too many times the push back, like a whistle-blower in the government or industry, is hurtful and insulting. So the best of us, people who are willing to speak up, get worn down–even worn out.

With a new story of abuse every week, it’s hard to not emotionally shut down. We are each haunted by brutal photos. Is the problem is just too huge to change? It would be easier to look away, just to have some peace. But there is no peace.

Horse Advocates of Colorado is not a horse rescue. Our goal is to be an advocate in the legal system–a voice for the victims, the horses who can not speak. To have an impact on the neglect protocol used by the sheriff’s department in assessing each case and to encourage the legal system to prosecute and convict offenders to the full extent of the law.

We are not trying to save one individual horse at a time. Our goal is to have an impact on the big legal picture, to influence the way these cases are approached as a whole. To work in unison with law enforcement and the court system to let this Animal Cruelty Law do its intended work.

We have two cases we are following in El Paso County Court right now. Rachel Fleischaker, Case #14M 3024, Division B, trial set for 8:30 am on Dec. 15th. And the pre-trial conference for Sherri Brunzell and the Black Forest horses (Dual Peppy) is scheduled for December 17th at 8:30am. Join us to bear witness in the system for these horses who need us.

If you agree with us, ‘like’ our Facebook page or follow our blog. Email us at to volunteer.

Thank you for your support.