by Fran Jurga | 6 September 2009 | The Jurga Report
The mainstream news media bombard us with dramatic stories of horses and ponies and donkeys rescued from abusive or neglectful owners. We hear about horses being taken into custody and all breathe a sigh of relief. But then what?
What many people don't realize is that a horse that has been abused or neglected is likely to be cautious or suspicious of human handling and may react with behavior that is dangerous to the very people who have removed it from harm. This is always a right of passage for good-hearted volunteers: a starved horse may well bite the hand that feeds it, out of fear.
Some neglected horses may not have felt the touch of a human hand in years, if ever. You may remember our video from this summer showing the roundup of a semi-feral herd of horses living and breeding in a field in Scotland, in clear sight from the highway. Generations of horses lived together in the mud until World Horse Welfare intervened.
But how do you roundup and trailer horses that fear humans or don't even know how to lead?
This little video from World Horse Welfare helps explain some of the "after-the-drama" work that a rescue farm with a properly trained staff will undertake. Panda the Pony was rescued because of neglect and a badly infected eye; she was taken to a rescue farm and her eye was surgically removed. But her eye needed ongoing medication and attention and she did not like the idea of humans getting too close.
Trained groom Sara-Louise Jerman explains how Panda has been handled and desensitized to human touch. You can see that Panda still is reactive about Sara's movement around her body and touches.
I hope Panda finds a good home. Thanks to World Horse Welfare for stressing this important but often overlooked aspect of dramatic horse rescues: the long path to recovery and trust of humans again, or perhaps for the first time in a horse's life.