Early one August morning 2007, Blaze's Tribute Equine Rescue loaded 44 starved and neglected horses on trailers to begin rehabilitation. Maddie was one of those horses. She was found in the back pasture covered in rain rot and severely malnourished. There were others in her pasture that had been euthanized the previous evening so as not to be used as evidence in this crime. It was intended for Maddie to be euthanized that morning, but help had arrived.
A few weeks later my family and I visited Blaze's. We were taken into an area with horses that had already been rehabilitated. On the way, we walked through an area full of starved, sad looking creatures. Much to our surprise one of them kept following us. We went through the gate to look at the others. I turned to look back and there she was... waiting. This horse was gaunt, tired, yet hopeful. She knew we were the family for her. She was waiting for us to figure it out. We gravitated to her and were rewarded with quizzical looks and gentle nudges. Maddie was the one. We patiently waited until the day she would be healthy enough to bring home.
Maddie has turned into an animal as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside. Good nutrition has made her hair turn the blackest black. Bones are no longer her most prominent feature. Her head is high, she has a future. It has been a gift to bring Maddie into our family. There are many animals in need of hope. If you would like more information on how you can help, click on a link below. Keep checking this page for updates on Maddie's progress.
Maddie has continued to surprise me in her progress. She's so eager to learn and has put on good weight very easily. After doing ground work in the round pen, the day came when she had her first ride. She did great! She's a little unsure of herself, but who's not in a new situation? We are now on ride #24. She has shown no malicious tendencies, however her spirit and some defiance are completely intact. She likes to play games such as pitch-my-rider, take-my-rider-through-the-trees, and oh-did-I-step-on-your-foot. The last game is my personal favorite. That one leaves me thinking about her with every step.
Maddie's personality continues to bloom. She loves my son, but doesn't much care for pouting as you can see in the picture. Maddie is already very integrated into our family. My ultimate goal for her future is to train her well enough that others can safely ride her. She has changed so much since we brought her home in October. I look forward to seeing more changes in the coming months. She will put on the muscle that was lost due to her situation and gain the confidence needed to be the best equine companion.
We did it! Maddie has had 30+ rides! She has even been out on the roads! Together we've traveled as much as 6 miles in one afternoon. She continues to put on good muscle. The cold weather slowed her training progress a bit, but we've kept on track for the most part. For as long as she has been a part of our family she never would let any of us touch her ears. Yesterday we had a breakthrough. She finally let me touch and hold her ears without pulling away. I hope that's a sign she trusts me more. Maddie will need to be under saddle at least 30 more times before she will be ready for me to trust her with another rider. In the near future I hope to teach Maddie to load in a trailer so we can visit some trails.
Maddie isn't ready to load in a trailer, but we have found some trails to explore close to home. We're on ride number 40! The last ten rides have tested Maddie's trust in me as well as mine in her. We came to a ravine on our first trail ride. I looked down and thought, "Maybe this is for another day." Just as I was moving to turn Maddie away, she took a step forward, put her nose to the ground, and gave me the signals that she was indeed ready to take us both across. I stroked her neck and let her go. On the way down I could feel her legs starting to shake and realized I was holding my breath. Slowly, carefully she chose her footing. Phew, we made it down! We needed to make it to the top of the other side. No worries! Maddie pulled and climbed, with me on her back, until we conquered the day! I'm so proud of her for being so brave.
Since that ride we've been over fallen trees, through brush, across bridges, and through running water. Only one terrifying, enormous creature can scare our brave Maddie... A cow! Yup, fearless Maddie is sure that cows are going to eat her. We'll be working on making some bovine friends on the next few rides.
With such beautiful, warm weather, Maddie has been learning that a bath won't hurt. I'm not sure who gets clean and who gets dirty during the whole process, but it's fun! My son, Aidan, loves to get in on the adventure as well. Maddie's favorite trick is to turn the hose back on us, ha, ha! Aidan has been asking me if he can ride Maddie ever since we brought her home, well his wish finally came true. One evening, after Maddie and I had been out riding, Aidan asked again. Since Maddie had given me no reason to say no, I sat him up in the saddle and led them around. He loved it and, if I was guessing, I'd say Maddie enjoyed it too.
She has made so much progress since October. Together we've been on 57 rides. Cows are no longer seen as big, bad monsters, though darting squirrels give her a scare. Brad, my husband, has even ridden her in the round pen with no worries. One of our biggest accomplishments in the last couple of months has been to start riding bareback. She has proven time and again how reliable she is and how willing. Over the rest of the summer our goals include trailer loading, learning to stand still for fly spray, and learning that squirrels are no more dangerous than cows. There is truly something so very special about adopting a rescue horse into your family. Maddie tries hard, but she loves even harder.
It has now been one year since Blaze's came to Maddie's rescue. We are so blessed to have had the opportunity to bring this beautiful horse into our family. Maddie has come a long way since her rescue. She has put on lots of weight, learned to trust, learned to happily carry a rider, and she has decided that cows aren't going to eat her. Many of you have asked why and how I trained her. In the beginning I was daunted, even a little frightened, of taking on the challenge of Maddie's training alone, but then I realized I wasn't alone. Maddie was in this with me. We were forming a team. Paying someone else to build our team didn't make sense. The next question is how... How do we form our team? What foundation is best? Trust. Maddie needed to trust that she would be fed, sheltered, and loved. I needed to trust that Maddie wouldn't intentionally hurt me or a member of my family. I found the answers to training with trust in books and video by Clinton Anderson and Pat Parrelli. Lots of horse people have their favorite of the two, so why did I use both? Well, for those of you with children you understand that no child is by-the-book. Horses aren't either so, in addition to the guidance of Anderson and Parreli, there were plenty of moments that required improvisation on my part. Maddie was never taken to the ground, beaten, or left without food or water during her training. For those who are training your own rescue horse, hang in there. Building your team is precious. The highs and lows are many, but the rewards are great. Maddie and I have now enjoyed 68 rides together. She has overcome her fear of cows and recently her fear of squirrels as well. She no longer paws at the gate restlessly, hoping to be fed. She knows she'll be fed. She trusts she'll be fed. A milestone has been reached, but that doesn't mean that our girl's story is through. I'll continue to update this page with Maddie's adventures and progress. Her future is wide open...
Maddie and I finally made it in a trailer and to a trail ride at Lake Carl Blackwell! Thanks to REI of Stillwater for hauling Maddie and a buddy to the National Rescue Ride in October. The ride was sponsored by Blaze's Tribute Equine Rescue. We were excited to participate and raise money to help other rescue horses. The day was gorgeous and we had so much fun meeting all the other participants. Maddie did so well during the ride it was like she'd been doing it forever. In addition to that day we've been to the lake a couple more times with friends. I'd be lying if I told you we never get lost, lol. Like many of us, Maddie's New Year's resolution is to lose a few pounds to be healthier. We've cut back on her cookies and treats. Hopefully that will do the trick. We're looking forward to the spring for new adventures!
It bears mentioning that in these tough economic times there has been an increase in neglected horses. Just yesterday Blazes came to the rescue of two more struggling souls. Only one made it. The other was too far gone and had to be humanely euthanized. The owner had been laid off his job and couldn't find work.
Maddie has been on many trail ride adventures this year. Most recently we visited Lake Carl Blackwell for a 15 mile ride. She did an awesome job! You must be wondering why we would ride that far. Maddie and I are working up to entering an endurance competition. Of course, we have to be able to do 25 miles in a specific amount of time to be eligible. We have some more work to do, but what a journey!
In May of 2009 we adopted a new member into our family! She is a BLM Mustang that was later rescued by Blazes in another neglect case. Her name is Spades because she's pitch black and has a spade for a star. You won't see many stories about her training progress. This girl is a gem! We learned she is already trained for trails and is great with just about anyone on her back. She was pregnant when we adopted her.
Who knew what surprise was inside! On September 4, 2009 we witnessed the birth of our new... MULE!!! Yup, she had a mule! He's the cutest, friendliest, fuzziest little guy! His name is Zippy aka Zip Man, Zippster, Zipper, Zip... You get the idea. What do you do with a mule? Lots of things! He's full of personality for sure!
With Zippy's arrival Maddie took on the role of nanny. Yup, Nanny Maddie, lol! She babysits while Spades takes a break. Maddie and Zippy run and play together, but Maddie is quick to reprimand Zip when he needs it. Zippy thinks he's big stuff, so he often tries to run Maddie off her food. That usually gets a reprimand!
Where does the time go??? Maddie has been doing great! We've been on many trail rides and even a two day camping trip together. We started to work toward an endurance ride again this year, but, due to time constraints, weren.t consistent enough. It's still on our "Bucket List" for sure!
Spades is ever happy munching on her hay and letting everyone know who the boss is, lol! Brad, my husband, has enjoyed riding her on the trail with Maddie and me. She leads in the pasture, but follows on the trail. We're positive that with more time on the trail she'll gain enough confidence to lead the ride.
Zippy is a year old! At the moment he stands at about 13.2 hands and is over 500 pounds. He's a very handsome mule! Early in the summer we sent him to school with Terri Lindley. She did a wonderful job teaching him ground work and cues and teaching us how to be as stubborn as he is, ha! Ok, so we didn't need much help in the stubborn area;-) When Zip is two he'll visit Terri again to start under saddle. He loves attention and a good booty scratch!
The sound of brush scraping rider and equine alike is in rhythm to the pounding of hooves on the trail. We know the others are all around us and we must finish. Maddie doesn't want to be passed, but I need to remind her to pace herself. We are one. I think left, she goes left. I think slow, she slows. A low hanging tree ahead threatens my seat. Quickly I duck and wrap my arms around her neck as Maddie carries us under the obstacle. Our pace quickens. We're coming out of the trees into an open field. I brace for the transition to come. We gallop as I scan the terrain for holes and obstacles. This is our first limited distance endurance race, 25 miles. It's surreal. I'm lost for a moment in the past...
She's so thin. She isn't trained. She limps...
A horse and rider whiz past us on the left. Maddie tosses her head and digs in. I give her a pat on the neck and remember...
She keeps following us. There's something there. I've never trained a horse...
We're back in the trees. I ask her to walk for a bit to regain her breath. She fights me, but concedes. The others have slowed their pace as well. It's a hot day. A few horses have already been pulled from the race. We move carefully on the narrow, serpentine trail. A small clearing is ahead. It's enough room for us to leap-frog the rider that passed us in the field. We're a team...
I'll always feed her. I need her to trust me. She let me sit on her back and she took one step...
Faster we dodge the trees and fallen logs. The sunlight is shafting through the dense canopy of trees making the forest appear like a magical place. It is magical. Everything we've worked for has come together...
We long-trot in the pasture. It's our first time out of the arena. Suddenly Maddie pitches and I'm hanging half on and half off. I'll never be able to ride her. Don't give up. Back on...
Another field is ahead. There are water troughs sitting in this one. We rush to find an opening. While Maddie drinks I use the scoops provided to throw water on her legs and neck to cool her...
A bath won't kill you Maddie. It's just water. Hold still...
I quickly re-mount. We're off across the field and back in the trees. It's our last loop. We're close now. I see camp through the trees. We're both tired and hot. Finally I see the spotter, give him our trail token, and dismount. As we finish I want Maddie to have a break from carrying my weight before the final vet check. I want to finish walking with her side by side as a team. I swear she's smiling. I know I am. I look over to my right and whisper so only she can hear, "We finished my girl. We did it." Tears stream from my eyes behind sunglasses. "We did it. I love you."
We're going to do it again too ;-)
Sadly, there are many horses still waiting to be adopted into a forever home. Please consider giving them a chance. Each one has the potential to shine. For information on how you can help or adopt visit www.blazesequinerescue.com.