Pony’s rehabilitation-in-progress an example of Far View Horse Rescue mission
What: Fundraiser for local animal nonprofits Far View Horse Rescue, LAPS, Swan Center Outreach and Animal Rescue of the Rockies
Date: Friday, Oct. 24
Time: 7-11 p.m.
Location: Silverthorne Pavilion, 400 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne
Cost: $ $18 in advance, $25 day of the event and at the door
More info: Learn more about the event and order tickets online at www.howlaween.com
When the little white pony arrived in Breckenridge this spring, he brought with him a lifetime of insecurities, bad habits and the nickname “White Demon.” Now, just a handful of months later, he walks calmly behind 10-year-old Annabelle Pattenden as she leads him into the exercise pen at the Breckenridge equestrian center. He stands patiently while she clips on the lunging lead and obediently picks up his gait around the arena as she calls out commands.
His real name is Wyntog, a Welsh word meaning “windy,” and his ears flicker back and forth between his trainers, Annabelle and 13-year-old Alyssa Jackman, whenever they say it. They’ve been working with him all summer, gentling and training him, working toward the rehabilitation mission of the Far View Horse Rescue.
RESCUE AND REHABILITATION
Based between the Breckenridge equestrian center and a 40-acre ranch in Fairplay, the Far View Horse Rescue is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to rehabilitating and re-homing abused and neglected horses. It’s run by volunteers of all ages, and headed by founder and board chairman Kimberly Kissmann, who has a lifetime of experience working with equines. The organization’s goal is to find homes for all of their horses once they have been rehabilitated.
Oftentimes, volunteers will be paired with a specific horse to work with nearly exclusively through its rehabilitation. Such is the case with Wyntog, Annabelle and Alyssa. The pony is Alyssa’s fourth rescue project in as many years with the program, while he is Annabelle’s first main focus. The two girls are friends and take turns with Wyntog’s training, from leading him on the lunge line to getting him used to the feel of a saddle on his back.
It wasn’t always this easy, however. When he first arrived, Wyntog lived up to his demonic nickname.
“He’d go into attack mode when he saw you, and he would bite and kick and rear,” said Kissmann. “He was not safe. I didn’t have any of the kids enter his stall at first.”
Kissmann and several experienced adult volunteers handled Wyntog during his early stages. When he had calmed a bit and became more safe to be around, she let the young trainers take the lead, standing always on the sidelines to offer advice and keep an eye on things.
While Annabelle had Wyntog on the lunge line recently, Kissmann stood in the ring and called out instructions — “aim for the shoulder,” “make him turn.” A few times, she walked over and stood just behind Annabelle, guiding her arm with the lunge whip, flicking it at the pony’s shoulder to make him turn, back him up or urge him on.
PATIENCE IS KEY
Wyntog is different than the more severely abused horses at the rescue because his abuse came more in the form of neglect. He was raised alone as a backyard pet by a well-meaning elderly woman who, Kissmann said, “didn’t have the horse skills” to train him properly. This led to the development of bad habits and a lack of socialization that, when moved on to other owners, became dangerous to nearby horses and humans.
“This is one of those cases, I think, that people (had) good intentions but didn’t have the horse experience, so therefore it went down the wrong path, and that happens with horses a lot,” Kissmann said. “People mean well, I always think that with horses they do mean well, but they just don’t have the skill. And they’re not backyard pet animals; they need time and patience, commitment.”
Much of rehabilitating Wyntog, and others like him, consists of mixing kindness with firmness and consistency, and lots and lots of patience.
Patience is one of the things that Kissmann teachers her volunteers the most.
“These horses aren’t human. They’re on horse time and human times have deadlines, and they don’t understand deadlines,” she said with a laugh.
Working with the horses also gives her volunteers more confidence, especially the younger ones like Alyssa and Annabelle.
“It gives them confidence that yes, you can, but you have to stay consistent. You have to be consistent and be patient and have confidence that you can do it, because they can read that, horses can, and if you walk into that stall with confidence, that’s the majority of the battle right there already,” Kissmann said. “The girls really learn to stand back and watch and pay attention.”
A NEW LEAF
Over the months he’s been at the rescue, Wyntog has transformed, and none recognize it more than his two young trainers.
“You can actually walk up to him and hug him and stuff,” said Annabelle. “He doesn’t shy away and try to kick you.”
Alyssa admitted there were a few days in the beginning when she was nervous around Wyntog, after he bit her on the shoulder, “but I got over it,” she said with a shrug. “It gets a little frustrating at points, but you just have to stick with it.”
Annabelle added, “When I first started working with him I was a little nervous, because I didn’t really know him, but after that, I fell in love with him.”
In addition to training him to accept the saddle and eventually be ridden, the girls are working up to teaching jumping as well, an activity Wyntog enjoys quite a bit.
Each horse is given a three-month evaluation upon arrival at the rescue, which includes an assessment of their skills and natural talents.
“You want to watch them and see what they excel at and train that way,” Kissmann said. “They need a job, they need to feel purpose in life, just like humans, and then they gain their confidence. If you can match them up with something they excel at, they can perform better.”
It’s obvious that Alyssa and Annabelle love the job. On the day they had to show Wyntog off to a Summit Daily News reporter, he was presented well groomed, with white, yellow and purple flowers woven into his mane and halter. The girls gave him pats and kisses throughout, explaining that he really likes to have his ears scratched. His attention to them is notable as well, and at one point in the ring when Annabelle unclips his lead, he follows slowly behind her on his own.
“The horses, they really deserve a second chance,” said Annabelle, when asked why an organization like Far View Horse Rescue is important. “Like Wyntog, he’s such a sweetie, and all the horses at the rescue. They’re all really nice.”
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