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From Kill Pen to Kindness

Published: 3/13/2014
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Popular guest columnist, Marsha Craig, took on a new project by the name of Precious, a miniature horse saved from a Camelot kill pen. She details the story, from initial inquiries to training successes here in three parts.
Read about Marsha and Lily and their therapy work.

Part I - Learning to Trust again

By Marsha Craig

Last July, I received a private Facebook message inquiring if I’d been following a page regarding a rescued pregnant mare named Precious.   Precious needed a forever home, preferably with a companion and with someone willing to work with her gently.  Her colt would be weaned by September. Did I know of anyone?
In fishing terms I’d call this “putting the worm on the hook.”

My same day reply was: “I'm afraid the horse people I know are breeders and already have more than they would really like to own or they are private horse owners that also have more than they ever planned on owning. Then there is Jack (my partner) and I with only one horse. But at ages 67 and 70, we are always thinking and dreading the day we won't be able to lift the hay, shavings, and muck a stall.
Jack already has sold his car as his eyes are so bad he can't drive.  I will share your post in hopes friends might know of someone that can come to her rescue.
Wishing Precious a wonderful, patient, loving home.”   

Was my interest tweaked?  You bet!

I found out Precious was rescued from slaughter in November, 2012 (Camelot, #387). She was starved, beaten, cattle prodded and, as already mentioned, pregnant.  

Then I saw a post announcing an open house was being held; Precious would be there. I didn’t dare ask Jack if we could go meet her for fear there would be a connection.  I’m pleased to say I was strong enough to stay home.  

Whew. I’d won my battle with myself. Or did I?  

I asked if the open house yielded any prospects for a home for Precious.

Asking that single question, in fishing terms, was “casting the line.”

My next question: To meet Precious does one make an appointment?

“Hook set!”

Jack (John Martin, the love of my life), Phyllis Brennan (best friend of 67 years) and I arrived for our first visit.  
Precious seemed to sense I didn’t come with a heavy heart, no pity for her past,  just someone with a love of animals that wanted her to know. I had no fear of her but what I did have was a bunch of trust to offer her.

During one of our visits, I wanted to try clicker training.  I’d clicker trained several of our dogs, our cat, and Lily, our five-year old mini Appaloosa.  I arrived with clicker, carrot bits and halter in hand. 
I entered the paddock and Precious was sent to the barn where she was cornered to be haltered.  This was no way to start a training session. I asked that she be released to the paddock again.  
After almost an hour Precious agreed to the nose and chin strap touching her nose.  At this point the training session stopped.  Someone said, “if that was me and I got that close I’d have just put the halter on.”  I explained forcing the halter would have negated the hour spent gaining some trust.  

I pointed out the additional benefits that were also taking place during that hour session: Precious spent time with a human, she stayed interested and connected, stayed engaged. She suspended her fear and trust issues for some of those moments  contributing towards building her confidence.    

In my opinion, Success! Her head was lowered; ears not forward but not pinned flat back, with no restraints and no fear.

Part II: Mistakes, Thoughts on clicker training, Progress!

View Reader Comments:

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3/14/2014 Julie
Wonderful story....can't wait to read the next installment!
3/20/2014 rhonda
You're doing a Great Job!
3/21/2014 Barbara B.
Marsha and Jack have done a beautiful job with Precious. She has a terrific home and is loved. Thank you Marsha and Jack from another animal lover.

"It is the hardest pill for all of us would-be horsemen to swallow, but it is absolutely true - if the horse is not responding properly, we are doing something wrong" - Mary Twelveponies