Today I wanted to share a little bit about my horse, Flynn, and my experiences with owning a previously abused horse. I have found that it is different to own a horse with baggage, and sometimes a different approach is needed – along with a lot of patience!
I got Flynn last May. He is a nine year old off the track thoroughbred. To clarify, the person I got him from treated him very well and essentially rescued him from a bad situation. She also fully disclosed that he had likely been abused in the past so he had some issues. Though he had recovered from his past to a certain extent, he still had difficulty trusting and signs of PTSD. He was a little head shy, and very ear shy. We could barely touch his left ear without him jerking away. He was also a little jumpy. When I would groom him, he would be very tense and startle if I moved too quickly.
Once I was walking by him with a pitchfork, and he jumped like he thought I was going to hit him with it.
The main thing I did to help him overcome his issues was to slow down. I would groom him slowly and softly, while petting him and talking to him. Now, he loves grooming and falls asleep! Although I got so used to grooming him slowly, that it now takes me forever to get him ready for a ride! I also became aware of my movements around him, and making sure I was moving slowly and gently.
Even though he was not sure if he could trust people, he seemed to really like people. It was as if he knew that we were not all bad. He also had such a sweet and gentle way about him, like he craved affection but just was not sure about it. He immediately loved my nephew and grandmother when he first met them. Which in a way makes sense, they are gentle people (and non-threatening). He also had (and still has) very good manners. Even his spooks are polite. He is constantly complimented on his manners, and his willingness to stand perfectly still on the cross ties – especially now that he is more relaxed. I can pet all over his face, and his ears, now. We still have issues with bridling, but I expect that we will work through them eventually.
It really just took time, building a relationship with him, and being his person. Horses are so often used to being passed around that it can take time for them to really form a bond with us. I bonded with Flynn right away, but it took him until this past spring to bond with me. We even had a few issues resurface when he moved to the barn we are at now a few months ago. I think he thought that maybe he had been sold again. Chance knew better, after being my horse for almost ten years now, and he settled in right away!
I feel very lucky that Flynn has such a good natured personality, and wanted to trust people. Many abused horses can become very dangerous, which is so sad because it is not their fault. But I think in most cases, they just need time and consistency. I think many would thrive in long-term homes, as well. It is so commonplace for horses to be passed from owner to owner their whole lives, and I will forever encourage keeping horses long-term (especially previously abused horses). Long-term homes allow them to fully relax and bond with their owners. And as an owner, I love that bond as well!