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Rosie, a pretty red chestnut Arabian mare with a blaze, was one of the original sixteen horses we rescued from Kern County Animal Control in January of 2012. As a matter of fact, she rode home in the same trailer with Mea Ola. She would have it no other way as she was EXTREMELY attached to Mea Ola, so much so, that when we loaded Mea Ola into the front of the trailer, Rosie went ballistic and appeared to have lost her mind. She must have thought she was going to be separated from Mea Ola, and she had panicked. Before we could rearrange the panels that we were using as a chute to load Rosie next, she bolted toward the trailer, running straight at me. I flung my hands up in the air to try and get her to stop or turn, but it was as if I wasn’t even on her screen. She literally ran straight into me and sent me flying about six feet before I hit the ground. I knew right then that this horse was going to be a challenge. (Editor's note: Ann is given to understatement.)
Rosie was so scrambled in her head that getting her attention was almost impossible when Mea Ola was out of her sight. When we had to do vet work on Mea Ola and take her out of her stall for it, Rosie went crazy. The vets were always worried that Rosie was going to hurt herself during these times. They explained that a horse that didn’t even protect itself during these “lose-it moments” surely wouldn't think about protecting a person. (I experienced that first hand when she sent me flying that day when we were loading her into the trailer.)
It was heart-wrenching to see a horse go crazy the way Rosie did whenever Mea Ola was taken away from her and out of her sight. She would weave from side to side, shake all over, and sweat. She would bang herself into the gate, into rails, and into her stall walls. She would scream and scream and act like this until Mea Ola was back. Nothing anyone could do would console her.
Many people would have given up on Rosie, but we did not. We tried to give her new friends, but she would have none of it. She couldn’t even enjoy being turned out to play; she would just go bananas in the turnout. I wondered if Rosie had protected Mea Ola before they were seized by Animal Control. There were six horses that had all been kept together, and Mea Ola was the only one of them that wasn’t underweight. Remember, Mea Ola was lame on both front feet and pregnant. I had a feeling Rosie had been her guardian. It wasn’t until Mea Ola gave birth to Sassy that Rosie started to relax a little bit.
After our move to Phelan, in October of that year (10 months after the rescue) Rosie began to make progress toward settling down.. She had made new friends, or had formed closer bonds with old ones like Gypsy, and actually had fun at turnout time. We did notice that Rosie would still have a tendency to “lose it” if her routine was changed. An example would be her reaction if we had to rearrange horses when new ones came in. If she had to be moved to a different corral, Rosie would weave, sweat, and scream for about three full days.
We tried to give her small doses of change, like going to the hitching post for grooming, or going on short walks. But, with Rosie, we never made progress using these methods. Just when we would think we were gaining ground, that crazy "other Rosie” would emerge. Finally in early 2013, I decided to give up on rehabilitating this glitch in her personality. It was just too dangerous. She had hurt my daughter Hannah in one of her outbursts, and I took her off the training list. For the next year, she would be groomed only in her stall. Any vet or farrier work that needed to be done with her took place only in her stall. She spent her days getting attention only in her comfort zone in the area of her stall, but she continued to enjoy turnouts with her friends. A year went by without our seeing that other personality one time! We had figured her out and gotten through to her at last!
Rosie can now go on short walks without losing her mind, but we never push her to go outside of her comfort zone, which she has expanded a bit. For the most part she is gentle and normal; however, we consider her too risky a prospect for adoption. I believe that a big change, like going to a new owner in a a new home, would cause the “other Rosie" to emerge again. We do not want to risk any occurrences of demented behavior, so we do not ride her, either. Rosie is also 20 years old this year. For these reasons, Rosie is a permanent resident She is happy, relaxed, and useful here at MOP.
In the fall of 2014, we decided to make Rosie available for therapy, and in a group therapy program with some women enlisted in the Army, Rosie picked one of them during the initial tour of the horses. It is in this tour that we make the decision about which horse will be used with each individual. We do this by analyzing their interactions and recognizing when a horse has chosen a person that it likes. Generally when a horse picks someone, that person has chosen it as well, and this was no exception. I trusted Rosie enough now to let her be used for therapeutic exercises as long as she stayed in her stall. That group had four consecutive weekly sessions, and Rosie behaved perfectly each time!
Today, Rosie is also used in kid’s camps. We just keep her in her comfort zone for activities and she thoroughly enjoys them. Rosie loves people and loves to be groomed. She is gentle and very aware of her surroundings when little ones are present. She is one of the first to come for scratches when visitors to the ranch stop outside her stall to say hello.
(Editor's note: Rosie's "crazy" behavior is also found in dogs, cats, and other animals. Sadly, they are often seen as "outlaw horses" or "vicious dogs," etc. and are deemed so dangerous that they are most often euthanized in shelters as unadoptable. The behavior usually comes out when fear overwhelms the animal. The animal might have come from an abusive situation where fear is a very appropriate reaction, or going-bonkers could be a behavior that comes from a birth injury, an infestation of ear mites into the brain (this happened to my family dog when I was a child), or some genetic malfunction. A friend had a sweet dog who had flunked out of Guide Dog school because she was a "fear biter." But if these animals can be kept under regular and routine conditions where they feel safe, it is possible for them to lead quiet and normal lives. Turmoil and chaos are not good for these animals. Fortunately for Rosie, she was taken in by people who understood her and allowed her to be comfortable and secure, living on her own terms. Always try "listening" to the animal, understanding that the behavior comes from fear, and providing the animal with peace. Don't give up too soon, and you may end up with a wonderful companion animal.)