In June of this year I took delivery of a Shetland that had been on her way to the slaughter house. I had been looking for a companion for my Forester Rosie, and thought how nice it would be to give a home to a pony that had suffered a troubled background. I had been warned she didn't like humans, and may be a little too much for someone who wasn't experienced with rescues. I had only been back in the equestrian realm recently, as I had given up horses, and had totally lost my confidence after quite a serious accident on the road back in 1999.
The day Ella arrived, the sun was blazing, and off the back of the horse box came a trembling terrified little mare. My heart broke, I had never seen a horse shake in fear like this, what on earth had I got myself into!. She was beyond what I would term head shy, and just stood in the back of her stable staring at the wall. I decided I had to become her friend, but wasn't entirely sure how. Initially I just sat in the stable and read aloud to her. She needed worming so was on box rest so would have to stay in for a few days. I was terrified about letting her out in the field as would I ever be able to catch her? Slowly she began to take an interest in me. The summer evenings were good, and we started taking walks together around the farm inhand, and I made sure there were lots of treats available! Just spending time together walking seemed to help. There were a couple of hairy moments when we met with a dog, but we worked through them.My heart was literally in my mouth when she met my horse, but there were no fireworks. My horse Rosie can be very dominant, but they bonded quickly, and after one lesson with my Parelli instructor Julia Opawska, I was able to catch Ella with 100% success rates. We however did have one day, when it was torrentially raining that it took about an hour! Nowadays Ella comes to the gate as soon as she sees me as she knows I'm her friend (and meal ticket!)
A few weeks ago I called the vet out to take a look at her, her body condition and sweet itch had improved, but there was something just not quite right about her. We had managed to get her feet seen to, but something just wasn't right for me. People thought I was being over protective but when our vet Ellie arrived and sedated her to take a look inside her mouth, the true horror of her suffering was revealed. Ella's teeth had never been looked at in her 12 years of life. She has teeth so long they had been cutting into her mouth and the ulcers and abscesses were incredible. The vet photo documented her treatment as it was the worst she has ever seen in her career. "Does Ella bite or kick?", she asked, no, she is the most gentle soul I've ever met. She was surprised as the pain she was in ,it wouldn't have been unusual for her to have been aggressive. After further inspection under sedation the vet felt she had concussion to her legs from being forced to pull a cart at high speeds and long distance. Her pelvis and reproductive system was damaged from possible pregnancies by horses much bigger than her, she also had laceration scars across her back likely to be from whipping. I felt incredibly guilty that I had waited weeks before carrying out this treatment, but finally her suffering would begin to end. Sadly, they also diagnosed cushings disease, but we are hopeful that because of her young age, and lack of symptoms this could just be caused by such long term physical and emotional stress rather than a tumour to her pituitary gland.
Since Ella's treatment she has been so much brighter and lighter on her feet. She is enjoying her hay, and I taught her how to use a hay net as she had no idea what it was. Further evidence that she has never been loved, nor treated as normal horse would.
I work daily on being able to touch her, and helping her over come her fears. This weeks goals are to be able to pick up feet. It's not easy taking on such a damaged pony, but it's probably the most rewarding thing I've ever done. I'm beginning to earn her friendship and trust, which is worth so much to both of us. Ella will spend the rest of her days with me, no matter how long that is, these days will be filled with love. I'm so grateful to everyone that has given their own time and support to her, finally this little mare has the chance to be happy.
Once her health is up to scratch I intend to take up agility with her, I don't think it would be fair to ever use a cart, or do any ridden work. I want to create fresh new experiences that will never remind her of the horror of her past. I can't wait to see her shine. Next year I'd love to take her out showing in hand, but I will have to gauge how she is doing emotionally. I'm so glad she came into my life, she really has made my equine family complete. Both Rosie and I would be lost without her. This is where she belongs.