rescue & rehab


Seven Steps to a New Beginning

Each horse at Healing Horses systematically progresses through “The Healing Wheel” – the 7-step program shown below.

Depending on the conditions and circumstances, it can take anywhere from just a couple of weeks to many months for the successful completion of the whole process. Each step is critical and varies in complexity and duration with each horse. Every horse is unique and requires a personalized program to guide them through the 7 steps.

With the successful completion of Step 6, the final result is a relaxed, confident horse who is at ease in his/her surroundings and with people, and who is able to build a respectful relationship with his/her owner.

CASE STUDY: Dakota Messenger

Step 1: Rescue

  • Standard-bred Bay Gelding rescued by Healing Horses through negotiation with owner prior to auction at Monroe sale barn on the evening of August 8th, 2007.
  • Examined by vet at sale barn and blood drawn for Coggins Test prior to transporting.
  • Horse re-named Dakota Messenger.
  • Transported by volunteers to safe holding barn for initial evaluation.

Step 2: Evaluation

On admission:

  • Severely overheated. Respirations rapid and labored. Sweating profusely. Temperature elevated.
  • Appeared terrified and emotionally distressed.
  • Multiple cuts and abrasions noted over entire loin area and around face and mouth.
  • Emaciated: Healing Horses Body Condition Score (1 thru 10) = 2.5
  • Malnourished, dehydrated and weak.
  • Dry mucous membranes and lack of skin elasticity.
  • Sunken eyeballs bilaterally.
  • Swelling in right leg. Hooves – poor condition/no shoes.

Step 3: Plan of Care

  • Provide intensive care in isolated pasture for 10 days.
  • Observe closely for signs of infection and potential deterioration of general condition.
  • Monitor closely to minimize risk of complications due to malnutrition and dehydration

Step 4: Intensive Care

  • Immediate emergency intervention to reduce temperature and replace fluids + electrolytes in order to stabilize condition and prevent further physical and emotional distress/trauma.
  • Provide clean, tepid H2O and salt/mineral block. Administer extra electrolyte powder to H2O as necessary. Allow small quantities at frequent intervals.
  • Minimize all activity. Provide calm, quiet environment. Give love and reassurance to instill confidence in new environment and Katie as care taker.
  • Shower with tepid H2O hourly to reduce temperature.

  • Provide reassurance and comfort through regular grooming and affection.
  • Administer KT Touch to reduce anxiety, calm nervous system and increase function of immune response system.
  • Start special feeding program: Purina Equine Senior Feed, supplemented with good quality hay. Administer small amounts at frequent intervals to avoid colic and founder.
  • After 48 hours, veterinary visit for general examination with vaccinations.
  • After 3 days commence de-worming program.
  • Continue evaluation throughout this period of Dakota Messenger’s physical conditioning/capability and emotional/behavioral issues.

Step 5: Re-education and Training

Started August 22nd, 2007 with preliminary Healing Horses approach and join up session.

  • Initially Dakota Messenger was terrified of the pasture ties and hand held lariat, as evidence by his attempt at flight and breaking of the fence. He quickly demonstrated his fear of any equipment. However, after 35 minutes of gentle cognitive connection and re-assurance training, “join up” occurred.

  • Continued free lunging and herd psychology conditioning, led quickly into advanced leading and a positive response to verbal requests i.e. walk, trot, stand, whoa, come here.
  • During additional sessions over the next two days Dakota Messenger proved to be highly responsive to the process and very intelligent. His willingness to please allowed quick connection to occur with Katie, and he gained confidence to establish his position within the Healing Horses family.

  • On August 25th, 2007 there were no visible signs of swelling on the right leg and all wounds were healing well.
  • During training Dakota Messenger progressed to saddle and bridle fitting, and was ridden in the pasture with excellent results.

  • The next day, Dakota Messenger was introduced to the trails in Black Horse Run with his pasture buddy Chief, and proved that he had reached a new level of confidence and calm by conducting himself impeccably. He was a perfect gentleman!

HH assessment of general condition on September 8th, 2007:

  • Healing Horses Body Condition Score = 4.0
  • Good appetite. Wounds have healed. Cooperative, affectionate and alert.
  • Very well adjusted to daily activities and no apparent signs of any residual stress and anxiety.
  • Hooves have been trimmed and treated.
  • De-worming program continuing.
  • Nickers in response to Katie’s appearance in the pasture.

Step 6: Reconnection with People

During Step 5 above, Dakota Messenger was introduced to a small number of new people in the safety of his own pasture. His initial reaction was cautious and somewhat disengaged, but not fearful. This proved that he had gained confidence in himself and his surroundings, but still preferred to keep distance between himself and strangers.

To help improve that trust of new people, Katie introduced Dakota Messenger to two different experienced riders, known for their calm and considerate approach to horses. Both experiences allowed him to move forward significantly in his connection with new people.

A landmark event occurred during the week of September 10th.  During a visit by a friend of Katie’s who was experiencing some emotional distress, Dakota Messenger approached her and immediately made a connection. She physically “felt” this connection and proceeded to spend nearly an hour with him, pouring out her emotions and being lifted by his close contact and support. We have seen this type of behavior many times, and it is the magical moment when the horse who is healed, becomes the Healer.

Step 7: A New Start

Initially, Dakota Messenger became a happy and healthy addition to the Healing Horses family. He continued to exhibit an extraordinary ability to be a Healer through his responsive and caring connection to people suffering through emotional stress and/or trauma.

A few months later, he chose his new owner during her visit to Healing Horses. The loving “forever home” had been found and he left us for his new life …..