I like to write “feel good” stories about my experiences loving and working with the rescue horses I am so honored to have in my life. However, there are days when I am smacked with such a sobering dose of reality that I need to get it out. Today was one of those days. Lincoln has been a fan favorite from day one. His kind eye, wise soul, and spunky personality, in spite of his beaten and starved body have made him compelling. Women swoon and men say “he’s such a cool horse”. I have written about his PTSD and anxiety; the struggle to earn his trust and assure him that he will never face cruelty again. We have good days and bad days. In spite of all of this, never once has he pinned his ears, kicked out or acted ANYthing other than gentle and respectful of me and everyone who cares for him.
Today, he had his second massage appointment. That may seem frivolous, but remember these animals are athletes, and in his case in particular his muscles have been asked to perform in ways his body was not designed. This is an important part of recovery and healing. In his training under saddle, we have noticed that he has a hard time moving his front legs correctly, so we wanted to determine if this was muscle related. At the very start of the session, the massage therapist touched upon a knot in his shoulder. She seemed upset as she told me she firmly believes that he had been hobbled before coming to Nalani. I didn’t even know what that meant. She explained that his front two legs were chained together so that he couldn’t walk. There are many reasons for hobbling – and there are humane ways to do it. However, all indications are that he was hobbled as a punishment and left alone for hours. Horses are prey animals – meaning they are ALWAYS on guard and planning escape should a predator come near. Being left alone and unable to get away would be his worst nightmare – and he endured it on a regular basis. His shoulder is locked because he tried to get his leg out of the hobble over and over and over. He was likely left with the cart apparatus attached as he wore a chain guard holding his head upright, wearing blinders, legs hobbled. Daily. For hours at a time. We have mentioned that he has scars on his side. The massage therapist believes he actually fell over on his side with the apparatus attached.
Lincoln is a fighter. He is NOT the kind of horse to submit and just take it. This would have meant he was punished over and over as they tried to break his will. All of a sudden, the puzzle pieces are fitting together…his complete panic when he is left alone without another horse to look to for comfort, his fear of having to stand still, his hesitance to let us touch one side of his body, the terror in his eye when we take him into an enclosed space (he was likely beaten in an enclosed area where there was no escape).
So, here’s the “feel good” part of the story. IT DIDN’T WORK. Lincoln has more spunk than any horse I have ever met. He is the class clown of the barn, noticed by all who come there. He is loving and gives affection without hesitation. He even kicks his stall door at feeding time DEMANDING to be fed!! His spirit is very much alive and large. I cried upon learning these things about his past. I went to bed angry at humanity, emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed. But I woke up determined. If Lincoln can not only survive and thrive after a lifetime of abuse and still show love, trust, and affection, then I can get up, keep taking the next step forward, and give him my VERY BEST every day. Lincoln is so much more than an abused rescue horse. He is an inspiration, a survivor…a BADASS. And I want to be just like him when I grow up.