The Equine Rescue and Adoption Foundation (ERAF) of Palm City, Florida was a regular stop for me for many years. Originally I showed up to help my friend Daryl with a few horses that were particularly challenging. Things grew from there.
Rescue horses and those that carry the labels of difficult, remedial, or problematic are of special interest to me. It is from them that we have the greatest opportunity to learn from our collective mistakes, test training theories and help improve the lives of horses that otherwise have been given up on. While Mustangs may show us how horses live in the wild, rescue horses show us the responsibility of domestication.
I became deeply involved with ERAF, organizing the training programs for all the horses and the education of the volunteers working with them. I got to watch the groups of volunteers rehabilitate the rescue horses into calm, beautiful, healthy and functional horses. My involvement with rescue horses feeds my soul.
The volunteers come and go at horse rescues and the horses remain, coping with changing faces and abilities. This is very different than working with one owner – one horse through a normal course of training. Horse rescues can be a challenging environment for teaching and re-training horses. Some type of system was a requirement for success with the horses. And so, the program Training for Optimal Balance began to take shape.
Having a program provided a framework for new volunteers learning about rehabilitation but the program had to also be flexible enough to actually deal with the huge varieties involved with rehabilitation. The horses needed consistency in handling and adaptable variety in work. Because rescue horses can be extreme in their behavioral or physical challenges we also needed a process that was safe to both horse and human. Training for Optimal Balance was the program that developed to meet these needs.
When clients ask me if their old horse can still improve, if their problem horse can still turn around or if the horse can be restored from illness, lameness or injury, I just smile and think to myself, I really should have taken more pictures at ERAF.