Horse Rescue Work

The Equine Rescue and Adoption Foundation (ERAF) of Palm City, Florida has been a regular stop for me since 2006. 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 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.

Helping volunteers help horses is what created the training program I use today.

I am now deeply involved with ERAF, organizing the training programs for all the horses and the education of the volunteers working with them. I seldom work with a horse myself anymore and instead get to watch the groups of volunteers rehabilitate the rescue horses into calm, beautiful, functional horses. My involvement with ERAF feeds my soul.

Working at ERAF is also the reason I have a training program at all. The volunteers come and go at ERAF and the horses remain, coping with changing faces and abilities. This is very different than working with one owner/one horse through a course of training. ERAF is the most challenging environment for teaching I have ever experienced. Some type of system was a requirement for success with the horses. And so, the program took shape and solidified through ERAF volunteers and horses into what it is today.

Duke (left) pictured shortly after arrival at ERAF. He was found abandoned on foreclosed property by the Sheriff.

Having a step-by-step program and 4 stages or courses gives a framework for new volunteers learning about rehabilitation. The program also offers the horses consistency in handling and 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.

Duke just before adoption – after about a year of rehab work

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 need to take more pictures and document the work at ERAF.


4 Responses to “Horse Rescue Work”
  1. Norma Miller says:

    Hi Kirsten! What a great job you do! I have read & enjoyed learning through your books: “Basic Handling” & “Ground Work.” I volunteer with rescue horses here in NC.
    Joanie Benson started the rescue organization in 1991 & it is her web site I have given you above. She has done a remarkable job and we currently have 45 horses which survive solely on donations & grants. Joanie spends most of her time raising $’s to keep the horses fed, vet, ferrier, dental and chiropractic care current. Under her direction we volunteers muck, feed (each horse is on a special diet), treat wounds & skin conditions, etc. As you can imagine it is a huge undertaking daily. All the horses are allowed to roam free in pastures (geldings separate from mares, etc), and all are barefoot. The only time they are in their stall is for feeding & treatments. I am one of only two people who is involved with training & riding. We have a huge problem of finding experienced riders under 145 lbs to help us with this part of the rehabilitation. We keep trying! The web site is quite comprehensive & when you can find the time you may like to review it. Some of the newsletters show before & after pictures. I have shared your great web site with many!

    • Kirsten says:

      Thanks Norma. Having skilled riders who can re-start horses at a rescue is always a problem. At ERAF we have come a long way with retraining the horses using groundwork. The groundwork is safe both for horse and human and develops the skills needed for riding by both. Kudos to you for being involved and helping at a horse rescue. Your skills and dedication are so very valuable and every horse you help will also become an amazing teacher!

  2. shannon says:

    hi my name is shannon i just got a ruse horse but she can ride but she is herd to cach and wont let me put her sometimes and i need to get her to leron barrels she all ways tjrow her hend at me when it comes tk ride ing what do i do

    • Kirsten says:

      Hi Shannon.
      If the horse is hard to catch then you have a bigger problem. The horse still thinks she is a prey animal and that you, and all people, are predators. This is the first thing to overcome.
      Spend time with her in an easy, non demanding way. You will need to take some time to develop calmness and attention on you until she becomes more willing to work with you.
      As you progress past catching she will also hive to learn how to be calm and attentive while being ridden.
      Because she is currently hard to catch, it may be a while before you can safely run barrels on her.

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Quote Of The Day

"If the horse does not enjoy his work, his rider will have no joy."
~H.H. Isenbart