Jazz, a 21 year old quarterhorse, recently came to the SERRA ranch through our sister rescue, HorsesHealingHeartsInc.org run by Melissa Austin. Jazz is what we classify as a 'Feral Domestic' horse. That means while she has been fed and kept by people, she has NEVER had any meaningful interaction with them.
NO training, no veterinary care, no farrier work done on her feet, nor any dental work. She lived a solitary life in a small backyard with no other horses, and no-one caring for her, except to feed her, for her entire life.
Our head trainer, volunteer Laura Ponter, has been working with this developmentally arrested (at about one year old) twenty-one year old fully grown mare.
The results have been extraordinary! Our Laura had to start with Jazz as if this was a pre-kindergarten baby with not even an alphabet to build on. So Laura has been teaching this very bright, and very willing middle-aged 'baby' the ropes. From how to respect human space, to understanding basic commands, to even having a halter put on...all are being taught. This video shows the stunning progress that Laura has achieved in just two short weeks.
Make no mistake...although this domestically bred mare has been in a backyard for her whole 21 years, she is NOT a tame horse. She is in many ways just as wild as the wild mustangs out on the range. She is every bit as dangerous to teach, and has to learn to offer her legs and feet for simple trimming and accept a needle from a vet. She was never trained or habituated to normal human interactions, except as food service. In ways MORE difficult to work with because at least the wild horses experienced the herd dynamic all their lives, and social lessons that have been taught to them by the older mares in their family herd. Not so for Jazz. She was kept in solitary confinement away from the comfort and natural dynamic of a herd. So we have to ALSO teach her how to be a horse and to fit in with other horses...which to her were other frightening beings when she first arrived.
After 14 days of one-on-one training and interaction with Laura—SERRA's head trainer—she felt Jazz had come far enough to finally be close to other horses.
This is a delicate and sometimes dangerous procedure—one can never tell which horses will become friendly, and which will interact badly. So we tried several of our rescue mares, and none 'clicked' until our little Sasha, a horse rescued from brutal treatment in a Mexican rodeo, came forward and openly investigated the little outsider. See when Jazz met Sasha here.
We held our breath...then... the pair bonded...even sharing food!
This little act of bonding with another horse is in fact a HUGE move forward for this wild mare who had never even seen another horse, let alone interacted with one since she was one year old!
And so we train...inch by inch...Stay tuned for more progress!
Here are some of her videos of her initial progress...
Jazz has been adopted by one of our own SERRA volunteers, Sarah Batchelder. Congratulations and thank you, Sarah!