Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: A Different Perspective

The author and Athena. (Courtesy of Mary Elena Moran)

When you are open and accepting of the lessons courtesy of the curve balls thrown to you in life, you will constantly adapt, overcome, become resilient, and are available for growth opportunities. Relinquishing attachment to outcome is much easier said than done but I have learned to find joy in the journey wherever it takes me beyond my self-declared destination and goals. It seems that training and fostering JC: Saintly Ballad, aka “Athena,” has been another excellent exercise in learning to be open to a different outcome.

I believe that when one learns to exist in a spirit of thankfulness, that is when they will feel the most alive. Why is that? I believe that in order to be thankful, you must be present, aware, and connected to your environment and the people around you which invites you to notice and reflect. The time that I have spent training and caring for Athena has been one of growth for me as a horseman and a time of healing, rest, and love for her.

Athena (Courtesy of Mary Elena Moran)

My journey with Athena began last year when she was rescued from the slaughter pipeline. I had hoped to rehabilitate her and produce a lovely riding horse who could be capable of being a police horse, competing in the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover as a milestone along our training journey. Sadly, Athena has too many old injuries that will prevent her from having an athletic career in the future, making our riding goals impossible.

However she has blossomed in her own right. She is healthy, more relaxed, skilled with navigating obstacles in hand, and has healed from many old wounds. She will he adopted as a companion horse through Gerda’s Equine Rescue where she will live a life of peace and dignity free from athletic obligation.

Athena had arrived so scared and traumatized beyond anything I had ever experienced, it propelled me down a different path of learning because in order to help her heal, I had to know more to do more. In order to fully understand what was happening within her and how to change that, I searched for answers that led me down a new learning path, giving me a new lens to view horse training from. This year, I have intensely studied the neurobiology of trauma, the Poly-Vagal theory, the sympathetic vs. the parasympathetic nervous system, attachment and detachment theories, building relationships based on connectedness instead of control, and how to create new neuropathways by engaging the neocortex to overcome the patterned survival response of a traumatized horse. I have learned that aligning modern developments in the science and treatment of those who have experienced trauma can be successfully applied to also benefit horses.

The learning that has occurred for me during our time together, will allow me to help many more horses “stuck” in survival mode. Although our time together will soon come to an end when she is adopted, I believe that she has come into my life to alter the course of my horsemanship path in a way that has increased my consciousness and elevated my ability to heal other rescued horses. Although I did not accomplish my riding goals with Athena, she bridged other dreams that I had to reality by encouraging me to dig deeper – and for that, I am thankful.

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