A massive mare rears onto her hind legs and strikes out with power and precision. Ears pinned back and a fiery fury in her eye, she bites at anyone who comes near and sends her abusers flying up against the walls.
This is the scene my client walked into when he went to claim the horse he had just purchased from the RCMP Musical Ride auction. Shocked, he told the officers to step back, give him the time and space needed to gently put on her halter, and lead her away.
The Musical Ride tours Canada performing synchronized dressage routines with Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officers and black Hanoverians that are bred and trained into this program. Grace was one of these horses for twelve years. At the time her name was Sassy, but she was better known as “The Witch”.
Grace lived with my client for three years before I adopted her. With his caring disposition she slowly settled down, but never fully trusted him. Grace would flinch at being touched, not want to be caught in the field, and threaten to charge overtop of the person letting her out of her stall.
Just like people, traumatic experiences for horses can have long lasting effects. Negative associations can develop: to groups of people, movements, or scenarios and act as triggers. For both species, it can take a lot of patience and skilled effort to help them move beyond this emotional rollercoaster.
Grace is a trauma survivor. She may have been called The Witch in her RCMP life, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. She was the abused, not the abuser. Unlike many other horses who submitted to unfair punishments and at times cruel handling, she fought. In Grace’s perspective, she was fighting for her dignity, for respect, for her life. She inspires me to keep my own fighting spirit alive and hold my ground when the going gets tough.
I have worked with thousands of horses as a farrier. My safety depends on my ability to assess their personalities and have a sense of what they are thinking. I trust Grace more than any horse I have ever met.
I do not claim to be an exceptional horsewoman, but I do believe I am the right person for her. Watching Grace release her pain and open her heart has helped me release my own pieces of dark history as well. Every day we are healthier beings than the day before, and together we are learning to live vibrantly.
I am aware that there are definitely some wonderful people in the RCMP Musical Ride. This post by no means implies all participants are abusive, however there is a strong culture of abuse as demonstrated by a Riding Master being put on suspension. When a leader behaves this way, it encourages others to follow suit. Click HERE to see the CTV report.
My hope is that the Musical Ride will develop a deeper respect for the incredible beings that carry this Canadian tradition on their backs.
How do you choose to live a vibrant, colourful life?
This is part of a continuing story, click here to start from the beginning.
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