Written by Jeni Platt of Storm Chaser Services LLC
We live and breathe second chances out here on our small horse farm in Fluvanna County. I’ve been supporting CVHR for over ten years and have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work more closely with a few of their horses since the rescue’s move to Fredericksburg. At Storm Chaser Stables we teach horsemanship and facilitate equine assisted therapy with a herd of special horses who all needed a second chance at life in some form or another. Many of these horses simply need time and a little rehabilitation to be successful as an equine partner in these roles! Time and time again we have found that rescue horses thrive in a setting where they are given space to heal both physically and emotionally.
Some horses require more time to build trust and heal. One such rescue horse we’ve worked with is Gunther, an aged chestnut Arabian gelding whose opinions can be as fiery as his coat color! We picked Gunther up from CVHR in March of 2021 with the objective to assess him and give him a training tune up before he moved on to a new home across the country as a child’s horse. It didn’t take long for us to realize that Gunther was a very sensitive guy and our first challenge was getting him settled in well enough to eat. He was easily stressed by any changes in the beginning, from movement in the herd to mares in season, and he went off his feed whenever he was anxious. We carefully adjusted his feed, enticed him to eat with applesauce, and loved on him.
At first, Gunther didn’t even enjoy being groomed or touched. It was nearly impossible to pick up his back feet and his front feet weren’t much better because he was so stiff and sore. He was generally safe to handle but had strong opinions and the muscle to back them up. I wasn’t sure Gunther could ever be a child’s horse but I remained hopeful. He was vetted again. We treated him with chiropractic adjustments, MagnaWave PEMF therapy, and doxycycline for his Lyme’s diagnosis. We fed him and loved on him daily with most of the hands-on work done by one of my daughters under my direction.
Slowly, he began to improve. He grew less grouchy with his handling. He began to enjoy grooming sessions and picking up his feet was getting easier. We started groundwork and short rides, where he remained quirky about changes with an affinity for spinning to express himself. Gradually, he built more and more trust with my daughter. They began to grow confidence with one another as she worked him all the way up to cantering under saddle. At this point, months have passed as we worked on solving the puzzle of Gunther’s rehab needs, which were both physical and emotional.
Though things had improved so much, I was still worried about his upcoming move. He had bonded with the herd and my daughter. Gunther finally seemed content. However, he was supposed to move to Washington state to a new family soon. I shared my concerns with Gunther’s team and it was decided that due to his age and emotional needs, he would stay at SCS for the remainder of his life.
We have continued to meet Gunther where he is, providing stable care and regular exercise appropriate for his needs. He has grown stronger, more resilient to change, and bonded with a novice rider on our Equestrian Team. Most recently, Gunther seems to have found his true calling spending time with special needs children in some of our horsemanship programs. He enjoys making friends with these kids during grooming sessions, moves patiently on the ground in hand, and remains calm and steady for light leadline rides. It took over a year of consistent dedication to Gunther’s care to get here today. Every day on this journey was a second chance for Gunther as he grew healthier physically and more emotionally stable. It took a team of us to heal Gunther and we’ve been rewarded with his growth and loyalty!