Horses rescued from garbage dump – a happy story from Sundance Ranch in Portugal

Horses rescued from garbage dump

This summer Sandra, who runs Sundance Ranch in Portugal, found out about a couple of young Lusitano mares who lived in horrible conditions at a garbage dump. She decided to go and have a look. What she found was two mares, 3 and 5 years old, hungry, full of eczema and open wounds. She couldn’t leave them there, so she went back to her ranch immediately to get her trailer and take them home.

The mares, Imelda and Luana, came from a breeder who wasn’t able to take care of the horses any longer.  She sold them to her farrier who never paid for them, nor took care of them. It ended up with a Facebook ad that got picked up by Sandra.

Freedom Based Training

At Sundance Ranch, the horses are trained by the principles of Elsa Sinclair, “Freedom Based Training”. In practice, this means to establish and develop the communication between horse and human by only using body language. This form of training should be without any kind of physical tools or bribes, so the setting is as natural as possible for the horse and it is free to leave the game at any time.

I have previously written a blog post on Elsa Sinclair and her methods. You can find it here; Elsa Sinclair and her ways of Freedom Based Training.

Basic training and care

As these were youngsters they hadn’t been handled a lot, so Sandra and her team had some work ahead of them, not only taking care of their physical needs as forage and medical care, but they had to get started on the training. The plan was to make them feel safe and confident enough to be able to put them up for adoption. The process was documented in a series of 5 short videos. You can find these here.

Practically, it is hard to follow the principles completely, and in the daily routine, it was necessary to use some physical tools as a halter and lead rope. As these horses needed to be followed up closely on hoof care, vaccines and other medical care, it was important to work on this in the beginning. They would do this step by step out in the field by building trust and confidence.

Sundance Ranch groundwork

Groundwork and preparations for trailer loading

As they progressed they started some basic groundwork by halter and lead rope to establish confidence and boundaries together with the leader. Another exercise that was introduced was to step up on a ramp on the ground as a preparation for trailer loading. They also had to practice on separating the two mares as they were very dependent on each other. Everything was introduced slowly to avoid stress and negative experience for the horses.

Adoptive home in Denmark

Imelda and Luana turned out to be a couple of calm and willing horses, and it didn’t take long before they had found new homes. Two Danish women wanted to adopt them, so in October they are moving to Denmark. I’ll try to follow up on the story after they have arrived in their new home.

We wish them good luck and are happy that these horses get a new chance in life.

Well done Sandra!

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