Written by Beth Rand, Executive Director, The Joyful Horse Project.
Sahara Olena Loma became a part of The Joyful Horse Project in January 2012 — the same month we officially became a non-profit equine welfare organization.
Some friends found Sahara and three other viable horses on a feedlot in Abilene. They were part of a large herd that was shipping to Mexico for slaughter the next morning. Arrangements were quickly made to get them out of harms way. The other three horses had homes to go to, but Sahara was going to be more difficult to place.
We contacted animal communicator and natural horsemanship trainer Kristine Nesbitt who was working with a couple of our other rehab horses at the time. Kristine agreed to provide a safe landing spot for Sahara and to do what she could to help regain her trust. But Sahara was so traumatized by events in her life that she would not willingly let any human touch her. We gave her time and a couple of horse friends, whom of which also suffered from trust issues. We watched and waited for Sahara to initiate contact, providing many opportunities on a daily basis for her to make that choice.
For safety reasons, we needed to get the halter off Sahara, which she had been wearing since arrival, however even this simple task was no easy feat. Kristine learned from Keith Moon, Travaasa Austin’s head wrangler and ranch manager, that a gifted horseman and musician would be in Austin for the winter. She gave Mike Beck a call and he agreed to come out and help us with Sahara.
Within a short time, Mike had not only removed her halter, but he also agreed to play his music at the first fundraiser for The Joyful Horse Project and facilitate a horse clinic featuring Sahara as a demonstration horse. We invited a few people out to share Mike’s approach as he demonstrated how to help horses like Sahara start to trust, working through a quality he calls Feel.
During this clinic, I first heard Mike talk about “the new work of horses” or how their role had shifted from being an integral part of our military and work life to serving as recreational activity. He explained that horses were more than entertainment, and can serve as a partner who instinctively understands our intentions, provides a mirror into our souls and possesses the ability to change the hearts of people who truly wish to partner with them. This he referred to as Big medicine.
There’s not enough room in this article to tell how Mike, Kristine, our head rehab manager Rachel Steen and so many others helped Sahara along the way.
Sahara’s permanent home has yet to find her —but she has an important job to do. On Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings you’ll find her at the ranch in Spicewood, Texas working with former combat veterans–teaching them Feel by giving them a mental break from their daily lives and a simple chance to partner with a horse for a few hours.
Men and women who served our country in combat understand on a much deeper level what true unity and partnership really means.
The veterans are a huge asset to our equine rehab efforts as we try to help horses like Sahara become safe and easy to handle, without triggering past traumas. Building a community of trustworthy people – people love horses and our country and who want to continue to serve – that’s what The Joyful Horse Project and veterans program is about.
To learn more about the Joyful Horse Project, visit joyfulhorseproject.org.
Travaasa Austin is hosting a Mike Beck Concert and Dinner on Friday, October 18, 2013 benefiting The Joyful Horse Project. Mike Beck will be playing an acoustic solo concert from his new album Tribute, which he recorded in Austin while facilitating the pilot veterans program. Mike is donating all proceeds from the sale of Tribute to The Joyful Horse Project. Individual tickets and room packages are available now and can be booked by here.
Mike Beck will also be conducting a two-day Horsemanship Clinic at Travaasa on October 19 – 20. Six slots are available for participants priced at $400 per horse/rider combination. Auditing spots are also available for $25 per person. For more information, visit travaasa.com/austin or call 855.TO.TRAVAASA (855.868.7282).