Over the years WHOAS has been rescuing wildies and finding them forever homes, and we often hear back from their new owners. We contacted the families who adopted the horses we rescued from the Ghost capture last winter. Here are some of their stories.
We want to point out that WHOAS gentles the horses that so that they can be safely handled by their new owners as they then begin their new lives. This means these horses have been gentled to touch and be haltered. They are taught to lead and go into our barn stalls to be fed and groomed. They are taught to step forward in the stall and lift their feet to allow cleaning under and behind them. They are also taught to step forward in the stall and to stand until they are untied and the butt rope is removed. Only then are they asked to back up quietly. Those that stay longer may have work done on their feet if necessary and possibly desensitized to a saddle pad. We do not train the horses further as the adopters may have a purpose and a method of training suited to their goals. This gentling program we have devised has worked very well even with the older wild horses we have rescued.
Carol from Bearberry, adopted this filly:
“The work WHOAS did with “Lil’Bit” made my job easier in getting her started with tying, picking up feet and leading.”
Cherie from Sundre, adopted this gelding
“Gunner has been nothing short of spectacular here. As you know from when we spoke last he settled into my herd like he had always been here and there was no stress at all. He spent time in a pen for the first month to settle and when I let him out with the others it was so cool to watch as they were all standing in a group, parted and allowed him into the centre and then closedc up around him and away they went, not a peep! He has been great to work with, although these last few months I have been letting him be with the herd. Im out there ever day though handling him, brushing him, and getting him to take treats, loose mineral, and a ration from a pail as he initially would only eat out of a shallow tub. So far I have been able to touch every part of his body, even his feet. I have saddled him and lunged him, bathed him etc. He stands tied no problem. I plan to get back at it again and get him started under saddle in the spring. He is quite the gentlemen that’s for sure. I have offered him cookies from my hand and he takes them ever so gently and graciously, very respectful. He gets them usually in a pail with a ration. Gunner has filled out and grown alot since last April. I can’t believe it has been that long!! Wow time sure flies.”
“Griffin and Gracie are doing fabulously! Gracie has, of course being with us for another year over Griffin, begun coming to the mountains with us. Griffin will start coming on our adventures next year. Both are being ridden bareback with side-pulls as an extension of the ground work and training. So far, so good.
“Griffin is easy going and really a big kid. He had a rough integration into the herd, but as is his nature, befriended most of the other geldings. He plays lots with the other horses and is definitely a kind and gentle soul. As you can see by the pictures he is really filling out and becoming more and more handsome.
Gracie is a very strong mare. She is boss over most of the other horses, even being ½ the size of some. She is also very smart and picks everything up really easily. Training has been easy, as she too is very kind. One has to be careful to work with her, as there is no way to get through her strong nature, which is good as long as you use it to your advantage. Trust is the key and everything must be non threatening.
The bonds that we have with both horses are indescribable. There is definitely something about the wild horses that is very different from a domestic horse. We are excited for the growth that will occur between us in the future.”
Jim from Cremona, adopted a colt, Airies, and a filly, Penny.
“Aries and Penny are doing well. I included pictures of both horses. I’ve been riding them lightly last summer. I told Fran my granddaughter will be riding Penny by the end of the summer. Included is a picture of my 3 year old granddaughter on Penny on July 16. Which she claimed Penny to be her horse which she absolutely loves. My granddaughter (Haven) didn’t like the name Penny and changed it to Elsa from her favorite movie Frozen. Aries was very aggressive at first and would strike at me or try to bite any time I went in front of him but got over that in about 3 days. At 5 days I turned him out in the pasture in the day time and could catch him any where. Penny was very standoffish and didn’t want to be caught but was very easy to handle once I did get a halter on her. She accepted the saddle and a rider without any issues. The first time on Aries was a little different. If my corral was any bigger I might have been in trouble. He has not offered to buck since. Thanks again.”
Bre from Blackie, AB, adopted a gelding
“Knowing “Apollo”, learning him, him learning me, and finding out how to understand each other and connect with each other properly has been life changing for me. The patience I’ve learned for myself and with others is all thanks to him……..
My training slowed down after I had a little incident that put me off for a few months last September, however I think it brought us closer together, and we truly have a lifetime to work with each other! He’s been the most gentle, yet scary horse I have ever been around, lol. When we talk about a connection, some people just shake it off and think oh, you just know your horse’s facial expressions or body language, which is true. But I know his mind, we talk to each other in that way as weird as it sounds. He feels me and I feel him.
I had hoped to have him under saddle and riding by now however I made the mistake 2 months ago to allow someone into my home, my property, to help with Apollo. He did great with my other horses, but not Apollo. I told him he was different, and he can’t just jump into the round pen and point a finger and he’s going to listen to you. I spent three months halter breaking, desensitizing, teaching him to yield hind quarters for me, pressure points, everything. And he was doing great. I could easily throw a saddle pad on him with no hesitation, use the lunge whip all around him, smack the ground with it and he would just stand for me. I made the mistake of allowing this “trainer” to get into my head, saying I need to allow him to learn other ways, and respect for all. Well Apollo isn’t a captive bred horse, he’s a wild magnificent animal / partner who has connected with me and learned to respect and trust me and isn’t going to let any person tell him what to do. Needless to say the day went all wrong, Apollo ended up breaking down my pasture fence, and running to me because I wasn’t allowed in while this “trainer” did his thing. And clearly he didn’t, aha, and I told him before he started it wasn’t going to work. He spooked and pissed off my poor Apollo so bad, after that it took me almost a week to have him comfortably wear a halter again. I’ve learned after that to really trust my instincts, like Apollo does. Only he and I know what’s best for us because we have that connection and relationship. Since then, we’ve had to almost start from the beginning, but I know this is our year! We still have lots of time! He gets trimmed regularly, has great feet and I don’t think I will ever put shoes on him. He loves his oats and brush downs lol! and the occasional night in the barn.
I continue to look forward to keeping in touch and appreciate all you have done and giving me the opportunity have have one of these beautiful mountain horses! AKA my best friend ❤
~Love and Light ~
Gillian from Bergen, adopted a filly
“Rosie came home to live with us in March of 2015 after being captured as a young filly during the 2015 Ghost Capture. She joined a family that already consisted of my husband and myself, our two adult sons, three dogs, four cats and three other horses, all geldings.
When Rosie arrived home, her world for the first while was a large paddock during the day, and a comfy 12 x 12 box stall at night. Every day before work, I would go down to the barn and pay her some attention, feed her some foal starter, and turn her out into the paddock with a pile of hay for the day. At night – I spent a bit more time with her, brushing her and having long conversations in her box stall before bed. Initially, we kept her halter on when she was in the paddock, with a short little lead rope attached so that I was able to catch her each evening. It didn’t take her too long to figure out that I wasn’t so bad to be around, and she began to seem to look forward to my company. She was very wormy when she came home so we had to do some gradual deworming over a period of about three weeks. Once she had shed her multitude of parasites, she began to put some weight on, and get a shine back in her eyes.
Every weekend I would work with her a bit, just leading her around, getting her to trust following me and going where I asked her to go when I asked her to go there. After about three weeks in the paddock, we went for a walk outside in the woods around her paddock. She was very funny as at one point she thought “Who-hoo! I’m free!” and jumped around kicking and giving little bucks. It only took a quick “Agghh!” from me to let her know that was not how she should behave on the lead! She picks up on what is good and what is not quite quickly.
For the next couple of months we carried on with this routine. Within weeks she had graduated to not needing her halter on when she was not being worked with. She would come right up to me when I got to the barn. At this point we began having visitors and other family members spend time with her, teaching her to trust other humans, not just me. We started working on picking up her feet, and she also had her first farrier appointment! She wasn’t sure that tall lanky guy was to be trusted, but she allowed him to trim her feet anyway! In June, after the horses visiting for three months over the fence, we decided it was time to turn her out with the other horses.
She fit in marvellously. She and my three year old gelding “Cash” became fast friends, as they were the two low men on the totem pole out there! Over the summer I spent time with her, and she became more and more accepting of anything we wanted to do with her. Above that – it has been so interesting to watch how she behaves in contrast to our domestic horses. She has a very strong herd instinct, and is quite concerned that everyone stays together. One day, my husband was watching them out the kitchen window, and noticed the two older horses were moving to our south pasture. Cash was still in the north pasture. Rosie , who was beginning to follow the boys south, turned at one point and trotted back through the gate to where Cash was. She went straight up to him and began to push him in the direction of the gate. She didn’t let up until he was committed to heading south with the others! Very interesting to see that! The other thing she does that is quite different from my domestics, is, she always comes to greet me when I go out to the pasture or the barn. She will leave the others and come to where I am, and she will stay with me until I leave the pasture. Unless I have a treat, my domestics just don’t care that much if I’m there or not! Not Rosie – she is an attention hog! She’s still not too crazy about strangers, but she allows them to do what they need to do. This morning, she was at the gate waiting when I went out to feed, and she followed me to the barn. I knew she was behind me, but all of a sudden, I felt a little tug on my hood. She had very gently grabbed my hood and was just saying “hey – I’m here..!”
I love her so much – and I thank WHOAS for the dedication they have shown to ensure that these horse survive and get the recognition they deserve! I look forward to many adventures with Rosie, and will be sure to share them with you!”
Peggy from Hays, AB, three wildies to her home
“The cull came at a very stressful time for my family so when my husband suggested adopting a wildie I wasn’t sure I could take on anything more especially something so time consuming as a young horse. I knew that my husband and my sister would help with him/her so being the awesome wife that I am (LOL) I did what I always do (again LOL) and agreed with my husband, we should have a wildie. As it turns out we ended up with 3 and they were totally what we needed. The time we spent with them daily focused on their needs was better stress relief than anything a doctor could have prescribed.
In March my husband Jim and I went to Sundre to pick out our wildie. Everyone was very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. It was hard to pick out just one but Jim picked Lily who we later named Wild Ghost Malala. “Wild Ghost” for her heritage and “Malala” for the young Pakistani activist for female education that Jim admired. Our Malala was a little standoffish but beautiful. When it was suggested we could adopt more than 1, I choose Missy. She was so friendly that when I scratched her she leaned toward me looking for more. Her name is now Wild Ghost Shade or Shady for short. Unlike Malala there was no special reason for choosing Shade I just liked it. As we didn’t bring our trailer with us at the time, my sister Helen and I came back the following weekend to pick them up. They both loaded like old pros.
While we were at the facility looking around we saw Bruce. I think that Bruce was the youngest and the smallest one there. He had issues with long pasterns on his hind legs and we were told that he probably wouldn’t be anything more than a companion horse. When we got home, I told Jim about Bruce and he said that we could give Bruce a forever home if one couldn’t be found for him. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to find a home for Bruce, in May my sister and I made another trip to Sundre. Our herd of Alberta Mountain Horses now numbered 3. Bruce was renamed Wild Ghost Dusty. It suits him too.
The volunteers at WHOAS did an excellent job starting these three. Their first experience with humans was a positive one which has made our experience with them so much easier. None of them have ever offered to kick or bite out of meanness or malice.
Malala is beautiful! When she stands with her neck stretched, head up, ears pricked and nostrils flaring you can totally see her heritage and imagine her as the dominant mare watching over her herd. Of the 3, she is the one that has taken the most patience and still does not give her trust easily. It took us a while before she would easily let us walk up to her so we could remove the dragging lead and still catch her. While my sister and I can pick up all of her feet fairly easily, it has taken a while for the farrier to be able to give her a proper trimming. She seems to trust him more each time and on his last visit he was able to trim and rasp without major drama.”
Lynne from Spruce View, adopted Bailey, a mare
“About a month after bringing Bailey home, I had a huge setback with her, and had to start from scratch with gentling her. I learned a lot and found out my approach needed changing. Since then she has given us so many moments of joy. We are not pushing her, but working on getting her to trust us. Every day we are rewarded with increasing trust. We sent her to a trainer in early fall, hoping to start her under saddle. The trainer was able to ride her a few times. When she came back to us, the next time we saddled her, she blew up like a rodeo bronc. It was amazing to see the power she has! We decided to back off, and keep working on ground work and trust. She sustained an injury this past fall which required vet attention and subsequent treatment by us. We were able to give her IM injections, oral medications, and provide topical treatment without fuss. This injury evolved into a recurring abscess we have had to treat twice. She will let us do this without halter or lead. . . now that’s trust! When we go out to the pasture, she is the first one to come greet us, and give us hugs! Both Bailey and Bella [another adopted mare by Lynne’s niece] follow us like puppy dogs, and are curious about everything we do. We have again started saddling her. She is not really happy about it, but accepts it. We hope to be riding her this summer. She is an amazing, affectionate horse and extremely smart! We are just delighted to have her in our lives.”
Shellie from Dawson Creek, BC
“Bey [a mare] and River [Bey’s colt] are doing wonderful. The only training I did with Bey this summer was to get her to let me catch her because the River Brat has decided that if a human is in the pen it should be all about him. It still takes me about 10 minutes to catch Bey but it is incredibly mind blowing how she remembers stuff. She comes up no problem to eat grain out of a bucket now. Funny how eating grain out of a bucket is a milestone. Last summer when I had my granddaughters here (ages 3 and 2) she would eat grass from their wee hands so gentle it was unbelievable. I caught her and handed the vet the rope and when I went to walk away she was going to follow me. As soon as she realized it was the vet who had her she turned to the vet and she was such a little lady. During the vet visit they said she was about 14.5 years. So my wee girl is at least 15 years old this year. I am looking forward to this summer to play with her more.
I will admit I was scared when I brought her home. I was unsure how she would react to us as strangers and her baby just was all over us for scratches. She never showed any signs of aggression or nervousness towards us. That is thanks to WHOAS. It was me that was on edge. Both Kaylyn [Shellie’s daughter] and I could pet her in about two weeks I think, maybe less. If I myself was not so unsure of the situation I am sure I would have been able to pet her right away, but I also had to learn about her.
Now for the little River Brat, he has impressed everyone that has come to my place to see my wildies. If there is anything, I mean anything, he can get his mouth on it is gone! He opens chains on gates, he takes halters off other horses, he literally will pick up the red mineral tubs for the cows that I use to put water in and carry it away. He loves water and the other day my daughter was carrying water to them and she had two pails of water in the tub and was going to get more. I was cleaning the barn and I heard him pawing the tub and I knew what he was doing. Then the next thing I heard was ‘Mom, River just spilled the water.’ I did laugh and said ‘yeah I knew he did that, now I guess it is just two extra pails you have to carry.”
Depending on what pen I have them in they sometimes have a water or I can fill the tub with a garden hose. If I use the garden hose he grabs the end of it and either lets the water run out of his mouth or tries to run away with it. I could not have came up with a better name for him because he still runs “like a river”. The picture of Bey was taken in Nov. River loves his hugs and kisses. I have bought him a ball and he hits the other horses in the butt with it and then they run away from him. This shoe is his favourite thing of all. He has smashed his gum because of him shaking it up and down. He also hits the other horses with it. There is a reason I call him River Brat.”
Candice from Water Valley, AB writes:
I am a believer that all things happen for a reason, and I have often thought that perhaps, just perhaps the horses choose us. This is certainly true in the story of how Lightening and Cindy Lou chose us. In February 2015 I emailed WHOAS volunteering my time, if needed, as I had just heard about the 2015 cull. I believed I could be of assistance as I had bought 2 wild horses from the trapper in the cull of 2014. WHOAS responded that they would appreciate any time I could give, and it was arranged for me to visit the facility and meet with Jack. I loved Jack from the moment I met him, and I passed muster and was invited to help out.
In my first few days at the facility, there were only a few horses, but as the month wore on, more came in, and in those days I was cleaning the large pens the horse were in. The day came when Jack felt I was ready to work with the horses, and Lightening was moved into a small round pen, and from the moment I walked into that pen and our eyes met, my heart was gone! Lightening just seemed to decide I was his!
However I had a small problem, I had promised my husband no more horses, so I thought perhaps Ron would love him as much as I did! So I began telling Ron about this amazing horse, and how quickly he learned, and he was Ron’s favorite color, a bay! So I convinced Ron to come up one Sunday, volunteer and meet Lightening. The minute I introduced Ron to Jack, Jack shook his hand and said “You know you’re being set up don’t you?” To which Ron replied “Yes, Yes I do!” Lightening stole his heart to, and Ron adopted him, now the funny part is, that once he adopted Lightening, Ron then gave him to me! Lightening is amazing! He was started under saddle last summer. The most amazing thing about these horses is once they choose you, and they trust you, they are bonded with you always. Lightening always comes to see me or Ron the minute we are anywhere near him, no matter what, he always comes to say hi!
Cindy Lou chose my dad! My mother passed away just before Christmas in 2014, so I thought it would be really good for dad to come out to WHOAS and Volunteer with me. He too was cleaning pens. Cindy Lou was one of the last horses to come in, and she was one of the horses that had been roped. When I first met her she had already progressed to being in the barn. Greg told me what a sweetheart she was, and even though she had been roped, she was very trusting, and had took to haltering very well. At that time her name was Cindy, and right from the time I met her, I called her Cindy Lou ( after Cindy Lou in the Grinch) due to her temperament. The next time dad came with me to volunteer, Cindy Lou was in the pen with the other younger mares, and dad went to the gate to open it so he could clean the pens. Even before he went in, Cindy Lou walked right over to him, and stuck her nose through the fence. Dad went in and spent a good 15 minutes stroking her and from that day on any time dad was there Cindy Lou made a beeline for him. I suggested that maybe Dad should adopt her. He was living with us, and I thought it would be great for dad to have someone to take care of. The day came when dad said he really adored her, and would adopt her!
Lol, then not too long after that, we discovered Cindy Lou was pregnant! On June 20th, Cindy Lou gave birth to this tiny little colt. He was so precious, we named him Arturo, which is the Spanish version of Arthur and means Noble. This in itself was a blessing as not long after Cindy Lou and Lightening came home we discovered that Ron’s coming 3 year old Canadian Mare was pregnant. Now he had mentioned in February already that he thought she was pregnant and I kept saying no, it was not possible. However it turned out it was possible. The supposed to be “yearling colt” who we named Mateo, that I bought from the trapper in the 2014 cull turned out to be about 2 ½ when he was gelded in May of 2014. I had the mares, geldings and Mateo separated, however Mateo obviously fence jumped and bred Ron’s mare, Zephyr. So on May 2 2015, we were blessed with a ½ Canadian, ½ Alberta Mountain Horse filly named Cimmaron. Cimmaron and Arturo are the best of friends, and how wonderful that Arturo has a companion to grow up with. Perhaps now you believe as I do, that all things happen for a reason!