Hanaeleh was contacted by another rescue in February, asking us to help with a paint horse who had been abandoned at a local stable in Orange County. The owner had stopped paying board, and was several months behind. One of the people at the stable saw that LadyBug wasn’t being cared for, and reached out to the owner. She started taking care of LadyBug, but she could not afford a second horse. LadyBug’s owner continued to fall farther and farther behind on rent, and eventually the stable started putting a lock on LadyBug’s stall, which prevented her from even being turned out. The person who had been caring for LadyBug called the other rescue to see if they could help, but they were unable to take LadyBug, so they called us.
We were told that LadyBug was about 28 years old, rideable and serviceably sound, but also that she was blind in one eye and in reality she just needed a retirement home. We networked her and we had someone who offered to take her, but she did not have a trailer so she could not pick her up. We were able to get the owner to sign her over to us, and we decided it would be easiest for us to pick LadyBug up and have her stay at Hanaeleh for a week and then we would take her to her new home the following weekend.
When we got to the ranch, it had just rained (again)- most of Southern California seemed to be underwater this past winter. We drove in and found a place to park that was relatively dry but also out of the way. The person who had been caring for LadyBug met us and brought LadyBug out. LadyBug looked good when she came out- too good, really- she looked like she was closer to 18, not 28. Otherwise, she looked very healthy.
We let the person who had been working with LadyBug say her goodbyes while we said hello to a friend’s horse who is also boarded at the same stable. Her owner, although she had signed all of the necessary paperwork, was not there to meet us or to say goodbye to her horse. We got as much information as we could from the person who had been caring for LadyBug, which wasn’t much, just that she had some vision issues and she was often difficult to catch. The previous owner had said online that LadyBug was very sweet and a great horse even with her young daughter, which boded well for her. Thankfully, LadyBug loaded without any issues and we were on our way to Hanaeleh.
Ladybug Arrives at Hanaeleh.
Often we will rename horses when they get to Hanaeleh, but as we weren’t planning on keeping LadyBug, we decided not to change it at all, leaving that decision to the new owner. We turned her out and groomed her, and were perplexed by her responses, as she sometimes would react to certain things, and sometimes did not react at all. Elizabeth had no problem catching her, so we weren’t sure what was going on.
A few days before we were planning on taking LadyBug to her new home, however, we received a call from the person who had said she would give LadyBug a new home, saying that she no longer was in a position to take her because her son did not want another horse. It was a bit of a blow to be honest, as we weren’t prepared to keep LadyBug. We had a decision to make- do we network her again, trying to find her another home, or did we keep her?
Ultimately, LadyBug made the decision for us by being a very naughty horse. She refused to be caught by one of our volunteers, pulled back at the tie rail and pulled the rope out of a volunteer’s hands. She worked relatively well with Elizabeth, but was still difficult for other volunteers to catch, and even with Elizabeth she would react negatively when she was being groomed by randomly pulling back. LadyBug seemed to be uncomfortable around men, and would start shaking in fear when the farrier came out to trim her feet. We weren’t sure how much of the reactions were because of a vision issue and how much was a training issue. We did not want to make LadyBug someone else’s problem, however, and it was very obvious that LadyBug needed our help.
After a few weeks at the ranch we had the vet out to update LadyBug’s vaccines and to assess her vision, to see what we could do to help her feel more comfortable. The wet weather prevented us from exercising any of the horses in the arena for several days, and all of the horses were pretty wound up. LadyBug was no exception, and while she was incredibly reactive, the vet seemed to think that her reactions were not tied to her vision, but rather to her personality or a training issue. We agreed that we would have her vision checked again when she was able to be worked regularly. The vet did concur that LadyBug was closer to 18-20 years old, however, than to 28.
Ladybug settles in at Hanaeleh.
Ladybug has been decompressing and she does much better when she is worked regularly, although she is still reactive when being at the tie rail being groomed. She will pull back for no apparent reason, and still seems genuinely fearful around men, but we are patient with her. She will sometimes also be very naughty and won’t want anyone to catch her, either in her stall or in the round pen, but the more we work with her the better she gets. Sometimes it’s like working with a horse who suffers from long-term memory loss like in 50 First Dates because we will work with her one day and she’ll be great, and the next day it’s like starting all over again.
We’re not sure when or if LadyBug will be up for adoption- at this point we want to make sure she feels safe and secure, and we will not adopt out any horse we think is not safe to work with. She is not mean or aggressive at all to people, but she is so reactive that she could inadvertently hurt someone by trying to escape whatever she thinks is dangerous. At this point only Elizabeth is working with her at the tie rail, but multiple volunteers are now able to walk her and work her in the arena.
Ladybug gets to know her neighbors.
LadyBug is not only concerned with her humans, however, and has started to make friends and enemies at the ranch- she is great friends with Garnet, and will nicker at her and call for her- and Garnet will do the same. If we take LadyBug out, Garnet will have a hissy fit in the paddock next to her, and will run around and scream for her.
LadyBug does NOT like Rylee, however, and will kick out and mare squeal and bite at Rylee. Thankfully the pipes between her stall and the paddock have stud wire so they can’t harm each other, although LadyBug did manage to cut herself by kicking the bars very aggressively one day recently. Since that day, she seems to be more tame in her vendetta against Rylee, but every once in a while we can hear her and Rylee scream at each other. We feed her on the far side of her stall so she isn’t close to Rylee’s paddock, but we think she just enjoys being at war with Rylee – perhaps they both want to be frenemies? For the most part, however, they manage to just glare at each other.
We will continue to work with LadyBug and we hope that we can help her get over the issues that are causing her to react negatively- whether it be a vision or training issue. We made the decision that we would commit to working with LadyBug, and we are committed to helping her get over her fears.
Everyone loves her already and is so amazed at her beauty. If you’ve ever thought about sponsoring one of our horses, now is the time. You’ll be there at Ladybug’s beginning and be able to watch her journey to healing. Click here to sponsor Ladybug for as little as $10 per day!