EVERY HORSE IS SPECIAL. BUT SOME ARE DIFFERENT! This is Anni´s Story.
Autistic Anni - MIA Bearpaws AU Anni came to me as a 7 year-old to be a brood mare (to further my dream of bringing quality foundation Appaloosa´s to Spain and Europe). A full veterinary certificate assured me she was apt for breeding, though a maiden mare.
Doing all due diligence she was turned out with my stallion, and another foundation Appaloosa mare, where she promptly (screamingly) came on heat. My boy had a merry time. The other mare was very quickly in foal, but Anni and Heart just carried on having a party. As months (and seasons!) passed and it became apparent Anni wasn´t taking I called the vet out to give her a full service. This is when we discovered she had a uterus the size of a 9 month-old and would never be able to carry a foal. Oh joy, not! I didn´t need another riding horse, and certainly not one that had cost me a small fortune to ship from America. This mare had all the carefully researched blood lines I wanted to breed. This was not good news. But, this also began to explain a number of anomalies.
Over the preceding months I had noticed other unusual things about Anni´s behaviour, that despite addressing them calmly, respectfully and with utmost patience, didn´t resolve themselves. I also was given information about her breeders, and previous owners (one and the same), from trusted sources (the Foundation Appaloosa network is perfect and small and they don´t take kindly to people giving a bad reputation to a much loved, and not long since, nearly extinct breed).
Anni would "snatch up" her fores when you asked for them (to clean/trim) and she would do her damnedest to kick you when you asked for her hinds. Turns out she was hog-tied in a bid to ´rape´ her. Prior to knowing this I went back to foal basics in trying to teach her that I was only going to do good, and not harm. Learning this I had to take a whole new direction, starting with her head.
Anni learnt groundwork with lightning speed. So fast I kept thinking it´s a fluke, and waiting for the crash! But no, she was literally, shown, asked, completed. Boom, again and again. She was pivoting, pirouetting, half-passing in walk and trot away and towards me with just a nod of the head. She would´t ground tie though - hmmmm! And if she got distracted, there was no bringing her back. So then it came time to ´saddle up´. Saddle and rider (me) all on, completely uneventful, not. Asked for walk, gave a little squeeze and she tottered forward, eager, but completely drunk. She ambled across the arena, 4 steps to the left, 3 to the right, forelimbs crossing over each other. Tried as I might to straighten her up, Anni wobbled along with her neck curved. I let her go where she wanted to go, allowing/presuming this to be her first reaction to being ridden. But after 10 minutes of this, and without exaggeration it felt like she could drop to her knees at any moment she was so ´wobbly´, I dismounted and called it a day.
Back on the ground I did straightening exercises with Anni. She was surprisingly very evenly balanced and didn´t really favor a rein. I also got back in touch with the breeders again.
The breeders had told me Anni went to parades and won ribbons as a 2 year-old. When she arrived I questioned this as she was afraid of her own shadow. They now informed me she had also been ´broke to ride´, which they didn´t mention when I´d enquired on first investigating Anni! They sent me a video of her being ridden. <<light bulb moment>> as I watched this ridiculously large man (for little Anni) in a ridiculously large and long western saddle (those things alone weigh half a hundred weight) that was way to big for her, riding Anni, so many questions were answered. Apart from the 12" long shanked bit in her mouth, this buffoon was pushing her and pushing her in a tiny, but tiny, round pen, until she broke into canter. He then bounced along on her back as he forced her to maintain this canter on a tiny circle whilst he leaned in to the center. That was her being broke to ride! This poor little mare was trying to keep herself balanced in canter on a tiny circle and keep a great lump of a rider (like a sack of potatoes) balanced on top of her. No wonder she was wonky!
At this time I was also studying to become an Equine Massage Therapist, so Anni was number one candidate for treatment. As I learnt about myofascial release with my professor who had come from the UK to teach us Anni had a release in her neck like a lightning bolt. She quite literally jumped up in the air (albeit just a few centimetres) with all four feet. I reeled backwards, the Tutor and two other people and their horses all felt the shock. Anni immediately dropped her head and began to eat grass like she hand´t eaten in a year. The tutor had never seen such a strong/huge release and less still seen such an incredibly strong reaction to the release (the avarice with which Anni attacked the grass). Anni went on to have a few more huge releases like that in her neck, over a period of time (you need to leave a horse a minimum 24 hours after such a treatment so their whole mind and body can realign to what has happened).
Now, this story could go on and on. There is a lot to tell. But to try and surmise; Anni ´must´ be ridden very straight or else she skips (yes, skips) and scoots (not fun in gallop) from side to side. There are also days when you just can not ride Anni. We now know the signs. She is in the need of an ´alone´ day. She will also keep the others in her herd at arms length on these days. Things that other horses spook at make not a jot of difference to Anni. Yet things she sees every day may some days develop sabre teeth and must be avoided like the plague. When you ride with a group of horses and one spooks, the rest always have some kind of reaction to a lesser or greater degree. When Anni spooks at something, none of the others ever react, and when one of the others react to something, and the rest at most might turn an ear or eye, Anni goes full steam towards the offending object as though she is going to attack it. She guards the life of my youngest step-son, who is a very very nervous rider, like it were her own. Though this has it´s drawbacks. If they ride out, she rides at full steam to get where every she has to go and get back home again as quickly as possible. Like a missile, her course is set and there is no deviating her from it. But when I ride her she clearly expects me to guard her life, whilst having no regard for mine.
Over a year ago my eldest step-son cinched her up fast, and tight. Just once. Since then, no amount of patience and loose girth etc etc, has stopped the ´snaps´ when you do up her girth. She has never bitten, but leaves you in now doubt she is pissed as she does a snake neck and crashes her teeth together. She still snatches up her fores, but will do it with no malice. Her hinds only come up without a battle when there are no males around!
I don´t push her. She gives her all to us. If we have to put up with some battling hooves it´s a small price to pay. I didn´t want or need another riding horse, but I have Anni. She comes for cuddles like no other horse I have ever known - you do need to see them to understand them. Oh, and she is ´instantly´ on heat if a stallion is near. So has turned out to be a very expensive teaser mare!
Anni is in our heart´s forever, but she likes to be involved and busy. Therefore we are looking for a competent youngster who would like to jump, or even do low-level dressage, with Anni. Staying at our yard is a given, but in exchange for having the pleasure of working with Anni at no cost to the rider, they must be knowledgeable enough to bring her on. She loves jumping, but has yet to have her skills honed, and Anni, being Anni, needs someone who is very secure and patient to work with her. WOULD YOU LIKE TO RIDE ANNI? If you are local to us, drop us a line, with your equestrian C.V. and we´ll organise to meet and chat.
MIA Bearpaws AU Anni is a TV star. Being so rare here in Spain, like all our foundation Appaloosas, she has appeared on a few TV programs