A Maple Ridge horse trainer has found new purpose in life – saving wild horses from slaughter.
In a little more than a year, Graeme Bull has taken in two wild horses and managed to tame them to follow commands and trust the people around them.
Mr. Wilde, a 5-year-old rescue, named not from the environment he came from, but for the famous Irish poet Oscar Wilde. And Annie, a quiet, unassuming horse, about a year old, who was rounded up in a group of seven horses, but was the only one not adopted out.
So, Bull took her.
“Earning their trust is probably the most valuable thing I can think of to do,” he said, of the work he has been doing trying to train both Annie and Mr. Wilde.
Bull has been training domesticated horses for about a decade after he took in an older horse that nobody wanted because the horse had behavioural issues.
Then he received more and more animals until he had to purchase a piece of property to accommodate them all.
Now the 47-year-old has eight paddocks to house horses, and is able to accommodate about three “wildies” at a time at Stable Horse Training.
About 95 per cent of what he knows about training horses is self-taught.
Bull explained there is a great sense of accomplishment to be able to save a horse that might otherwise go to a meat factory.
When Annie arrived she was really skinny, her coat rough and she was skittish and difficult to get close to.
Since then she has put on weight, she has no more sores, ticks, lice, or worms, and she follows Bull without issue when he leads her.
Bull explained that wild horses are more instinctual and naturally inclined to stay away from almost anything other than another horse.
They are a prey animal, he said, that live in a flight or fight mode.
“The most important thing, and, I guess, in turn, kind of the hardest thing, is to get and maintain the trust where they look at you and they think, well we’re good friends,” said Bull.
When Bull puts his arm around Annie’s waist, she pulls back, but only a bit.
It’s a little uncomfortable for her, explained Bull, but that is what it is going to feel like when somebody rides her.
“We’ve got one leg on one side and we’ve got one leg on the other and we’re going to squeeze and it will make a horse pretty uncomfortable. So we work a lot on making sure to let her know that we are best friends.”
However, he said, “wildies” are better than domesticated horses to work with.
“They haven’t been touched by other humans yet,” he said.
Bull enjoys the challenge of taming horses because of the tranquility he feels from being around them.
And it is that peacefulness that he wants to be able to offer other people, when his horses go to their new homes.
In time, he hopes Annie will go to a really nice family who will love and care for her.
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