Starting over

April the horse came to Best Friends several years ago from an animal cruelty case. She was living on a property in the dead of winter without enough food or water. The poor girl was skin and bones with a large untreated wound on her shoulder. With such a background, it should come as no surprise April had a hard time trusting people when she first arrived at the Sanctuary. Even though the caregivers were only trying to help her, she didn’t want anything to do with them, especially when they’d try to treat her wound.

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However, time, as the saying goes, changes everything. April learned to trust the people around her eventually. She finally figured out that the caregivers at the Sanctuary wanted nothing but the best for her. Even so, life before Best Friends had left its mark. April was through letting anybody mistreat her ever again.

If somebody — say, a potential adopter — didn’t know exactly how to read her cues and respond accordingly, she would give them a piece of her mind. April was ready for a new home, yes, but only with the right type of person. Somebody who could understand what she needed. Lucky for her, that someone came along in the form of a gifted horseman from New Mexico.

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April and Seth

Seth Burgess practices Parelli Natural Horsemanship, which is the same training technique used at Best Friends Horse Haven. "I could see right away she has some buttons that are easy to push," says Seth. "I also knew I could handle it." Seth really connected with April and decided to adopt.

April doesn’t have a thing to worry about anymore. Seth will always treat her with kindness and respect. And he’s already capable of picking up on her cues, something that will only improve with time. You see, part of what makes the Parelli approach so terrific is that it focuses on building the relationship of trust between horse and person.

"A lot of issues improve themselves just by improving the relationship," says Seth. In other words, pretend there’s a list of perceived behavior problems you want to work through. Focus first on the relationship, and then maybe one or two areas for improvement, and all of a sudden the rest of the list more or less disappears. When the relationship becomes the prime focus, everything else tends to fall into place.

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April on the trail

There’s one other great detail about this adoption. Seth and his wife Judy adopted Chalisa, another Best Friends horse, some years back. Chalisa is thriving under their care and has already decided April is her new best bud. April feels the same way. They didn’t know each other back at the Sanctuary, but they’re making up for lost time now.

"I’m happy I could help April," Seth adds.

April has had a rough past to say the least. Even so, this particular happy ever after is so fantastic, here’s hoping she can finally forget that challenging time once and for all. Congrats!

Photos by Molly Wald

April is featured in the Guardian Angel Program. Click here to read more.