I rescued Layla from a feed lot in early November 2005.
She was a heavily pregnant mare about 15 years old. Shes off of one of the reservations up in the
Washington Area. The reservation that she came from is known to regularly cull the herds of wild
horses that live on their property.
Layla arrived in California on December 22nd, 2005. It was 2 days before Christmas Eve and we were in
the middle of the first big storm of the winter. She had been dropped in Linden about 30 miles outside
of Tracy. She was staying at a volunteer’s ranch until I could get there to pick her up.
Linden is about 2 and a half hours from our home but with the storm and holiday traffic the ride took
over 7 hours one way. When we arrived in Linden it was dark, raining and the electricity at the ranch
was out, so we had no light. I really didn't know how we were going to do this, as Layla had been listed
as wild and not really handleable.
I went with Patricia, the owner of the property, into the slippery, muddy pen to try and find Layla. There
were about 15 other horses in pen at that time, so it was a little tricky at first. Once we found her, it
wasn’t too difficult. Even though she is a relatively wild untrained little horse I think she knew that I
was her chance to survive. Layla lead out of the pen pretty well. We shined a flash light into the horse
trailer and I walked up into it and Layla followed. Amazing. Clearly, even though she may have not had
much formal training, she understood what people were about and was willing to try and do what I
asked. Our ride home was uneventful, just long.
We arrived back in Sebastopol sometime after 10pm at night. I unloaded Layla from the trailer with out
incident. She walked right off calmly. She was a little nervous on our walk back to her pen, but she
stayed level headed. She snorted a lot but that was about it. I left her in her new paddock with fresh
hay and water. We all slept well that night.
Over the next few days there was little time to spend with Layla. She didn’t seem to mind. She just ate
her hay, experienced bran mash and checked out all the other animals.
The other horses had an interesting reaction to her, they mostly ignored her. They didn’t call to her,
they didn’t respond to her calls to them. They just watched her in silence. It was as if they were afraid
of her. They must have known where she came from.
Laylas first morning home.
December 26th, 2005
This would be Laylas first training session. She was still wearing the halter she had come in with. I had
been reluctant to remove it in the event I needed to catch her. Not ever a good thing to do but under
the circumstances it seemed the best choice. So the first thing I did after she allowed me to stand near
her was remove the halter. She didn’t move away after it was removed, so I just stood there for a bit.
After a few minutes I lifted my hand to scratch her head were the halter had been. She liked it for a
second then she realized what she was allowing me to do and she moved away.
So I grabbed a chair and a book and began training. I sat there for at least an hour and a half reading
and waiting. She finally looked my way. I kept my head down and focused on my book. She made her
way over to my slowly. A few steps a few bites of grass and then a few more steps, until she finally
sniffed me. I just let her be for a while then I stood and haltered her, first try. I introduced her to my
carrot stick. She was very wary at first but then relaxed. I was able to rub her all over the head and
neck area. That was about all she was comfortable with. I didn’t want to push it and stress her out. We
have time. Clearly she must have known human contact in her previous life.
December 28th, 2005
Huge Storm. One of the biggest in years. When I awoke this morning I wasn't to worried about the storm
just annoyed to have to feed in the rain. At 1 pm my husband and I when going out to run errands. I
thought I would check on Layla before we left. I was horrified when I saw the creek. It had risen to the
full height of its bank and was beginning to overflow into the first pasture, Laylas Pasture. By the time I
was able to halter Layla, she was a little of afraid of me, I was panicked, there was rushing water up to
the top of my boots. I then had to lead Layla thru the water and over a rushing noisy creek via a
slippery wooden bridge to a small paddock that she had never seen before, in the middle of a violent
storm. She did remarkably well. When we arrived at the paddock she was trembling and scared. She
listened to me and followed me in. She stayed there for the next few days while we weathered the
storm. It flooded 3 pastures, our backyard up to the bedroom and our front yard and driveway. All in all
we faired better than most people. There was no significant damage and our house stayed dry inside.
This is the creek starting to overflow into
Laylas pasture on the right.
January 1, 2006
There hasn't been much time to work with Layla beyond doing some haltering and un haltering. Each
time I go into her paddock I work on stroking her head and neck and a little bit of her shoulder. Once
the flooding has receded and things are back to normal we will get back to work.
12/30/05 4pm - Driveway & Llama pasture 1/1/06 Occidental Rd. One of the 2 main
beginning to flood. roads from Sebastopol to Santa Rosa.
Notice the road sign on the right.
January 4, 2006
It was finally sunny and dried out enough to move Layla back to her big paddock for the day. She was
very tired of being confined in her small covered paddock. I was able to put her halter on first try this
time. Good progress. She is leading beautifully. Very responsive and sensitive. I walked her out of the
pen and over our wood bridge. She was a little snorty but very well behaved. She became
apprehensive as we approached her big paddock. Her last experience in there was still on her mind.
She surveyed the ground very carefully before stepping into the paddock. She wanted to make sure
the ground wasn’t actually water. Once in the pen I played the friendly game with her again for a bit.
She’s still very defensive about her legs being touched so I worked at little on that and a little on her
back and rump. She seemed almost repulsed when I touched her rump and stifle with the stick. She
picked her back leg up and moved away from me. We played for a few minutes and then I removed her
halter so she could enjoy herself. She promptly laid down and had a roll. She must be trusting me a lot
January 6, 2006
As always Layla greeted me with a very big whinny first thing this morning. She really loves feeding
time. It’s pretty clear that she had to fight for her food before coming to live with me. She’s a little
defensive about her food when she’s actually eating. Worried I might take it away. After she finished
her morning bran mash and supplements I haltered her so we could walk over to her pasture where
she spends her days. Usually it’s a fast walk to the pasture. She’s new here and to being handled so I
like things to be straight forward when we begin something, but it’s been 2 weeks now and she’s fairly
comfortable. So this morning we walked slowly to the pasture, with lots of stops to check things out. I
let her look around, sniff and snort at things. She stood on the grooming mats for the first time. It’s
most likely the first time she’s ever been on a rubber mat. She seemed to like it. Sounds strange yes,
but she did seem to like it. She had watched me and the procession of other horses the day before.
Each horse would walk onto the mats, stand and be groomed. She seemed very interested in what was
happening to the other horses on those mats. So it was an enjoyable moment with her, lingering here
and there before reaching her pasture this morning.
January 7, 2006
Huge Progress this morning. After she finished her morning bran mash I went to get her and take her
to her pasture for the day. Every morning we do the halter dance for a few minutes. I have to convince
her that the halter is OK and I won’t hurt her. On this morning I walked into her paddock the same as
every morning, turned to her, smiled, held out the halter to show her what we would be doing and
instead of the halter dance she walked over, sniffed the halter and stuck her nose in it. I buckled it and
off we went to the pasture. Happy Day.
January 8, 2006
Today I was able to cut out some of the mats in Laylas mane. Hated to do it, such a long beautiful mane,
but there was just No way to get out some of those mats. I wish I could get to her tail but that will take
more time. She’s still worried about me touching anything on her rump. Her tail is nothing but one long
mat, from the ground up to the end of her tail bone. It’s awful; it’s probably been there for a huge part
of her life. When she does allow me back there I think I will start by just cutting off the bottom few
inches and then make a cut up the tail toward her tail bone. Hopefully by doing this I can save some of
the length, but we will just have to see.
January 9, 2006
Testing Limits. She is feeling more comfortable. She tested me a little this morning and I was able to
correct her with out her freaking. She tried to push her way out of the paddock gate this morning, very
gently push, but still pushing. I was able to put my hand up on her nose and move her back. At fist she
wanted to turn away and be a little upset, but you could see her thinking. She turned back toward me
and waited for me to halter her. I was pretty impressed. A few days ago she definitely would have
walked off for at least a minute or so, but today she changed her mind, accepted the correction and
waited to be haltered so she could go out to her pasture. She’s thinking
January 11, 2006
Today went well. I was able to brush Layla a little bit for the first time. I brushed her right side, on the
neck, chest, and part of her back. I wouldn't say she loved it or anything like that, but she did tolerate
it. I was also able to run my stick down both of her front legs and then the same with my hand. She still
kicks out a bit if I run the stick down her back leg. It makes her really uncomfortable. She still won't talk
with me. Its like she can't or won't hear me. She leaves her body allot too. She will be totally present
one moment and then something will trigger her fear and she leaves her body. Her eyes lock onto
something in the distance and they glaze over a bit. When this happens I can touch her almost
anywhere but if she pops back into her body when I am touching a protected area she gets very upset.
The vet is coming out tomorrow to give her a check up. I hope it goes well.
January 12, 2006
Dr. Steve Wood from Cotati Large Animal Hospital was out today. It went quite well. He vaccinated her
and wormed her. He estimates that she is about 2 months away from foaling.
January 13, 2006
Layla is very unhappy today. She is pissed about the vets visit yesterday. I should have prepared her
better, but I thought since she was due to foal soon, it would be best to have him out now rather than
later. She would not let me halter her this morning when it was time to take her to her big pasture. I did
eventually get it on but it was not easy. At dinner time I had to halter her again to bring her back in but
she would have no part of it. I had to leave her in her pasture overnight.
January 15, 2006
Layla has finally forgiven me for the vet visit. Its amazing how upset she was about the whole thing.
Today was a good day. I was able to halter her without to much trouble. Then I took her out for a little
walk around the property. She did great. Shes a brave little horse. We walked over traps, around big
branches, and over water filled ditches. I was also able to brush most of her body.
January 17, 2006
Today I saw Layla trot for the first time. She was a little upset with me and didn't want to be haltered so I
decided to put a little pressure on her this time. I have always worked at her pace and just waited until
she was very comfortable but today I thought It would be good to push her a little. When she moved
away from my touch I sent her away with purpose by stepping toward her. We did this dance for about a
minute. She broke into a floating head and tail raised trot. It was very pretty. She only trotted for about
5 strides but It was great to see that she can move when she wants too. After that she stopped and
turned toward me. I walked over petted her neck and then put her halter on.
January 20, 2006
Today Layla had her first tying lesson. I laid the rope over the hitching post and held the very end of it
in my hand. I wanted to make sure I could get the rope off the post fast in the event she pulled back.
She didn’t. She just stood there like the good girl she is. She understands giving to pressure very well
at this point. The minute she feels pressure against the back of her head, her poll, she stops and takes
a step forward. So pulling against the hitching post was a non problem. However she definitely is not
used to being in such close proximity to a fixed object. She bumped her head into the post several
times while trying to understand the point of it all. I don’t know if she understands the post but she did
quit bumping into it. Over the next few days I’ll work on tying her to the post for real for a few minutes
at a time.
After our tying session I took her back to her pasture. Today when I removed her halter instead of her
running off to eat her hay she stayed with me. At first I thought it was a fluke and maybe she didn’t
know her halter was off. But then she walked away got a drink of water and then came back to stand
next to me. This was the highest horse compliment that she could have given me. I was officially, at
least for that moment, part of her herd. I stroked her neck, chest, and belly. She stayed with me for
about 5 minutes. When she was done hanging out she turned and left to go eat some hay. It was a very
This is a
picture of Layla
at the Feedlot