Meet Coco, a 16’2hh black Warlander. She is extremely partial to the odd banana skin and will take it from your hand with a soft, kind mouth. This isn’t the way it’s always been for Coco though.
Coco had a difficult past. She was owned by a man with alcohol dependency issues. He was not a skilled horseman, and unfortunately chose force and violence to communicate with her. Battered, bruised and emaciated, Coco developed aggressive defence mechanisms, including kicking and biting with as much force as she could muster. Violence bred violence and Coco eventually became uncontrollable, even with the beatings. Her owner decided she was good for nothing and sold her to the meat man.
In fact, this move saved her life.
Nicole and her mum fell for this beautiful mare, in spite of, or perhaps because of, her broken heart and terrible condition. They rescued her from her fate and took her to a loving home. Sadly, her traumatic experiences were so deeply scarred into her soul that she was not able to trust them. Coco’s ears would go flat back to her head so she looked like a serpent; the tail swishing that pre-empted an attack were a threatening soundtrack to their time with her; her kicks were so powerful, and she felt like she was fighting for her life every time a human came near. These lovely ladies realised that Coco would be best managed by an expert horsewoman.
Sarah Vesey agreed to take Coco to the Caballo Blanco Ranch in Southern Spain. As well as operating as a Trekking Centre, Caballo Blanco takes in horses who need care and rehabilitation to meet their full potential. Over the years, Sarah has worked with so many damaged horses that she has a range of techniques in her mental toolbox. This experience level means she can select and tailor different exercises to work with each horse’s individual needs and preferences. When Coco arrived with Sarah, her physical condition needed improving before any psychological work could be taken on, which meant her even having to be sedated for the farriers to be able to work on improving her feet. With Coco being so quick to kick, one way of building up her handling was to inflate a rubber glove, place it on a stick and stand on the other side of the stable wall; Coco could see Sarah but could not hurt her. Over time, the rubber glove was moved across the whole of her body, slowly and gently to get Coco used to the feel of kind touch. With consistent and regular handling, Coco grew to see humans as a good thing. Months and months of turning her out, brushing her, scratching her tail and mane, titbits of food and lots of positive interactions helped this poor girl’s heart to heal.
Coco now has a best friend, Estrella, a 16hh Andalusian grey mare, and the two of them live in a paddock near 28 other horse friends. They regularly interact with the free-range guard geese, the ranch’s live-in dogs and cats as well as those of friends’ who come visit or stay over. Coco and Estrella are part of the ranch team that have been rehabilitated to the point that they are now regular trek horses. Coco has become a keystone of the ranch operations, a horse that even a competent novice could ride. She now looks forward to spending time with people and is such a good girl. High in the mountains of southern Spain, this girl takes absolute care of her riders. When the time comes for her to retire, she, like so many other horses to have come through Caballo Blanco, will not struggle to find her forever home.
Caballo Blanco has recently been granted official Rescue Association status. They have always provided homes and rehabilitation for rescue horses but making it official ensures they can have volunteers come and continue to support their work through donations. It couldn’t have happened at a better time. The recent pandemic meant that all visitors had to postpone during what would have been the busiest few months of the year for the trekking centre, so being able to receive donations has been a real lifeline. With lockdown easing, day rides are able to take place once more so Coco and her friends can back to doing what they do best, looking after horse riders in their mountain paradise.