Lori has been working with Mason since his arrival at SAFE last year. She continues to chip away at his issues, hoping that he may still become a safe riding partner. For now, all this groundwork is helping him to trust people and be more comfortable in his body. Here is what Lori had to share about him in the clinic last weekend:
Today was the second day of this weekend’s Joel Conner clinic. I attended the Morning groundwork portions of the clinic with Mason. One of my goals was to gain some specific tools to help me with the bracing and anxiety that Mason has stored up from his past life of abuse. This poor boy has been let down by the man time and time again. He is so loving and wants to try hard but has had such a hard time letting go of his fears and stressors. This is my second clinic with Mason and I feel he came out of this one with some really big changes.
With Joel’s help, Mason started freeing up his feet, relaxing and bending and even letting his head lower to the ground at times. I really saw a change in him. By the end of the clinic he was more relaxed than I have ever seen him. He was yielding his hindquarters and forequarters more fluidly. I could toss the rope at his lumbar area most of the time without him squirting out and locking up his neck and whole body for that matter. I was so proud of him and I am very excited to see what we accomplish in the next few weeks. Thanks to Joel for helping me understand our sweet Mason more and giving me the tools to help reach past his fears.
Barn Manager Lori McMasters has a huge place in her heart for Mason, and spends lots of time working with him on the ground in preparation for returning to saddle work when he is ready. (And only when he is ready — he will tell us when it’s time!) Lori built this bridge from pallets for SAFE’s work-in-progress trails course, and she demonstrates just one of the ways that the bridge can be used to gain Mason’s trust and boost his confidence! Mason does a great job here listening to Lori as she asks him to move his feet. It’s no wonder she loves this horse!!
Ian took Mason into our last clinic with Joel Conner. Here is what he had to say about the experience:
Mason – Joel Conner Clinic – Groundwork – Day 1 – 6/10
Mason and I have slowly been building trust together since he first appeared at SAFE with both sides “mysteriously” scarred and deep fear that would surface if I held a rake or broom near his right side. Lori has done an amazing job slowly coaxing out more and more trust from him, and I am so grateful to her for letting me play with this amazing horse. The clinic environment was a little challenging for Mason at first, but he was relatively quiet for most of the morning. His spookiness subsided as I worked the flag over both sides, but it remained consistently present with each fresh approach. He began to loosen up a little more when flexing to the halter, but he had a really hard time circling me at a pace slower than a trot. Joel took some time with him to work the flag over him more, with a more intense feel. This, predictably, drove Mason crazy at first, but with each new attempt he grew quieter and quieter. When I took over, his reactions would still surface, but to a much lesser extent, and I got to be more and more assertive with the flag around him. Despite all the tension and fear he carries, Mason was able to bring his energy down after every session and meet the next attempt with fresh try. He is such a sweet horse, and he learns everything so quickly. I know it’s just a matter of time and consistency for his nerves to settle.
Mason – Joel Conner Clinic – Groundwork – Day 2 – 6/11
In the second day of the clinic, Mason was even more calm than when he started the first day. He had only one major freakout, and that was about being approached by the flag when passing between me and another object – in this case, the arena wall. With Joel’s help, after some more repetition in that space, Mason calmed down to the point that he would move through that gap at a walk, with the flag either approaching his rear, resting on his back, or tickling his cinch area. After all our desensitizing, he finally gave me a gentle walk, and was unperturbed by anything the flag would do around him. Finally, at the end of the second day, when we were sharing parting thoughts with Joel, Mason gave me a giant, long-necked yawn – the only one of the whole clinic weekend. Leading him back to his pasture, he felt like a different horse. He was so much more relaxed after that work, I can’t wait to see how he does as his work continues.
Lori had this to say about her work with Mason in the clinic:
Mason and I attended the Joel Conner clinic on March 18th and 19th. I entered Mason in the groundwork portion of the clinic. Mason did a wonderful job of moving out of my way while doing the groundwork. We worked on yielding the hindquarters and the forequarters. We worked on the basics of leading and moving on the lead with no resistance. Mason partnered up with me and really paid attention to what was asked of him. I was quite happy with his progress in this. Mason needs a lot of desensitizing and building trust with his human. Mason is a sensitive boy.. He engages well and try’s really hard to do what is asked of him but there is an insecurity that lies close to the surface. He wants to trust but needs that one person who he can place his trust in and is willing to meet him where he is at. We will continue to work on these skills to help Mason be more confident. He is a sweet soul and just needs that special partner.
Mason has had a bit of a tender hoof lately. To help him feel better, he got a circulation taping on his right hoof to help increase blood flow and promote healing. SAFE Barn Manager Lori, who has been working on both training and bodywork with Mason, said that the tape can help him not only heal faster but provide him with some extra comfort. She is also treating the soles of his hooves with Venice Turpentine to help harden them. We’ll see if this helps before we resort to putting shoes and pads on him. Mason has such nice large, strong hooves, it would be great if we could keep him barefoot. This is all part of the rehabilitation process, one day at a time to help heal and strengthen the horses.
Our new buddy Mason came to us with trouble in his eyes and scars all over his body. He radiated tension and fear. Our initial evaluation was that he might never be able to be safely ridden. Barn manager Lori M took this horse under her wing and has already spent many hours with him, working him on the ground and helping him gain confidence. The transformation in this horse is already profound.
Mason is a 15 year old Thoroughbred gelding who has come to SAFE because his owners could no longer care for him. He’s a nice fellow who is very friendly and willing, but whether he can be safely ridden is yet to be determined. As we start to piece together his past, we are discovering that life has not been easy for Mason.
We know he’s been ridden in the past, because unfortunately he has spur marks and scarring to prove it. Eight years ago, he was sold as a riding horse “for an experienced rider”. The person who bought him got bucked off, and then apparently turned him out to pasture for the next seven years. He was then given away to a couple who put him into full time training until the point that they could no longer afford to pay his board & training bills. We’ve been given conflicting reports on how successful his year of training was, so we have no choice but to approach Mason as a horse that has not been ridden in at least eight years. First and foremost, we have to keep our people safe.
As luck would have it, trainer Joel Conner arrives tomorrow for a clinic at SAFE so he will undoubtedly have the opportunity to work with Mason and assess him.
Mason is in good weight, but he has a very high worm load, so his belly appears distended. He’s up to date on shots and teeth, and it appears he’s been getting his feet trimmed on a regular basis but is overdue. His body is covered with scratches and scrapes and scars, which is very puzzling as no one at his barn knew how he’d gotten so banged up. (He’s got a stall and a run here at SHS and he hasn’t exhibited any weird behavior in his stall so far, so it remains a mystery.) There is also something wrong with his left eye. He’s overly sensitive on that side, and overreacts to any attempt to touch his face on that side. The eye itself does appear swollen, and his vet records reveal that it has been examined and flushed after excess discharge was seen. We learned a lot about eye problems thanks to Anakin, so we will likely have Mason’s eye pressure tested to see if uveitis is present. There is no cloudiness in the eye that we can see, but something is definitely bothering him.
Mason is supposedly a registered Thoroughbred, but he does not appear to have been raced because he doesn’t have a lip tattoo. His registered name is Mr P’s Pace Halo, but we haven’t been able to confirm that through official channels, just Thoroughbred Pedigree Query, which is not always correct.
Here are the photos taken as he arrived at Safe Harbor: