2014 dark bay molly Mule
Type of Rescue: Owner Surrender
Intake Date: 3/15/2022
Adoption Date: 10/19/2023
Length of Time with SAFE: 1 year 7 months
ADOPTED!! by Trisha!
Gabby had been placed into a home via SAFE’s Mayday Facebook ads, but unfortunately, her new owner wasn’t expecting her to be so afraid. Even though it was made clear that she had been not been handled and she was living wild in a pasture, it was more than they bargained for. They could have rehomed Gabby themselves, but SAFE did not want to see her bounce around home to home any further.
Because she was untouchable and we had a full house of new intakes, our kind friend, Trisha, (adopter of three SAFE horses, including the most recent, Caramel) offered to have her come stay at her home for a few months of gentling. Well, those few months turned into nearly two years. Gabby was doing so well under Trisha’s care, learning all sorts of new skills, and most importantly, how to trust in people. Things were going so well, and we were only too happy to learn that Gabby’s would be a foster fail when Trisha decided to adopt Gabby in October of 2023!
Gabby was taken in by SAFE in April of 2022, where she went directly to foster with our dear friend Trisha, who had previously fostered (and then adopted!) Caramel. Well today, I bring you another tale of a foster fail: Gabby has found a permanent home with Trisha. The two of them have put in a tremendous amount of work together, building trust, and slowly but surely chipping away at the milestones of domesticity. Trisha has done an amazing job helping Gabby to learn the basics, and it is very exciting that they get to continue their journey together, forever!
Here’s what Trisha has to say about Gabby, from the mule’s mouth:
“Gabby is a complicated lady emotionally, mentally and physically. She has a deep mistrust of humans, but also a desire to connect. Whatever experiences she had with humans in the past are not something she is going to let go of quickly – she is a mule after all. She trusts herself above everyone and everything else, which sometimes causes issues when she needs help. But, when she feels like she has the freedom to control her interactions with a human, she is very curious and wants to engage. She will have days where she follows me around the pasture or comes up close while I’m doing chores, letting me know she wants to have a training session. Other days she’ll accidentally bump her nose on me, snort and jump away like I tried to eat her.
Gabby likes to remind me of a few things:
- Work with the animal you have in front of you each day, don’t come in with expectations based on who they were yesterday.
- Progress should be marked on an individual level. What’s great progress for one animal is not the same for another, so don’t get caught up in comparison.
- Be patient because time is the most important part of forming a trusting relationship
- Sometimes what feels like a set back is actually just a more roundabout way of making progress
Over her time with me she has made great progress when measured by Gabby standards. We can work together in a stall without her feeling panicked, trim all her feet, halter and lead her, and touch her all over as long as you don’t surprise her. These may seem like basic things, but compared to the mule who first came off SAFE’s trailer, these are big steps. We have also survived a few colics and emergency vet visits before realizing that she has a very sensitive tummy and seems prone to ulcers. However, just because I can do these things with Gabby doesn’t mean anyone could come in and do them. We have developed good communication that allows me to work with her and helps her feel like her voice is heard; I hope over time to teach her that the majority of humans will listen to her needs so she feels more comfortable around a variety of people. I have a lot of hopes for her future, but feel no pressure to move forward faster than she is ready to go. In the end, I think time is what will make the biggest difference in her feelings about humans, trust is hard to build.”
We love seeing what Trisha is up to with our long eared Gabby girl. Recently, they have been working on the scary spray bottle, which Gabby would not even consider being around, until Tess (Trisha’s other horse) was interested. Gabby quickly got jealous of Tess getting reinforced for wanted behavior and decided she could give it a try. FOMO (fear of missing out) is apparently a big motivator and Trisha is going to consider other creative ways to use it for training.
Gabby continues to live a wonderful foster life on a beautiful property, with Trisha, and her best four legged friends, including Cara (formerly Caramel) a SAFE Alum.
Recently Trisha shared a video working with Gabby on leading and had this to say:
“We have been working on improving leading skills. Due to her blindness on the left side, turning has been a tricky thing for her to learn, but she’s doing great.
I like to teach leading “on” a lead rope without actually attaching it to a halter. My goal is to create an equine who leads super softly, with just the suggestion of pressure. Like most long ears, Gabby is super strong and naturally braces against applied pressure so I want to be extra thorough with teaching her softness.”
Gabby, SAFE’s first mule intake, has been in foster at Trisha’s home since March. Although she has never been to SAFE’s property, she is in excellent hands, and we so enjoy Trisha’s updates on her progress and training. She is doing an excellent job with her! Here is a recent post from Trisha along with a video of Gabby picking up her hind feet:
“What you see:
Gabby allowing her hind hoof to be lifted and handled. She’s relaxed. She starts to pull the hoof away a few times, but then relaxes and allows it to continue to be held. She needs to work on duration, get used to it being manipulated in various ways, but we’re in a good state and all that will come.
What you don’t see:
The months of work to get to this point.
The incredibly fast and accurate kicks hitting the fence between you.
The number of times you researched, changed your methods and started over because she wasn’t understanding what you wanted.
The frustration that you have to calmly hold in each time you realize this isn’t working again, because you know frustration is not productive.
The celebrations of the littlest things that showed you were getting through to her.
Training often looks boring and simple when the animal is getting it because you haven’t seen the long journey they have made to get to that point.
Gabby has been such a wonderful challenge so far. She’s made me get creative and think outside the box. Things that came easy for Cara and Hazel take months to master. Things that were hard for the horses don’t phase her at all. When you introduce a new task to her, you never know if it will be learned easily in a single session or take a long time. She keeps me on my toes both metaphorically and sometimes physically — though thankfully less and less of the latter!
Every animal I work with teaches me as much as I teach them. If I ever stop feeling like I have more to learn, that will be a sign that I need to stop training.”
Trisha has made such amazing progress with Gabby, that we got behind on sharing her last milestone! Here you see Gabby realizing a halter is no big deal.
Foster parent, Trisha, has made huge strides with SAFE’s first mule, Gabby! Here’s what she had to say:
“Here are some Gabby videos of her learning to pick up her feet. Figuring out the right way to balance has been tricky for her, but she’s catching on.
She is doing very well, continues to be fairly reactive at times and always needs a warm up at the beginning of working together, but she actively seeks out attention and training sessions. She also occasionally makes questionable life choices, like jumping over the wheelbarrow instead of waiting 10 seconds for me to finish scooping part of her paddock.”
We love seeing Trisha’s progress with Gabby and look forward to her updates!
Seventeen years ago, we named this rescue Save a Forgotten Equine, and in all that time, we have only rescued equines of the Equus Caballus variety. Recently however, we took in our very first longear — a lovely bay molly mule named Gabby. Gabby is very shy, having had no real handling up to the age of four, but she is slowly slowly learning to trust…thanks to our good friend Trisha who has taken Gabby on as a foster. Trisha fostered another formerly wild child for SAFE named Caramel, and gentled her so successfully that she ended up adopting her. Gabby is making slow, but steady progress which is exactly what she needs. Trisha has already shared multiple videos of her process with this sweet mule. Check them out below!
This video is the first time Gabby touched Trisha. What progress!