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Published on 1/10/2022

This Horse Has Heart

By Kallie Hilyard

The horse that is most memorable to me is my current horse, Oliver or Ollie.  I responded to an ad for a free OTTB gelding.  He was beautiful in his pictures - tall, dark and handsome.  Imagine my surprise when I found myself looking at a tall, scrawny, lame horse standing in a feed lot.  I looked closer at him, beyond what stood in front of me and saw good legs and conformation. Somewhere deep inside this defensive and crazy gelding that had been passed around, I saw a kind eye and knew he was to become my next horse.

In that first year, he fought colic, laminitis, summer sores, and abcesses. He also contracted pigeon fever. All of this while trying to slowly get him back to good condition. As he healed, I kept working with him on the ground, gaining trust. Under saddle we did a lot of basic work. We took it slow, very slow, making progress.

Then disaster struck. As I walked towards him, I knew something was majorly wrong. His left hip was non weight bearing and his flank was splayed open. I was terrified when I called the vet. She came out and determined the hip was broken. We began a treatment plan to follow and see how things go. My dreams were crushed, I felt worse for him. He had already been thru so much, and now this. Progress was slow but I kept his quality of life a priority. Once again, in true Ollie fashion, he rallied.

I decided to call a chiropractor vet out to see where he was. Turns out, she vetted him to his previous owners who got him from the abandoned 52 TB’s! It was fate!  Over the next year, we did lots of chiropractic and body work. At first, it was every two weeks, then every four, and now when he needs it. During this time, he was fitted for a saddle and given the ok to ride, at a walk. Then we went to trot and when it was time to canter, I sent him to a trainer who was willing to listen to Ollie and not push him.

To our surprise, he came along fantastic and loved being in work and given a job. He still had a defensive side and would retreat to his safe place in his brain. He did, and still does not like pressure around him. My trainer suggested we take him to school off property to see if he could behave like the big kids, or did I still have a super green bean and hope that my safety vest still works.

We were both anxious. We fed off of each other, not a good thing when your partner is 1200 lbs. We went and I disappointed by the looks, stares and comments made by other horse people. It discouraged me. No one knew our story, only judged what they saw. However, before I knew it, Ollie was growing up and into his personality. He is sound, starting First Level Dressage and we just completed our first Horse Trial and won on our dressage score of 18%!

This amazing gelding and I came together not knowing how much we both needed each other. We were both in a part of our lives where we were broken. We needed each other to gain our lives back. Ollie has heart. He never gave up. He seems to love his life now. This big beautiful bay has taught me patience, to see things in a different way, not to be judgmental, take each day as a blessing, but most importantly, it’s our journey and no one else’s.  Ollie is the most memorable horse to me- the horse with heart who did not let either of us give up on each other.