The 3Rs Horse Rescue Centre is an amazing place. Time takes on a different dimension there, and there are so many lovely beings to meet, each with his or her own story. The humans are very nice too.
The Horse Rescue Centre opened in 2016. It has 300 acres of land, inhabited by a variety of horses. Some are paying guests belonging to people as far away as Moffat who need somewhere for their horses to graze. (Moffat to Gatehouse is a long way to visit your horse!)
But most of the beings grazing freely over hill and dale are rescue horses. Some have been rescued by the SSPCA; others are brought to the Rescue Centre because they have behavioural problems or their owners can’t do anything with them.
Susan and Gordon are not quite horse-whisperers but they understand horses in a way that most people don’t and can communicate with them. They never hit or discipline a horse in a any way. All the retraining of ‘problem’ horses is done with love. Horses are not ‘broken in’ at the Rescue Centre – Susan and I agreed that we hate the word ‘broken’ used for a horse. Some horses come to the Centre already ‘broken’ and have to be mended. It’s all done with patience and gentleness, letting a horse gradually come to trust humans again.
Some horses are really difficult. They’re like bullies. Gordon lets them know who’s master not by hitting them or shouting at them, but just by standing in front of them in silence, letting them sense that he is not afraid (see photo next page).
Some horses are in such a state of shock when they arrive at the centre that it takes them a long time to calm down and trust humans again. They are allowed to wander about on the hills just being horses. Sometimes Gordon and Susan bring them horse-treats, slowly but surely building a relationship with each horse, never forcing it to do anything it doesn’t want to do. They’ve had up to 85 horses at the centre and have re-homed about 30. The aim with each horse is: Rescue, Restore, Re-home – the 3Rs.
When Susan and Gordon first took over the land, they had 7 horses of their own and 2 rescue horses. Within a month they had 30 horses! Susan is grateful to the volunteers who come to help at the Centre; it would be impossible to run it without them, as she and Gordon have jobs.
They are very particular about who they will allow to take one of their horses for re-homing. If you like to crack a whip and show the horse who’s boss, you won’t get a horse from The 3Rs – although the horse you do get might end up there!
Susan also trains people how to relate to horses. Her students work in pairs; one has to pretend to be the horse while the other is the human. The human has to get the ‘horse’ to do something – accept a bridle perhaps – without speaking. The human has to learn how to communicate without using language.
Before I left, Susan showed me two old white horses standing together. Larry, aged 18, is a retired film-star; he’s ridden in jousts! When he first came to the Centre, he wouldn’t have anything to do with any of the other horses. As herd-creatures, horses hate being alone; they develop a horse-version of Alzheimer’s if solitary. But Larry couldn’t relate to other horses and didn’t want any friends. Then another old white horse, Apollo, was brought in. The two instantly became friends and now spend all their time together.
The 3Rs Horse Rescue Centre is well worth a visit!
The Mane, nr Laggan Outdoor Centre, Gatehouse of Fleet DG7 2EU see www.3horserescuecentre.com Phone Gordon 07856 508 157/ Susan 07876 593 868 to book.