Nyx arrived at Days End Farm Horse Rescue (DEFHR) in Woodbine, Maryland, in January 2021, after being rescued along with 18 other horses from deplorable conditions at a farm in St. Mary’s County, Maryland.
He was significantly underweight, covered in mud from head to tail, and had additional obvious signs of neglect, such as sharp dental points and overgrown and infected hooves.
Under DEFHR’s quality care, Nyx and his herdmates rehabilitated quickly and smoothly. However, it wasn’t until April 29, 2022, that their former owner was convicted of multiple animal cruelty charges and the case was legally resolved.
At that point, Nyx was no longer in “legal limbo” and he was able to enter into training with DEFHR’s Head Trainer Sara Strauss to help him become a solid equine citizen and ultimately match him to a forever home.
In the following Q&A, Strauss shed light on the charming little Appaloosa’s progress and highlights that every horse can shine if they’re given the chance.
What was Nyx like when you first started working with him?
He seemed like a good guy with a basic knowledge of groundwork, and he took to the saddle and bridle like an old pro. However, he did get a little concerned in some of our desensitizing training. Our training often toggles between desensitizing and sensitizing the horses to new and unfamiliar situations, objects, and concepts.
For example, you need to sensitize the horse to your leg, so they understand how to go forward or yield to that pressure. On the other hand, you also need to desensitize the horse to things that may make them nervous in order for them to respond in a safe, thoughtful manner.
In Nyx’s case, we attached a tarp to the side of the saddle to replicate someone falling off or a tree branch touching him. He was initially worried about the tarp, even when he was nervous, he always acted in earnest. Eventually he realized that the tarp would not eat him.
How has Nyx progressed in his training?
Throughout his training we’ve been slowly bringing him along and developing his fitness with work both in hand and under saddle. When he first started the lunging portion of his training program he had a difficult time continuing forward motion on the circle and would try to turn in every half circle.
He has gotten a lot better and much stronger, so now he travels relaxed in all three gaits on the lunge line wearing a rope halter or a cavesson.
His movement has also dramatically improved in quality going from a dinky little trot to relaxing over his back and getting a nice, flowing trot. Nyx naturally has a super springy trot, so it was fun to help him lengthen his stride by leveraging ground poles and raised poles. He loves the pole work and looks so adorable going over them as he stretches down.
We’ve also done some obstacle training with him and he’s proven to be brave! He goes through a cowboy curtain, has weaved through straw bales with scarecrows sticking out of them, and stands on the pedestal. We’ve also tackled riding over wood planks and tarps on the ground.
How has Nyx’s personality developed since getting to know him, and what is the next step for Nyx to be adopted?
Nyx is starting to come out of his shell and is really affectionate. He’ll come over to me if I’m paying attention to other geldings in his field to see if he gets snacks, too.
The next step toward adoption is to get him out and about. He’s been great in the arena at home, now comfortable flatting and going over small jumps and trot poles, and it’s time to see how he reacts to new stimuli and trailering off-site.
Once we get to know him in that environment, then the exciting journey of finding his new person begins. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for this cutie patootie!
For more than three decades, Days End Farm Horse Rescue has been renowned for working to not only prevent equine abuse and neglect, but also to educate the public about equine welfare and help their staff, volunteers, and members of the public become better horsemen and women. Learn more about DEFHR‘s adoptable horses at www.defhr.org or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.