In March 2023, Animal Control in Howard County, Maryland, seized a neglected pony whose owners failed to comply with previous orders to improve her care.
The 13-year-old Chincoteague-type mare was transported to Days End Farm Horse Rescue (DEFHR) in Woodbine, Maryland, for immediate intervention, rehabilitation, and training so she could be properly rehomed.
When the pony arrived at DEFHR’s farm, it was clear to the staff that she suffered from general neglect and lack of proper nutrition. She scored a two out of nine on the Henneke Body Condition Scoring System, needed her teeth floated and her hooves trimmed, and required treatment for parasites. DEFHR named the mare Ulyssa to signify the new, brighter journey ahead of her.
Thankfully for Ulyssa, her rehabilitation plan was fairly straightforward. She followed a standard re-feeding protocol to help her safely gain weight. Hay was slowly introduced and, once she was stable, small meals of grain were added to her regimen.
Overall, Ulyssa rehabilitated rapidly and only three months after her arrival she was cleared to enter DEFHR’s training program.
From the day she stepped foot on DEFHR’s property, Ulyssa had a pleasant demeanor and was friendly and engaging with people. According to DEFHR Assistant Trainer Leigha Schrader, “pony breeds” like Ulyssa’s are often known for having “personality plus.”
“I have always been a fan of the pony breeds,” shared Schrader. “I love their quick wit, calculated intelligence, and the often-humorous personalities that come along with them. Ulyssa is no exception. As soon as I saw her, I could not wait to get her started in our training program.”
Despite Ulyssa’s eagerness to please, Schrader recognized that they’d need to start her from the beginning.
“We were told that Ulyssa was ‘ridden in the backyard by the grandkids,’” she explained. “While I wouldn’t be surprised if a human sat on her back in the past, she did not have previous training nor did she give the impression that she was started under saddle. So, I restarted her and got her going in a regular program.”
Schrader’s goal from the onset was to produce a kid-safe equine partner. At 13.2 hands high, she would make a suitable mount and companion for a child. To accomplish that Schrader focused on all of the typical groundwork and riding skills that would ensure Ulyssa would be a safe partner, but also considered the types of out-of-the-box things kids might love to do with their ponies.
“Recently, I decided to muck the ring from atop of Ulyssa,” said Schrader. “I held a pitchfork in one hand and used my other hand to steer. I leaned way over to scoop the pile of poo and flung it high over the fence. Ulyssa was unfazed by my antics.”
Ulyssa’s can-do attitude made training fun for Schrader, yet, despite always putting forth 110% effort, Schrader notes she would do best with a confident junior rider.
“We gave her the nickname ‘Rocket Pony’ because of her drive to work,” laughed Schrader. “Ulyssa is a forward-thinking pony and is keen to do a job. At the same time, in typical pony mare fashion, she has been known to test new handlers or riders, but only in a delicate way. For example, she has been known to refuse to pick her feet up for beginner volunteers and I have witnessed her refusing to allow someone to move her over when she was straight-tied to the fence.”
Despite the small tricks she likes to play, Ulyssa is both brave and athletic, making her a strong fit for a variety of disciplines.
“Ulyssa is a lovely mover and could do well as a show hunter for a child, but I think she would be happy to do just about anything,” Schrader commented. “Pony clubbing, eventing, dressage, fox hunting, games—Ulyssa could do it all!”
Having progressed well under saddle, Schrader has taken Ulyssa off-site for trail riding at the local state park and to two jumper shows, earning a blue ribbon in a cross-rails class. Soon she’ll be ready to find her forever home with a family looking to join her on a new adventure and happily ever after.
For more information about Ulyssa and to learn more about DEFHR’s available horses, visit: https://defhr.org/available-horses/