Anxious, high-strung horse makes great progress with training and TLC

Two years ago, Sugar Baby the horse would just about pull off a back flip if something startled her. And not of the gymnastics variety, either. She used to be one high-strung gal! Recently, however, she performed a much better trick. Sugar Baby strolled through a neighborhood without so much as batting an eye. Dogs ran over and checked her out. Cars drove by on the street. But Sugar Baby might as well have been walking through an empty meadow. How’s that for turning over a new leaf?

High-strung horse who lacked confidence

At the time Sugar Baby came to Best Friends, she was not the most confident girl in the crowd. For one thing, other horses almost always ended up higher on the totem pole. That’s not such a bad deal, though. At least nobody tried to pick on her in order to grab that position! The real problem with her lack of confidence was how it kept her on edge all the time. She and Chicken Little could have made fast friends. It seemed like she was always ready for the sky to fall. One little scare and she’d buck, kick, and run for cover.

Needless to say, Sugar Baby had a hard time feeling relaxed when she first arrived. And when a horse is that tense, you’d better watch out if she gets spooked. Best Friends horse trainer Linda Alvey is the one who rode Sugar Baby on that little walk through town the other day. She laughs if you ask her what that ride might have been like when Sugar Baby first came to Best Friends. "No way would that have worked," Linda says. "It’s taken two years of training to get her to this point."

Horse training games and extra love and care

Like all horses at Best Friends, Sugar Baby was allowed to progress at her own pace. The trainers worked with her bit by bit. Through a set of training games, and lots of TLC, they helped Sugar Baby gain some confidence. It happened by degrees, and not quickly; but it happened all the same. She’s not the same horse who first came to the sanctuary—a girl who might have taken flight at an ornery caterpillar. She’s now got her head together!

Truth be told, she may never be the kind of horse who could march in a parade or similar event. Deep down she still has the potential to become unnerved by the new and the strange. But there’s a sort of mental buffer now. She doesn’t just react. She can think things through.

Amazing progress

Turns out there’s even a possible home lined up, which is why Sugar Baby went on her little outing. The caregivers like to expose horses to new things, so they can develop tolerance for change. She flat-out aced that town stroll! And so, while she might never be able to parade down Main Street with sirens blaring in the background, Sugar Baby has already taken top prize as far as her caregivers are concerned.

Photo by Molly Wald

You can help be a part of Sugar Baby’s incredible progress by sponsoring her.