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Happy trails: a friendship born from tragedy

February 6, 2021

Jolene and Hermione are proof that some of the best friendships are born from tragedy.

The two mares were rescued as a part of cruelty investigation near Princeton at the end of September 2020 in which 97 animals were taken in by the BC SPCA. At the time, the emaciated horses had to go into strict quarantine immediately. Tragically, several didn’t make it.

jolene hermione
Photo: Jenn Bruyer

Jenn Bruyer had been interested in finding the right horse for a long time but didn’t really have the right support to adopt a horse with special needs or whom needed training until she met her friend Rae McMahon, a professional trainer, last August.

The two instantly bonded over horses and became fast friends, spending many summer days riding through the mountains of B.C. together on Rae’s thoroughbreds.

“We bonded by riding her two horses and by training my two mini horses who both have their own issues,” says Bruyer. “We found through our time together with these four animals that we share many other interests and similarities.

Photo by: Jenn Bruyer

When the Princeton horses were ready to be adopted late last year, the pair went to the BC SPCA Good Shepherd Barn in Surrey to look at the horses. As soon as she met Jolene, Bruyer says, “I knew she was the right kind of challenge.”

McMahon had also been causally looking for a younger horse to train when she met Hermione, and decided to adopt her on the spot.

“Things just worked out well for us both that day,” says Bruyer. “Rae already had two horses of her own and these two mares made for a complete herd.”

That is, if you don’t count Bruyer and McMahon.

The friends, who both have backgrounds with caring for horses, work regularly with Jolene and Hermione together, and are currently focusing on slowly building their confidence with various training exercises, including tack, handling, and positive reinforcement.

Bruyer says the two mares, who live together, adjusted very well to their new home, and were able to join the herd “almost immediately.”

However, the mares didn’t come without their share of challenges. According to Bruyer, Jolene was initially terrified of the saddle pad at first, and demonstrated head tossing, a behaviorial issue in which a horse tosses their head often into the handler that can be dangerous.

In addition, her feet could not be picked up easily, and “She was a little underweight,” says Bruyer.

As for Hermoine, “She came slightly lame with no boundaries and little obvious training. Their training past was so uncertain that we chose to start both horses completely from scratch, skipping no steps.”

Photo by: Jenn Bruyer

After a few short months, both mares have shown enormous progress already.

“Both can be tacked English and Western, both are very willing to learn, happy to see us and interact,” says Bruyer. “They have taken some weight under saddle but have not been ridden yet.”

Both horses have also taken lead and followed while ground driving (driving a horse forward using “long lines” that are secured to the bridle, while the rider walks at a safe distance behind) around unfamiliar trails, which, says Bruyer, is “Very brave of them!”

The two horses also love running around their field together where their personalities really get to shine.

“Jo is very sweet and stubborn. Hermoine expresses strong opinions in the sweetest adolescent way,” she says.

Next up for the horses and their guardians?

“We are certainly looking forward to a summer of continued training, trail riding, roping, jumping, overnight camping trips, and many adventures with both of the new girls.”

Adds Bruyer: “We are both learning a lot with these new girls and enjoying every minute of it.”

A truly happy tail for friends, both human and horse alike.

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