When White Angels Horse Rescue outbid the doggers for “Junior” at Echuca Saleyards four years ago, they could hardly imagine that he would become the poster child of a revolution in human and equine therapy.

White Angels has recently closed its doors because amongst other things it was finding it almost impossible to reliably re-home horses like Junior which had been traumatised by his racing industry experience.

“He was frightened by everything”, said Colin Emonson, manager of equine assisted therapy charity Horses For Hope which took on Junior when most others would not.

Junior is just one of the thousands of horses who are known to the racing industry as “wastage”


Junior with Hayley Madden

“When we got Junior you could not touch his neck. We found it was badly scarred at the site where injections are normally made. Why would he have needed that many injections? “

The big thoroughbred with a gorgeous stride that any dressage rider would be envious of, had many problems to overcome.

He was very insecure and frightened, every new thing was just so difficult for him, being caught was very hard for him.  Being in a float without totally freaking out was impossible, his anxiety was so high he would shake and sweat. He would pull away from any touch anywhere on his body, any quick movements caused him concern and as would any unusual noise nearby. The world was a very scary place for Junior and people were the scariest thing of all.

We thought these fears were well founded for Junior and they were going to take a long time to overcome. This proved to be correct, but with patience, kindness and a lot of help from participants and our Horses For Hope team, slowly but surely Junior started to trust and the world became a safer place for him.

“It was these insecurities that made him a good horse for our kind of therapy”, Colin explained.

“Initially it was only the more experienced of our participants that worked with Junior for safety reasons”.

“It meant that our participants had to be very aware of remaining as calm as possible when working with Junior. But over time as his concerns diminished and were replaced with trust, he began to work with our less experienced and even the more fragile of our participants, as he became more able to give in return.

For participants who in many cases had anxiety issues of their own, knowing of Junior’s own traumatic background helped them to relate to the horse and gave them a stake in his future by taking responsibility for his welfare.

So by helping Junior through many therapy sessions with increasingly complex tasks to perform with him, a variety of participants have given the horse and themselves increasing confidence and capacity to handle stressful situations and the confidence in their own ability and to make changes in their own difficult life situations.

On any commercial basis it is unlikely that desensitising Junior to the point he is now at would be affordable. However the hundreds of hours he has spent with participants has effectively been paid for by the fees for their therapy, much of which have been paid by supporting agencies or donations to Horses For Hope.

Former participant Phillipa who now works for Horses For Hope observed:

“This horse did not choose to be born, nor did he choose to be tortured day after day just because he wasn’t good enough to race.”

“Junior is such a sweet caring gentle boy when he feels safe. He wants nothing more than to always feel safe but its just so hard for him. We are still working with him with the help of our participants to get him through his troubles and we are hopeful one day he will make someone very happy, maybe even as a riding horse or maybe a companion. Either way we are excited for him.”

“Junior is not "wastage" Junior is a big horse who got lucky and has Hope.”

Junior is our largest horse, but the scaredy cat of the herd.

He was bred to be a racehorse but he is a very sensitive soul and didn’t even make the training stage.

Because of that he found his way to the Echuca horse sales and his future was bleak, soon to be bought by the abattoirs to be processed into dog food.

But he was one of the lucky ones to be rescued by White Angels Horse Rescue who asked Horses for Hope to take him in and hopefully help him get past his previous trauma and fear of people.

Junior
Junior

When Junior first came to the program he was scared of everything, all new things were hard for him, even being touched or groomed was difficult.

Nowadays if you have his trust, he is a big cuddly friend who leans on people for support and just wants to please.

Junior still has his fears, anything new and quick does sometimes frighten him, but life is a lot better for him now he has a lot more confidence in himself and the world around him.

Junior works with people of all ages, children, adolescents and adults, those who come into the program often feel like Junior does, anxious and troubled by the own life difficulties and trauma.

Confronting challenges together he connects well with people.

Junior has come a long way and is progressing well, although he has some way to go…. we are hopeful one day he should become a great riding horse.