Seeing Eye to Eye: How Shorty and Hero Found Their Perfect Matches
In Edmond, Oklahoma, a special program is teaching residential youth about horses and healing. The 10 boys participating in The Boys Ranch’s on-site horse program have had a tough road in life; for various reasons, they haven’t been able to stay in their homes. The horse program not only gives them a well-rounded foundation in horsemanship—caring for the horses gives them confidence and meaning.
In 2022, several of the boys had an opportunity to attend an off-site horsemanship clinic about equine emotional intelligence. After watching the clinician, Byron Hogan, demonstrate his methods, they entered the arena and had a chance to practice their skills. The boys quickly took to two of the participating horses: Shorty and Hero. They became even more intrigued by the horses after learning about their unique backgrounds.
A Second Chance for Hero and Shorty
Hero and Shorty both came to the ASPCA’s Equine Transition and Adoption Center pilot (ETAC) for training. Shorty came to us after his owner passed away, and Hero came from another organization after being removed from neglect. Both horses were fearful of humans; Shorty, in particular, avoided human contact. He’d received little handling in his lifetime and the sudden transition from his previous life left him fearful and mistrusting. Without basic training that would allow him to be handled for veterinary and farrier care, he would continue to be at risk.
ETAC exists to help horses like Shorty and Hero and to share our learnings about overcoming behavioral challenges with equine rescues around the country. Our trainer works with the resident horses each day, helping them to build optimism in humans so they can be ready for a new home. Shorty had a breakthrough when he realized he could choose to trust his handler, and it wasn’t long before he was at the clinic where he caught the eye of Christian.
An Instant Connection
Christian, 21, a graduate of the Boys Ranch who continues to work with its horse program, attended the clinic, too. He felt an immediate connection with Shorty and soon after the clinic, he officially adopted Shorty from the ASPCA. Similarly, several of the boys were drawn to Hero and he was later adopted by the program. The commonalities between the boys and the horses made the adoption a perfect fit for both groups.
“One of our boys mentioned these horses are just like them. They’re both not where they’re supposed to be. They’re not living in their homes where they grew up,” explains Jennifer Kloeppel, Boys Ranch Horse Program Director. “They can relate to the horses having to leave their homes. They have that beautiful sympathy and empathy for each other.”
The trust shared by Christian and Shorty helped the pair advance in their training. In the beginning, he had to take small steps to rebuild Shorty’s confidence in his new home. Slowly, they’ve come together as a team. They complete a daily training session accompanied by Shorty’s favorite thing—lots of pets and scratches.
Christian plans to continue his training and will ensure his new friend knows he is safe and loved in his new home. Likewise, Hero makes daily progress with his new trainers, including Zach, who has found joy in helping Hero overcome his fears. Each day, the 14-year-old Boy’s Ranch resident grooms Hero and prepares him for a training session in the round pen. He’s teaching Hero to respond to his body language while loose in a confined space. He’s taught Hero to stop on command and enjoys learning about horses through his bond with Hero.
“Every horse is their own individual being. They’re all different; some are lazy, and some are super energetic,” says Christian. He enjoys the challenge of figuring out the unique needs of his horse. “Having to adapt to each horse is a challenge but you figure it out pretty quickly each day.”
Feeling inspired and ready to adopt a horse of your own? Visit myrighthorse.org to browse hundreds of adoptable horses nationwide by breed, gender or discipline.