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Thistle's Day in the Spotlight

Found with 210 starving wild mustangs, a rescued horse makes triumphant recovery, is adopted to new home


Update on Thistle, Nov. 4: After mesmerizing a packed house at a Parelli Celebration earlier this fall in Fort Worth, a slew of admirers wanted to adopt Thistle. In the end, two veterinarians in Stillwater, Okla., Hank Jenn and Donna Slater, adopted the spectacular horse, and he's doing extremely well.  In a new video (above), Slater says, "It's a miracle that he has the willingness to be around people with what adversities he's been through."

by Julie Hauserman

Over the weekend at the Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas, top natural horsemanship educators Pat and Linda Parelli worked with a once-wild mustang named Thistle while a crowd of horse lovers watched and learned. Using the gentle training techniques of his natural “Parelli method,” they patiently earned Thistle’s trust.

It turns out Thistle has reason to be wary of humans: He was among 210 neglected and starving wild mustangs that The HSUS helped rescue late April from a Nebraska ranch.

But now, with patience and training, Thistle is calm and healthy, and soon will have a new and loving home.

Willing Student

Thistle was “steady, stable, and ready to learn,” said Diane Miller, director of The Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch where the horses came after being rescued.

That made him an excellent candidate for the spotlight at the Fort Worth Parelli Celebration. The event was the sixth Celebration held around the U.S. since February.

At each of the Celebrations, The Humane Society of the United States has worked with local horse rescue groups to bring an adoptable rescued horse who trained with Pat Parelli for a three-day development program from ground work to riding. At the end of the Celebration, the featured horses were offered for adoption.

“Thistle thoroughly enjoyed himself out there with the Parellis, and the crowd of more than 1,000 horse lovers was mesmerized,” Miller said.

“We chose him for the Celebration because of his high spirit and playful and proud personality. It’s that spirit that helped him rebound from his ordeal quickly.”

Communication Is Key

Natural horsemanship is a gentle training technique that uses knowledge about herd dynamics, horse behavior and communication to help people and horses communicate effectively and build trust-based relationships.

The Parelli Celebration events offer inspirational and educational seminars and training sessions, designed to help people understand how to communicate effectively with their horses and build a lasting partnership both in and out of the saddle.

The initiative builds on other programs developed by The HSUS to encourage horsemen and women to consider a rescued horse when bringing a new horse into the family and to help horse rescues operate more effectively.

Recognizing Excellence

At the event, The HSUS presented Pat Parelli with its Humane Horseman of the Year Award for his amazing work to change the nature of the relationship between people and horses.

"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Pat to celebrate horses and help find adoptive homes for rescued horses across the country,” said Keith Dane, The HSUS’ director of equine protection, who presented Parelli with the award.

“The Celebrations and the Parellis have been a powerful force in highlighting the adoptability of rescued horses. We are delighted with the results of this collaboration.”

Parelli techniques work especially well on so-called “problem” horses such as Thistle and the 83 other horses rescued from cruelty and neglect at a ranch in Nebraska and brought to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas, in May. The ranch is a 1,300-acre animal sanctuary run by The Fund for Animals and The HSUS.

Today, they’re down the road from the ranch at a facility operated by the HSUS’ Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center, where a team of equine experts from The Grace Foundation of Northern California is helping rehabilitate the mustangs and find them loving homes. Including Thistle, seven have been adopted so far, and 30 adoptions are in progress pending the required home inspections.

“We want to give all rescue horses the opportunity to have the wonderful life they deserve in a permanent loving home,” said Dane. “Our collaboration with Parelli Natural Horsemanship is built on a common desire to help people have long, successful relationships with their horses and the shared belief that horses should be treated with respect at all stages of their life—not as disposable items to be acquired or discarded on a whim."

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