Endo “The Blind Horse” was magical in his performance at Caravan Farm Theatre’s The Night’s Mare this summer.
His magic continued as he and owner/trainer Morgan Wagner showed how it’s done in a recent workshop.
Wagner got Endo as a gift from her grandmother when he was a frisky Appaloosa colt and she was 13, with little experience with horses. They set out to learn together and she was riding him by the time he was three. Endo, now 15, started to go blind when he was 11 and was diagnosed with equine recurrent uveitis. He had to have both eyes removed in surgeries about six months apart.
“I wasn’t sure what he would be able to do after. I wanted him to have a happy and safe life,” said Wagner, who had already trained Endo to many voice and visual commands and as he recovered she thought of ways to change to all voice cues, with a cue stick to give light taps on different parts of his body as reminders.
“I want people to see that there are options for horses like these and that these methods can also be used for training horses with other disabilities and with dogs,” she said.
She uses a kiss sound to get Endo’s attention, then adds other cue words. She strokes him often and tells him he’s a good boy and sometimes gives him his favourite food, carrots, as a reward.
“Don’t give the reward every time, though,” she cautioned. “When training, make the right thing easy to do and the thing you don’t want harder to do. I do Liberty Work with Endo, which is working a horse without a line so that they want to be with you. That’s crucial.”
Endo — his name means within — has shown that he has something special within him and the ability to touch something within the people who see him.
After he was first blind, Wagner noticed that he seemed to know his own stall easily. Then he got used to the barn, paddock and other horses at home on the farm near Corvallis, Ore. As Endo learned more voice cues, Wagner was able to ride him, even doing trail rides and work with children, something she and Endo love, with him.
She used to work with rescue Appaloosas and find them new homes but that was so time-consuming that she now wants to do more with workshops to educate people about horse training and care.
Endo now gets in and out of the trailer confidently and feels at home in new places once he has checked them out.
“He can smell wooden fences, he even can smell when a gate is open and he can definitely smell where the food is,” said Wagner. “He can get nervous if he is around other horses who are nervous or if there is a loud, consistent sound that affects his ability to hear. He adjusted well to Caravan Farm, even with the noise of the set building and the things happening in the performance area. This was his first performance in this type of environment and I’m so proud of him. It was a lot of fun for both of us and he quickly got to love the applause. There may be more theatre opportunities.”
Wagner now has Endo in Working Equitation, which includes dressage, ease of handling and a speed phase, all at different levels, where he is judged on the same criteria as sighted horses and is doing well. They made a guest appearance at the IPE and will be at an event in Las Vegas this fall and then on to an event in Texas.
“I’m very pleased with what Endo can do. At first, I didn’t even know if he was going to be rideable, but I decided to take it slowly and see what could be done. I just wanted him to be happy, to eat well and go out in the pasture,” said Wagner. “We are still working on his balance and I would like to see how far he can go in Working Equitation. Safety is always first. I know when he is at his limit so we do a little bit and call it good. We can come back to it the next day. That’s the important thing in all animal training.
“I want people to know there’s hope. That disease doesn’t limit what you can do. You can still go out and learn things.”
The workshop was organized by Paige Sutherland and took place at The Equine Connection ranch in BX owned by equine-assisted therapist Wendy Elrick.
“I put together the workshop with Morgan and Endo because I wanted to share their connection and journey with the community. Morgan and Endo are a testament of what can be accomplished with love, courage, devotion and time. It warms my heart,” said Sutherland.
Jane Advent, one of the workshop participants, was equally moved.
“I had horses for years. Everything he does, the strength and the confidence, it’s all her — the love and the direction, the inspiration, the patience. He’s remarkable but so is Morgan,” she said.
Elrick, who knows what horses and people can do for each other, was smiling.
“What I see is a strong, capable, happy horse and a wonderful owner. Endo shows that horses, and people, do not have to be limited by their limitations.”
Follow Endo “The Blind Horse” on his journey on Facebook.