When Kayla McKnight found Ralph, he was skinny, full of worms, and had what many would call a "bad attitude." The 16-year-old horse was up for sale, and his odds didn't look good. After being neglected for years, Ralph wasn't the type of horse you buy ready to ride. He wasn't even a horse you could pet or walk on a lead. But despite everything, Kayla gave him a chance. She took a risk with Ralph, and her experience was far from easy. But with determination and hard work, that risk paid off.
Kayla told iHeartHorses that Ralph's previous owners were inexperienced when it came to proper horse care. They bought Ralph, put him in a pasture, and then they essentially ignored his health and well-being. Ralph was left to fend for himself, and that neglect gradually wore him down.
Worth the Risk
Ready for a horse of her own, Kayla couldn't say no when she found Ralph obviously in need and neglected. She agreed to buy him, and one of the first things she did was call a vet. It was clear that taking in Ralph wouldn't be easy, but a talk with the vet was far from encouraging.
After diagnosing Ralph with worms and rain rot, Kayla's vet offered a grim recommendation. Besides his health issues, Ralph's biggest problem was his attitude. He bit, nipped, and pinned his ears. He didn't like people, and something as simple as checking his hooves was a dangerous task. The vet recommended putting Ralph down. They said it was only a matter of time until Ralph caused a serious injury. Rehabilitation seemed out of the question.
But despite it all, Kayla was determined to give Ralph a second chance.
"He doesn't deserve to die because of what inexperienced horse owners did to him."
Willing to give it her all, Kayla started showing Ralph that life wasn't so bad. She combed the tangles in his mane, treated his worms, and cured his rain rot. She gave him feed to help him gain weight, paid for his teeth to be floated, and most importantly, she earned his trust.
As the once-neglected horse continued to put on weight, it was like he came out of his shell. Instead of pinning his ears, he was curious and interested in what Kayla was doing. Instead of nipping every time she came close, he welcomed her pets. When he started taking treats from her hand and accepting her kisses, Kayla knew she made the right decision.
After everything Ralph had been through, he was willing to forget his past.
He got a taste of what life was supposed to be, and he's making new progress every day.
Now that Kayla can handle Ralph without fear, they're working on groundwork in an arena and learning basic skills. As he continues to gain weight, the next step is to develop muscle. Kayla has specific goals to prepare Ralph for one day being a trail horse. He's not ready to be ridden yet, but Kayla is optimistic that day will come soon.
For now, Kayla says their biggest challenge is teaching Ralph to focus and listen during training. He's working on lifting his leg for the farrier and learning more every day.
Rehabilitating a neglected horse with a traumatic past is never easy. It takes time, patience, and commitment. Horses can push us to our limits, and simple set backs can feel like the end of the world. Ralph is still making improvements, but this story is proof that all horses are worth saving. Kayla says,
"Listen to your heart. If you feel like your baby can be saved, save him/her!"
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