A Red Barn

A Red Barn

This week, we completed some much-needed painting and repairs on our barn. The difference is amazing! — with a huge WOW factor! We were very lucky to hire a painter who gave us a great price on this job, and the results have been marvelous. It has improved the functionality of the barn and created a wonderful aesthetic.

Take a look at the before and after photos, and we think you’ll agree. The horses seem to like it, too!

The red barn AFTER paint and repairs. Viv especially likes the purple hose, if his interest in it is any indication.
Same view, but the Before and After make an amazing contrast!
Before: A barn much in need of repair and paint.
The difference is incredible!

Fence Donation

Fence Donation

We are so grateful for any donation we receive at Wilderwood to support the work we and the horses do. Most recently, we were thrilled to receive the donation of labor to put up a much-needed fence.

Thank you to our wonderful donor! The old fence was falling down and had hazardous old, barbed wire — a safety issue for our horses, dogs, ourselves, and visitors. This new fence has made all the difference, not only in terms of safety but also practicality.

This new area, complete with gate, not only keeps curious horses safely at bay, it also means our raised garden area is ready to start building. Once completed, these raised gardens will provide visitors to Wilderwood the opportunity to grow, maintain, and participate in organic small-scale farming.

Five Months’ Difference

Five Months’ Difference

What a difference five months makes. Below, on the right, is a photo of Odie when he first arrived with us in December 2018. Next to it, on the left, is a photo taken yesterday of Odie.

His muscle tone is coming back (thanks to good feed, therapeutic exercise, and massage) as is his weight. Yesterday, we felt he was strong and ready enough for a first ride! He did great, though we are taking it slowly. There is still such a long road to recovery. He looked absolutely magnificent being ridden with the dappled sunshine through the cottonwood trees dancing on his beautiful mane and tail.

Afterwards, because the day was so warm, we bathed him (his first bath here). This marked the final elimination of all physical traces of his horrendous experience at the Kill Pen. He had a nap in the afternoon sunshine and breeze, which dried him, and then had an early supper — which he enjoyed immensely.

The difference five months can make, along with lots and LOTS of love, attention, good food, exercise, grooming … and did we mention LOVE?!

Odie’s First Day

Odie’s First Day

This video was taken on Odie’s first day. It shows him distressingly thin (he looks so much better now!) and malnourished, including noticeable muscle loss along his back, protruding ribs, and loss of tone and muscle over his rump. It’s also interesting to consider the dynamics of him being “looked over” and “sounded out” by the herd.

Odie’s First Day at Wilderwood

Viv and Desi Playing

Viv and Desi Playing

As we work on developing the Wilderwood curriculum, we are looking for (and finding!) videos of the horses to incorporate. Here is one from about a year ago showing Viv and Desi playing on a summer day. Saeed is not particularly impressed with the antics of these young ones!

Vivaldi (The Baby) and Desi (Desperado) playing on a summer day.

Odie: Beautiful

Odie: Beautiful

This week we started Odie on the lunge line. It was his first time and he was very nervous! We started walking him in hand, circles and serpentines, to help bring down his nervousness. This helped a little. Then it was time to see what he could do!

Hautism: the Parallel World of Horses and Autism

Hautism: the Parallel World of Horses and Autism


“Horses were basically my salvation. If I hadn’t been able to go down to the horse barn and take care of the horses and clean the stalls … I would have just been miserable.”

~ Temple Grandin ~

My name is Bec Evanko. I write this as an autistic horsewoman, a Ph.D, a small and fragile soul, someone who, through a combination of luck and tenacity, somehow made it despite incredible odds against it, and someone who is forever grateful to the magnificent horses who were with me on this journey.

Horses are a lot like autistic people.

We are prey animals. In many ways we are gullible, naïve, open to literal interpretation, liable to be wary and learn our lessons well when we are hurt or frightened. We can be flighty and afraid of things for reasons that neurotypical people find hard to fathom.

But when we trust and learn to love, we are fiercely loyal, devoted, and dependable, willing and wanting to please, and also happy to be left to our own devices without the constant need for human company. 

We recognize and respond to kindness.

We fear and flee from that which we do not understand. We learn our lessons through repetition and reward. We seek reassurance and comfort. We find solace in our own kind (autistics with autistics; horses with horses) and find incomprehensible much of the neurotypical human world.

Whether (horse) grazing on grass in pasture or (human) working diligently at a computer on a given task, we can focus for hours and do not wish to be interrupted in our pursuit.

We need familiarity before accepting the new.

We do movements for our own understanding and comfort that you do not understand and sometimes strive to curtail.

We need to build trust before permitting you into our world.

VIV P&L WITH FRAME

Viv and Des

Viv and Des

Today we spent time working with the little ones. It was also the first day we rode Desmond under saddle! — being so close to his third birthday (April 11), it was time. He did great! Gentle, happy horse; interested and curious, yet also quite focused and calm.

We then worked with the Baby (Viv), who is close to his second birthday (also April 11). He did wonderfully well, too! Although not yet close to coming under saddle, we took time with Viv with his turns, voice commands, and becoming accustomed to strange things like mounting blocks and cavaletti rails. Viv is so gentle. We looped the lead rope over his head and he just stood there, wearing it proudly!

These two boys have been raised with lots of gentleness and love, and give it back to us in abundance. Love our boys!

Baby (Vivaldi)
Baby (Vivaldi) and Bec

A Ribbon of Rainbows

A Ribbon of Rainbows

Odie’s first foray into the round yard earlier this week was difficult for him. He is anxious, appears to be very wary of the lunge whip (we soon ditched that), and expressed fear and damaged confidence. We sat with him for forty minutes in the round yard, waiting for him to drop his head, realize that he is safe and loved, and to come to us. And, eventually he did.

His second round yard session today was much better. We walked without much hesitation from the paddock and had a more relaxed experience walking around a little bit and navigating the cavaletti poles. It was a short session — about ten minutes in all, but Odie finished up a happy and encouraged horse. After the round yard, he had a stretching session in his stall and some muscle massage (along with a very green leafy flake of alfalfa hay!)

We’re posting below images from the first session. Watching Odie on that first time in the round yard as he worked out some of his angst made us remember people who said we were “certifiably insane” to take on this horse … that we must be “crazy.” Indeed, we had said it ourselves.

Maybe so. But in the words of the wonderful song “Crazy” from Icehouse that accompanies these images, “you’ve got a ribbon of rainbows / the sun in your eyes / burning through … could be I’m losing my head / over you.”

You’re making brilliant progress, Odie, and we love you!

Odie’s “ribbon of rainbows”