Until two years ago, Lena was a perfectly “normal” registered Quarter Horse mare, serving as someone’s riding horse. Then one day, her owner decided Lena had a problem that needed correcting.
Steve Smith and Alayne Marker, founders of the Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary, wonder if the problem — a tendency to rear up — was actually caused by an inexperienced rider constantly pulling too hard on the reins, and the horse was reacting to poor riding skills. Whatever the case, Lena got the “training,” not the rider. This consisted of tying her reins tightly behind the saddle, and if she reared up, she’d go over backwards. This would teach her not to do it again. That was the “lesson.”
The professional trainer hired to teach Lena her lesson did this to her not once, not twice, but four times… and each time she went over backwards, landing on her head and back. The repeated blows to her head ruined her optic nerve. She is now totally and permanently blind.
As an 8-year-old blind mare, Lena was no longer considered worth much, except maybe for breeding purposes. Her owner tried to sell Lena, but found no one willing to pay the asking price. She contemplated selling her to the “canner,” the slaughterhouses where so many horses end up.
It was at this point that a friend of the owner’s, seeing the pitiful condition Lena was in and her bleak future, intervened. The friend couldn’t afford to buy Lena, but she offered to breed her, give the owner the foal, and keep Lena in exchange. The owner agreed.
So Lena was bred and successfully delivered a foal, securing her freedom. But the owner’s friend realized she couldn’t afford to keep Lena permanently. When she heard about the Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary, a match was made.
Smith and Marker founded the Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary in December 2000, shortly after moving to the ranch permanently. When they bought the property in 1998, their dream was to turn the 160 acres of open grassland and cottonwoods into a sanctuary for disabled animals, those least likely to be adopted and most likely to be euthanized in traditional shelters. The ranch is now home to nearly 80 animals, more than half of them blind.
They call the ranch the “Rolling Dog” because their dogs love to roll around on their backs in the sagebrush and grass covered meadows on the property. They say that as many as four dogs at a time can be seen rolling around upside down, feet straight up in the air, scratching their backs in the fields.
The sanctuary’s disabled residents are remarkable animals. They are happy, energetic and loving. Many visitors can’t believe the animals they see romping with each other and running around are blind or cope with some other kind of handicap.
The sanctuary is open for visits from June through September on the 1st and 3rd weekends of the month. The animals love meeting visitors because it usually means treat time! Visiting hours are 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on those weekends. All visits are by appointment only.
Source: Rolling Dog Ranch Web Site