‘I saw a glimmer of hope and talent’: $1 rescue horse wins B.C. show

He only cost $1 at the time, but the purchase of Marvel two years ago has changed the life of the Cowichan Valley’s Jennifer Barnes van Elk.

Barnes van Elk, who works as a consultant and lives in Cobble Hill, used to be a riding coach but never dreamed she’d see the day when she’d consider competing in some of the province’s more recognized horse shows.

When Marvel, a 12-year-old 17.2-hand Hanoverian with good blood lines, first entered her life, she also would never have guessed that the horse, who is blind in his right eye, was a budding champion in the rough.

“I bought him for a dollar, and his records show that this wasn’t the first time he’d been sold for that price,” Barnes van Elk said.

“Your typical $1 horse sale is an older or injured horse that is being rehomed for retirement. In Marvel’s case, the reason for his price tag was mostly behavioural.”

RELATED: Duncan horse rescue centre needs help to keep doors open

Barnes van Elk said Marvel, who was born on Vancouver Island, has a “checkered past” and had changed hands many times before ending up in her care.

She said Marvel’s half-blindness was coupled with extreme reactivity that made the big horse unmanageable at times.

“His reputation had earned him a label as a dangerous horse and this kind of label can be a death sentence, especially for older equines,” Barnes van Elk said.

Because of his safety issues, Barnes van Elk said she completely re-started Marvel’s training at 10 years old; handling the adult horse like one would a young colt.

RELATED: Care costs for 42 horses seized in b.C. Now exceeds $70,000

She reintroduced everything to the horse and set up elaborate obstacle courses to develop confidence and trust as she taught him the discipline of dressage, a highly skilled form of riding performed in exhibition and competition.

In the spring of 2019, the pair entered their first local horse show.

“Despite considerable equine stage fright, Marvel managed to bring home a first-place ribbon,” Barnes van Elk said this week at her Winter Spring Farms, while Marvel looked trustingly over her shoulder.

“Since that show, Marvel has competed in two other local horse shows, each time in classes of escalating difficulty, and each time winning or placing in the top three.”

RELATED: Shawnigan rcmp find intoxicated woman walking horse

Barnes van Elk said she hopes to move Marvel into recognized competitions next season, and plans to train all winter with her sights set on showing higher level dressage.

“As they say, it takes a village to raise a competitive horse, and a lot should be said about the other coaches and body workers who have got us this far,” she said.

“I’ve worked with horses for 30 years and Marvel was one of the worst I’ve ever seen two years ago. I thought ‘what have I done’? But then I saw a glimmer of hope and talent and now I’m so excited for Marvel. I could never have afforded a horse that could compete at a high level before I found him.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 tests come back negative in remote First Nation community

“There are no suspected cases in the community at this time.”

Wildway Farms open for business in Hagensborg

Local entrepreneurs Gwyneth Anderson and Joseph Battensby are hard at work at their new business

Young boy finds mask stolen during recent break-in

Gage Pootlass immediately took the mouse mask back to its rightful owner, Kathleen Booth

Bear gets into garbage at Thorsen Creek Landfill after waste disposed into wrong bin

A grizzly bear accessed garbage that was put in the wrong bin and ended up outside the electric fence

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

Conservation seizes fawn illegally kept captive in Vancouver Island home

A Comox Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Pandemic could be driving more parents to get on board with flu shot: study

University of B.C. study gauges willingness for parents to vaccinate children for influenza

Watchdog clears Okanagan RCMP in death of man after arrest over alleged stolen pizzas

The man died in hospital after having difficulty breathing and broken ribs

Have you seen Berleen? B.C. pig destined for sanctuary goes missing

Berleen was less than two weeks from travelling to Manitoba when she vanished

Health Canada says several kids hospitalized after eating edible pot products

People warned not to store cannabis products where children can find them

‘It’s not just about me’: McKenna cites need to protect politicians from threats

Police investigation was launched after someone yelled obscenities at a member of McKenna’s staff

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Most Read