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Chris Lombard gives MSSPA horses fresh start

Published: 1/20/2013
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By Maddy Butcher

Prior to landing at the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals, many horses first experience unspeakable hardships. They’re deprived not only of good hay and fresh water, but of a foundation of comfort and trust their prior owners failed to build.
When they land at the MSSPA’s Windham barns, they may not only be thin and malnourished, but untrained and distrustful.
As barn manager Troy DeRoche likes to say, “These horses are not from your grandmother’s backyard.”
But miracles and total turnarounds are quietly routine at the Society. Before long, their matted coats are shiny and the glimmer returns to their eyes.
Thanks in part to a Maine trainer, their distrustful, fearful attitudes are giving way to ones of connection and confidence.

Chris Lombard has been working with Society horses to help them be more at ease and trusting with people. He helps them to map out new territory full of manners and mutual respect.

“I want horses to feel good about themselves when they’re around humans,” said Lombard, who at 38 years old has a strong, enthusiastic following in northern New England. His weeks are full of clinics and private sessions throughout the year.

Initially, MSSPA Chief Executive Officer Meris Bickford and Lombard arranged for about 10 sessions of generous pro bono work. But given the response from the horses and staff, Lombard now has a contractual arrangement to provide weekly work here.

“Theses horses are getting a gift,” said Bickford. “It’s not that they’ve learned movements, they’ve learned to connect. Chris couldn’t have been more generous. He’s been phenomenal.”

Most recently, Lombard has worked with Alabar, an untrained, eight year old Arab mix.
When Alabar first came to the Society’s Windham barn, he didn’t like to be haltered.
He often reared up or spun around in his stall.
The staff struggled to move him in and out of stall and barn entrances, according to DeRoche.
But after several sessions with Lombard, the young gelding has turned the corner. Life is becoming less stressful for him and for his handlers.

“He’s getting trust and gaining confidence. He leads in and out of stalls like a charm. There is no hesitancy,” said DeRoche.“Chris has gone above and beyond our expectations.”
Lombard has also helped the staff, teaching skills for working with some of the more worried or agitated horses.

“He’s a very gifted presenter of information. He really engages people and meets them where they are,” said Bickford. “He’s helped make the staff safer. It’s easy to get into difficulty handling any horse.”

“He’s taught us how to get out of sticky situations or how to prevent sticky situations,” said DeRoche, the barn manager.
Lombard said similar themes might apply to the horses’ lessons.

“I want to give these horses something that will stay with them for their lifetime, an understanding that this process (of working with people) is something that they can enjoy and be a part of,” said Lombard. “People are going to ask you (the horse) to do things and you can be open to it.”
The Society, he noted, is a great place to practice this method. The staff makes the overall environment welcoming and supportive.

“To my feel of it, it’s already really positive,” said Lombard. “I am really impressed. I have yet to meet an unhappy horse there.”

Lombard’s work dovetails seamlessly with one of the Society’s main goals: to prepare these horses for adoption. With his help, the transition to a Forever Home will be made with trust, confidence, and manners.

View Reader Comments:

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1/21/2013 Kelly
what a great story...Thanks Maddy & Chris for helping horses the way you do!
1/24/2013 Val Rich
Chris has done 2 annual clinics at my barn, Serendipity Stable, every year for at least 7 years. I am ceaselessly amazed at his intuitive ability to assess a horse and know what the horse needs to feel good. He's a treasure.
1/25/2013 Linda Walker
Open Gates Equine Rescue tried to introduce Chris to the MSSPA several years ago...We are pleased that they have changed their minds. The horses and staff will benefit from his training.
1/25/2013 Karen P
chris is a wonderful horseman- he can charm, captivate and intrigue any horse leading them to a better future.
1/25/2013 Nora
I know someone who adopted a horse from the MSSPA. The horse is happy and doing great in his new home! Sounds like this training program is a win-win for all!!!
1/25/2013 Pat
Chris has been wonderfully generous to horse rescues over the years! The MSSPA horses are lucky to have him as an advocate. All rescue horses should be so blessed!
1/25/2013 valeda rich
awesome story.....keep up the good that you do....
1/25/2013 Missy
Just ask Chris about the amazing work he's done with my adopted Arab! This must be heaven for Chris, MSSPA and all the wonderful horses. Great story.

"The ears never lie" - Don Burt