Rescued horse in Cowichan Valley goes from problem child to champion

One-eyed Marvel, once considered dangerous, now a rising star

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 STORY: 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 STORY: 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 STORY: 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

Just Posted

Tofino’s top engineer leaves district amidst massive sewage treatment project

District office currently working through $60 million sewage treatment plant

VIDEO: Remembrance Day in Ucluelet

Town gathers at Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Club for Remembrance Day ceremony.

Remembrance Day ceremonies in Tofino and Ucluelet

The Tofino Legion and Ucluelet Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Club will host ceremonies today.

West Coast residents to decide on BC Transit service between Tofino and Ucluelet

Alberni Clayoquot Regional District must collect $550,000 a year from participating communities.

VIDEO: Frequent closures on only highway in and out of Tofino-Ucluelet expected to continue until Summer of 2020

“We’ve had 400 blasts to date and moved nearly 90,000 cubic metres of material.”

VIDEO: Don Cherry says he was fired, not sorry for ‘Coach’s Corner’ poppy rant

Cherry denies he was singling out visible minorities with his comments

Disney Plus streaming service hits Canada with tech hurdles

Service costs $8.99 per month, or $89.99 per year, in Canada

Trudeau’s opponents: One gives him an earful, another seeks common ground

PM meets with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe

Rona’s ‘truly Canadian’ ads are inaccurate, watchdog says

Ads Standards points out U.S.-based Lowe’s acquired Rona in 2016

Brian Burke considered favourite to replace Don Cherry

Brian Burke is the 5-4 pick to be the full-time replacement next season

Major donor Peter Allard takes UBC to court to get his name on all law degrees

Philanthropist claims school not adhering to 2014 agreement for his $30-million donation

Report predicts drug resistance likely to kill 400,000 Canadians by 2050

This increase is expected to cost Canada 396,000 lives, $120 billion in hospital expenses

Sportsnet fires Don Cherry after negative comments about immigrants

Don Cherry had said immigrants don’t wear poppies like other Canadians do

Most Read