Veteran saves horse from slaughter that became prize competitor, family

Veteran Leslie Brekke saves a mare from slaughter that became a prized horse named, “Mama Rocks Me.”(Photo by Life Pics Photography)

Saving and fighting for lives is a part of life for veteran Leslie Brekke, who shares a story about a feral horse saved from slaughter.

Mrs. Brekke lives in Queen Creek with her husband, Jason, and the prized horse named, “Mama Rocks Me” that she bought from a kill pen in Fallon, Nevada, three years ago.

The seven-year-old mare with 14.1 hands is Grade, Quarter horse type, notes Mrs. Brekke giving the horse’s biographical information ahead of her own.

“I have since broke her and we compete on a national level in competitive trail riding and we are now competing in Cowboy Dressage. She is currently second in the nation, Intermediate Division of Equine Trail Sports competitive trail riding,” Mrs. Brekke said via email. “Last year, she was in the top 10 in her division.”

In October, they went for a weekend to Cowboy Dressage Gathering and World Finals in Rancho Murieta, California, competing in Partnership of the Ground, Walk/Jog under saddle and Freestyle Walk/Jog, which is a routine to music.

“My horse and I placed in a number of classes and came home with Reserve High Point Champion for Partnership on the Ground,” says Mrs. Brekke, 49.

Her husband takes plenty of photos documenting the many competitions they’ve attended during the past two years, she says, recalling back in February 2015 when she scrolled through Facebook and saw a “sale” ad from the Fallon Feed Lot in Nevada, which just received 26 mares from a bucking horse ranch that went out of business.

The Facebook post said all the mares were thought to be pregnant and had two days before they shipped to slaughter.

“It’s a common story that most horse lovers have heard before. My heart ached at the thought of all 26 mares going to slaughter,” Mrs. Brekke says, adding her desire to rescue a potentially pregnant mare from a doomed fate. “The next day after some fast-paced planning, I embarked on a journey that would change my life and the life of one horse.”

She had no idea what horse was about to become hers, she says of the process of placing horses from a group of mares and unable to select which horse she wanted.

However, she was pleased to get a stout, gray mare visibly terrified at the sound and motion of a plastic flag on a stick that was directing it toward Mrs. Brekke’s two-horse slant trailer.

“Thankfully this frightened, little horse had survived the two-day journey back to Arizona. I backed my trailer into my round pen and she was ran off my trailer to start her journey,” she describes. “For two weeks, I spent time in the round pen with this frightened, potential killing machine. I sat in the middle on a mounting block reading and keeping one eye on her at all times. I am not a horse trainer but I have enough knowledge to know I was not going to be able to touch this horse without some help.”

She spoke of fond memories about riding other peoples’ horses in her teens and that she got her own thoroughbred horse in her early 20’s that she rode for about two years.

“After my military service and raising a family, I was finally in a place in my life where I could have my own horses again at age 43,” she says. “This story is not about me, though, it is about Mama Horse.”

After hiring a local horse trainer familiar with the Clinton Anderson method of horse training, Mrs. Brekke recounts getting a halter on the horse appropriately called Mama Horse that ended up not being a mama after all.

“We both tried without success to rope her. Neither of us are roping folk. I found a local young cowboy who roped her and got a halter on her with a small length of lead line,” she says. “After a few months of gaining her trust using approach and retreat, she was finally halter broke enough to move her to her stall. My trainer would come by weekly to provide me with suggestions on what to do next to advance her training. Finally, after about six months, she was ready to ride. My first leg over was uneventful because we had done so much groundwork.”

As training continued, the first lead line walk around the neighborhood to get used to such things as traffic and dogs, ended with a loose horse running down a dirt road; the first horse camping trip ended with a three-hour session on trailer loading; a simple release in to the pasture ended with a rope burn, which was not from a loop in the lead line, the length of Mrs. Brekke’s forearm.

“And, the end of the lead line flipped up and wrapped itself around my arm as she zoomed past me,” Mrs. Brekke describes.

Then, a year later in April 2016, Mama horse was taken to the Clinton Anderson Ranch for a 10-day fundamentals clinic with a requirement of lope on a loose rein.

“This little mare was still going full speed at a canter without much steering in a round pen. We were not perfect but we completed the 10-day fundamentals clinic without injury or incident. It was the most grueling and rewarding experience of my life. I came home with a new respect for my little horse and myself,” says Mrs. Brekke, noting more training that involved going on trail rides, camping trips, to the local arena riding with other horses. “She will pony her companion, Dave, the mini-donkey or other horses/mules on the trail. She will even carry flag.

“It was not long until I was brave enough to enter our first competition. A local Equine Trail Sports competitive trail ride event. We did not do very well but as my friends often hear me say, ‘I didn’t die.’ I was determined, though, to do better. We kept working on obstacles and exposure to more things,” she adds.

Mrs. Brekke joined the local County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Search and Rescue Posse with Mama to help hikers, bikers, riders on the Arizona terrain she describes as “unforgiving.”

“The Posse conducts monthly training rides where we ride in some challenging places and Mama never misses a foot placement. I trust her with my life on some of the rides and she trusts me to keep her safe. We are SAR III certified and recently searched for a missing person in the local area,” she says. “The Sheriff’s Posse knows my little mare can go anywhere, anytime, into any situation to help someone in need.”

Now, Mrs. Brekke and her trusted equine partner are one point away from earning a Gold Carrot and Gold Star Rider lifetime awards; competed in local English and Western horse shows; transitioned to the Advanced Division of ETS.

And, Mama Rocks Me, aka Mama Horse, has settled in to her new life with the Brekke family that consists of her husband, Jason; Dave the mini-donkey; three grown children and eight grandchildren.

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