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

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

Just Posted

Courtenay Hero Wall gives thanks to frontline workers

People wanting to thank frontline workers in the Comox Valley can add… Continue reading

Comox Valley Transition Society available for women who need help throughout pandemic

“We anticipate more women than usual will access our resources, but we do have plans in place.”

Clothing store in Courtenay closes doors after 23 years

Trousers owner Shelley Greenup says the time was right to say goodbye

Hip tradition sing-along planned again for Canadians April 2

The Tragically Hip’s Paul Langlois is encouraging all to join him virtually in a’Porch Session.’

Trudeau rejects mandatory stay-at-home order for now; COVID deaths up

The virus has now infected more than 10,000 Canadians and cost 130 their lives

Comox Valley grocers going extra mile during coronavirus

We have had numerous requests to post a fluid article directing consumers… Continue reading

B.C. health care workers gain access to virtual health care options

During COVID-19 many clinics have closed, leaving health care workers with nowhere to turn

Tax collectors, auditors to help field ‘historic’ numbers of benefit-seeking callers

‘If you work for CRA, people think we are just there to take money from your pockets.’

Family uses social media to help truckers find places to eat during pandemic

Restaurants Serving Drivers in Western Canada seeks to provide a list of places open for drivers

Advocates sound alarm over COVID-19 limiting access to contraceptives, abortion

The COVID-19 outbreak has hit sexual-health services from almost every angle

Cowichan couple won’t self-isolate after returning from overseas

New law requires 14 days of self-isolation when returning to Canada

Park users concerned about tree cutting in Comox conservation area

During a recent visit to the Northeast Woods in Comox, a woman… Continue reading

Most Read