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

Victoria ranks as 16th least affordable city in the world

Vancouver, as well as the Fraser Valley, Nanaimo and Comox Valley also crack the Top 25

Lion dance, Kung Fu demonstrations celebrate Chinese New Year

Sunday’s event rings in the Year of the Rat

Number of EI recipients up 8.1 per cent in Greater Victoria, but unemployment remains low

Greater Victoria recorded the lowest unemployment in December 2019

Central Saanich council calls for higher speeding fines

Motion approved Monday could end up before UBMC delegates in Victoria later this fall

VIDEO: Rare ‘ice circle’ spotted on Kamloops river

An ice circle or ice pan, has formed in the chilly waters just east of the Yellowhead Bridge

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Uber, Lyft approved for ride-hailing in Lower Mainland

Kater Technologies Inc.’s application was rejected

Investigators in wildfire-torn Australia head to site of B.C. airtanker crash

The B.C. government sends condolences to Port Alberni-owned Coulson Aviation

Former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse in B.C. granted day parole

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s

VIDEO: Person in wheelchair narrowly avoids collision with car in Kelowna

There were no injuries in the scary looking near-accident last week in Rutland

Here’s what Canada is doing to stop the coronavirus from getting in

Health officials are monitoring multiple possible cases in Canada

B.C. still struggling to control non-resident medical care fraud

Unpaid bills, out-of-province claimants a costly legacy of MSP

Most Read