“My horse saved my life”: Peruvian Paso steps up in stallion attack

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Sharon La Pierre and Esplendor showing in western pleasure in 2010.
Sharon La Pierre and Esplendor showing in western pleasure in 2010.

This is a story about a Peruvian Paso gelding named Esplendor – affectionately called “Splendie” – who fought for his own life and in the process saved the life of his rider. Dr Sharon La Pierre tells her story.

I accompanied some riders into a field on a trail when a loose Quarter Horse stallion charged my gelding. All I remember is that my heart was filled with terror as the stallion forcefully ran towards me. I knew he was going to attack and knew nothing about stallions nor what to expect from such a formidable animal.

Quickly, I moved off towards the barn to remove myself from the field. I will never forget the feel of panic that gripped my being as the stallion circled us repeatedly with his mouth wide open, showing his teeth and trying to grab my left leg. I knew the situation was serious and had no idea how to stop the stallion.

At that point, Esplendor did a very wonderful thing.

As the stallion came around again to grab my left leg, Esplendor threw his body into the stallion to take
the blow. He was protecting me, and I knew it right away. He remained calm and focused, not dancing. My head was swimming with fear, but I stayed strong emotionally.

Esplendor had been trained that when I took hold of his beautiful, full mane, he would let me dismount. I did that, but he was too busy fighting off the stallion who had bitten him numerous times in the neck and chest. I thought if I was able to get on the ground, I could scare the stallion away with my arms in the air. What a ridiculous thought!

Again, I grabbed Esplendor’s mane and this time he planted his feet and let me off in a matter of seconds. I have no idea how I managed to dismount on such short notice. Still holding onto Esplendor’s reins, the stallion grabbed the reins from my hands and ripped them to pieces.

Esplendor’s jaw was dislocated, a tooth was broken, but he ran off to fight. The stallion rolled Esplendor at least four times, biting his legs and stomping on his belly and rear end with his front legs. Esplendor pulled the stallion to the ground by grabbing his front leg. It was a ferocious fight that was meant to kill. The stallion was much bigger than Esplendor, but Esplendor had heart.

Sharon La Pierre and Esplendor.
Sharon La Pierre and Esplendor.

I returned to my childhood training where I was taught to pray. At that point I knew the stallion would kill my gelding if I could not stop it. I prayed out loud … “Help me to know what I need to know and to act on it without fear.” I ran towards the stallion with cupped hands to attempt to hit him in the face. I was not going to let him kill my horse. What a ridiculous assumption that was because I could have been killed. As I ran, the stallion turned and faced me and charged at a full gallop. I ran towards him knowing I would be safe … I just felt it … I just knew … As I ran, I screamed with all of my might at a very highly sustained pitch. The stallion’s face winced and he turned away, retreating to the far corner of the field. I believe I broke his eardrum. You see, I had been a voice major in music when I first entered college in my younger years.

Esplendor was very bloody but got himself up. He was wearing a traditional style Peruvian trail saddle, and it protected his back and most of his body from being ravaged. However, he was covered in bites and cuts. I ran after him. He was so frightened that I had to approach him very carefully because he did not want to be touched, and I did not want him to bolt into the grip of the stallion again. I had owned, trained, and shown this horse for years. He was calm generally and a wonderful trail horse.

I managed to get Esplendor back to the barn with the help of others who had heard my screaming. He was cleaned up and examined, but shaking with fear. For the next three years, Esplendor was given chiropractic and acupuncture treatments regularly, as well as shots of Legend. He would exhibit bouts of lameness, but to my amazement nothing had been broken. It was determined that he had some muscle damage as four different veterinarians examined him over the years, and all said it would take time for him to recover. If I had been riding any other horse, I might not be alive to speak about what happened.

One of the veterinarians who examined Esplendor initially stated that he heard Peruvian Horses were known for protecting their riders. I certainly can confirm that statement. This little Peruvian exhibited such bravery and presence of mind, that it has endeared me to the breed.

Two weeks after the attack, another woman entered the field on a trail ride. She was viciously attacked and pulled from her horse, being mauled on the ground by the same stallion. She had a prize show gelding of another breed whose leg was destroyed during the attack. Her horse did not stand and fight, but ran and fell into a ravine frantic with fear. He was later surrendered to a rescue sanctuary after many months.

The stallion left part of a tooth in the woman’s leg as she fought to recover from massive infection. This was truly a situation of great danger, as I had experienced. The difference is my Peruvian Horse stood and fought, saving my life.

Arthritis has set in over time for Esplendor, but the Legend shots have helped a great deal. He is still ridden almost everyday. It took me over a year to get back on him and ride effectively due to my own fear, as well as his. He would not let me on him and if I did get on, he would buck. He did not trust me and wanted me off. Besides, he was sore. I had to build that trust all over again … one step at a time … little by little.

Today, I ride “Splendie” regularly. However, if a larger horse comes trotting up from behind with a rider, he starts to relive the past and dance with fear. I am no longer able to show him in the arena because it is too stressful for him. He exhibits panic attacks at times which I have learned to live with it.

Peruvian Paso horses are a very old and unique breed. Esplendor was mentally strong and willing to fight for himself and me at the same time. There is no doubt in my mind that he was aware of my presence on his back and fought to protect me during that battle. He was courageous regardless of fear and exhibited immense character.

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