Mischa and Annie: a miracle duo that defy the odds

Popi Marquez, Guest Writer

(previously published in Oconee The Magazine) 

When most of us imagine rescuing an animal, we think of a dog or a cat, but not 15-year-old Mischa Jahn. She thinks big. Mischa has grown up around horses her whole life. But when attending the 2019 Equine Rescue Challenge, her world opened up, and she fell in love with a rescue quarter horse named Annie, who she would later refer to as her “miracle horse.”

The Equine Rescue Challenge is an opportunity to showcase the potential of rescue horses after being trained for a short period of time, in hopes that they will find a new forever home.

This is where Mischa first laid eyes on Annie. Mischa felt an instant spark. After the challenge, Mischa and her mother, Sonya Jahn, traveled to the Silver Lining Stable to meet Annie, but Sonya did not have the same reaction. She was filled with trepidation. 

Sonya wasn’t overreacting: Annie had many difficulties.  

Cece Calli, the Foster Care Coordinator at Georgia Equine Rescue League, described Annie when they first rescued her as “a wreck,” “starved,” and “totally untouched,” meaning she had not been halter trained or treated like normal people would treat their young horses. In fact, she had no human interaction until she was three. 

“Physically she was a three-year-old, emotionally and mentally she was still a yearling,” Cece said. 

Annie had already been deemed a rescue fail, having been returned from two other potential owners. Something in Mischa’s instincts told her that she was the person for Annie. 

“I don’t know what it was, I just knew that something was special about her,” Mischa said. 

They left the stable that day without Annie, but Mischa persisted. Mischa and Sonya made frequent visits to the stable to visit her, and the sparks in Annie’s eyes only increased with each visit. Finally on Christmas, Mischa’s persistence paid off and her wish came true. Annie was hers.

Nonetheless, Mischa had to start from scratch with Annie and knew she had to do more than just train her: she had to build trust with Annie, something that would require a lot of patience.  

“I knew I couldn’t rush her into anything or muscle her into trusting me,” Mischa said.

She tried different methods of trust work, called liberty work. In liberty work, the horse is completely free from a halter or a lead rope, giving them the ability to turn around and walk away from their trainer. 

CeCe described liberty work as “a way of communicating more on a horse level. Instead of just holding them by the lead rope and dragging them wherever you want them to go.” This kind of work requires more effort, yet it is essential to building trust with your horse. 

“A lot of people miss that point of training because they just want to ride the horse. But Mischa understands that she needs that connection,” CeCe said. 

Mischa would place a target in her hand and if Annie touched it, she received a treat. Sometimes, the pair would even roll a yoga ball around the ring. After much time spent building this trust, and Annie “realizing who the food lady was,” things began to improve. 

“It was Annie understanding, ‘Oh, being close to this person is a good thing,’” Mischa said. 

Soon, Mischa’s efforts began to pay off. She started to see sparks of personality emerge in the horse that was once withdrawn. 

She decided to sign up for the Athens Area Hunter Jumper Association (AAHJA) Competition with Annie. Annie’s show name was “My Miracle Gerl,” an homage to Georgia Equine Rescue League. With her new name, Annie was ready to enter the ring. 

“It was lots of getting her used to the environment, understanding that when we jump, she doesn’t have to fly around the jumps and try to gallop, she can just take her time,” Mischa said. “It was okay if we tripped or made a mistake.”  

While warming up, Mischa noticed the old familiar spark that had attracted her to Annie all those months ago. Only the sparks were even brighter now, as Annie’s potential began to shine. 

“We were trotting around and when she went over the drums, she surprised me and did so well,” Mischa said. 

The next round of the competition came, and Mischa was even more surprised. Annie had never ridden English style, which features a special type of flat saddle, nor had she ever jumped. 

“She was such a superstar. I was blown away,” Mischa said.

The judges agreed, and the miracle team ended up earning the Reserved Champion Title (2nd place). 

After discovering Annie’s unbelievable potential, Mischa could now focus on getting down to the finer details, such as working on tighter turns and different kinds of jumps. 

Four months later, they were in the ring for their second competition together. 

This time, they were the champions. 

“It’s all about belief,” Mischa said. “You can go as a rescue quarterhorse and do just as good of a job as any other fancy horse.”

In just two competitions together, Mischa and Annie proved that your pedigree does not determine your ability. Whether it be a girl and her horse or 5 people on a basketball court, what wins championships is the strength and belief built within the team. 

This miracle duo is just at the beginning of their inspiring journey. Their next goal is to qualify for the United States Equestrian Federation Pony Finals in Lexington, Kentucky. There they are determined to continue spreading their message that a strong bond is invaluable, and in fact can create miracles.