The call came to us in August. August is when we generally concentrate on training and finding great homes for the rehabilitated horses that came in the previous winter, not bringing in more. The call was from a law enforcement agency wanting to know if we could take 8 of 17 horses from a possible neglect situation. That was a problem. Our foster system & budget were already stretched to capacity and couldn’t handle 8 more at that time. But, if we could not help, this local agency would not be able to help these horses. What should we do? We spent that night with little or no sleep, thinking about what would happen to these kind eyed horses if we could not help.
One of the amazing things about S.E.O. is the depth of the generosity and capability of local horsemen that make up our network. After putting out the call for help, within a day we had found all of the horse’s good homes, sight unseen. Neglected babies, here we come. S.E.O. volunteers scrambled to rearrange schedules, leave work, hook up trailers and hit the road.
It was a good 2 hour drive to the residence. When we finally turned onto the long driveway leading toward the house we gasped collectively at the sight of a lone mare. Her emaciated, tired looking body stood perfectly motionless as we drove past her. Her head drooped low to the ground. We were prepared, but you can never be truly prepared to see animals you love in such poor condition.
The agency was not there to take all of the horses, they allowed the owners to choose 6 horses to keep. They felt 6 was a manageable number for them to properly care for if they did a little clean up on the property making it safer for the animals. We had no doubt that these people truly loved their horses. Sometimes things outside of our control take over our lives and we cope by overlooking or becoming blind to the basic needs of living creatures under our care.
The husband walked us to the barn and showed us the horses they had chosen to keep. As we first walked into the barn, we saw three stallions occupying stalls that obviously had not been cleaned in months. The manure was piled so high it was pushing out the bottom corner of one of the stall doors. The stallion’s manes and tails were in dreadlocks. Apparently the husband was the only one providing any care to the horses and after two of the stallions got into a fight, he was too afraid to turn them out anymore, so there they stayed.
The majority of the horses were in one large group behind the barn. With limited food and water and lack of cross fencing to separate them, their survival herd instincts had kicked in. The top and middle of the herd faired ok but not so true for the horses at the bottom. We walked out to the old mare we saw as we drove in. The sides of her body were covered with kick wounds, probably from her attempts to come in close to try to get food and water. She was not stuck in the fence. She had simply found the furthest spot away from her tormentors and without food or water was too weak to move. It took SEO members 30 minutes get her to baby step forward into a separated corral where we could protect her. When offered fresh food and water she did not even look at it. Her eyes had already checked out, the small walk had been taxing on her. We went on to the other horses hoping that she would show interest in the water but she never did. The decision was made before we left to humanly euthanize her instead of making her go through a long haul with only a minimal chance of survival. We were too late to save this one.
The other low man on the horse totem pole was “Penny”. The super thin chestnut mare was pacing along a fence line that as down in several spots. Other horses came and went but she for some reason respected it and then would stress at being left alone. When we entered and stood still, she trotted over. We offered her alfalfa but she was only half interested in it. She preferred the human affection and security over the food. Her once beautiful long mane and tail were matted and dreadlocked beyond anything we have ever seen.
When the door to the massive 2 year old stallions’ stall door was opened (remembering, he had not been out for months) he bolted with Stacey Riggs, one of the trainers that volunteers with SEO, stubbornly holding on and skidding down the barn aisle in tow.
Fortunately Stacey had come with us because it was a long evening of loading horses that had probably never been loaded before. She worked her magic and considerable skill and took the time to load each one without any bad experiences. It took all the skills of everyone who responded to this seizure with us to handle these neglected and skittish animals.
As we pulled out of the driveway with our precious cargo, we knew we still had a lot of work ahead of us. Not only that night, getting everyone unloaded and settled in for the evening, but in the weeks and months to come getting them recuperated to their former healthy selves.
As I write this now, the horses are turning out to be very sweet, smart and willing while thriving in their new homes. We are grateful they were found and rescued before winter as we imagine the situation would have been much worse for them as the weather worsened. The county is keeping a watchful eye on the remaining horses to make sure their care and condition are acceptable. We are simply thankful that once again we were able to help these noble creatures.
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