Monthly Archives: September 2013

9/20/2013 Rescue continued: “Hope”, “Grace”, “Faith” and a “Pirate”?!

A Note of Thanks ~ It should be clear that no matter how sincere the intent and how passionate the call to do so, there would be no rescuing of horses in need without foster farms and caregivers willing to take them in.  When I began calling for volunteers to take on these horses – phone in one hand, hay nets and spare halters in the other while trying to hitch the truck and trailer, I wasn’t sure I could reach enough people fast enough to keep me from trying to shoe-horn them into the facility at Trinity Farm.  It would have worked but….

What an amazing thing to hear someone, with a busy barn and all that entails, instantly respond to my query with “sure, I can take one”! Especially when that ‘one’ is a stallion with questionable behavior, or when ‘one’ becomes ‘two’ because the horses are already bonded with each other and it would add to their stress to separate them. Or – the ‘one’ is so emaciated that the sight of her carefully backing off the horse trailer into a packed Friday night of lessons/boarders and parentsofsmallchildren instantly stops activity, causes hands to fly over mouths and emotion to trickle down cheeks.  We seem to be surrounded by such ‘someones’ in Central Ohio, are continually blessed by them and we could not function without them.

Hope, Grace, Faith and a Pirate?!

  It is my belief that horses become accustomed to the names we attach to them.  Consequently, I almost never change the name of a horse that comes into my care – even if I think the name is really awful.  However, when horses come to us out of the misery that these horses have shared, we change their names to symbolize and lend emphasis to the start of a new and better chapter in the book of their lives.  In these next paragraphs, I am pleased to introduce you to “Hope”, “Grace”, “Faith” and “Pirate”.

With great relief, and a few quiet tears, Loraine Teets, (a Shepherd’s Corner board member and serious friend to all animals) and I drove the two trailers carrying the surrendered horses to the first stop, Carol Rennecker at her Hunter’s Creek Equestrian Center.

"Hope's" Arrival at Hunter's Creek Equestrian Center

“Hope’s” Arrival at Hunter’s Creek Equestrian Center

Carol has fostered horses for us before and is one of the kindest souls I know.  Her barn is full of similarly wired boarders, students, trainers and helpers and I knew that they would surround the fragile little palomino mare, re-named ““Hope”, with great tenderness and excellent care.  As noted above, Hope’s arrival momentarily stopped activity on the busy Friday evening.  Emotions ranging from shock to dismay to outrage burst onto the faces of those present.  It is a credit to Carol and her people that all of them chose to pour their emotion into quietly situating their new charge as comfortably and efficiently as possible and into commitment to help her in whatever way possible going forward.

Our second stop was at Dianne and Dave Pontia’s Bascom Hill Farm.  Dianne is a DVM and has attended rescues with The Shepherd’s Corner in her professional capacity, lending us her expertise to assess horses on site for general condition and ability to travel.  We prepare on-site notes and Dianne does more thorough follow-ups once the horses are secure in their foster situations.  She had arrived on site with us earlier in the day and, after assessments were made, had gone home to prepare a stall for the little stallion, the foster she had agreed to take.

"Pirate" at rest at Bascom Hill Farm

“Pirate” at rest at Bascom Hill Farm

Loraine and I arrived at Bascom Hill Farm and unloaded the gaunt, but dignified, stallion.  Loraine walked him to his freshly bedded stall and released him.  We watched as he ambled slowly around the spacious stall, nibbled a bit of hay here, took a sip of water there and finally, eased himself onto the shavings and rolled.  With a deep sigh, he paused, rolled up on his sternum, then tried and failed to rise.  He opted to remain deep in shavings, quietly tucked in and resting.  As he seemed to be at peace and in understandable need of rest after his day of travel and change, we opted to let him do so, and Loraine and I left him in Dianne’s excellent care to deliver our next two equine treasures.  Dianne relates that when she came out later to check on him, he accepted a bit of help to rise and resumed concentration on eating, drinking and healing. How he came to his new name “Pirate” is a story for Dianne to tell – but ask her, its a cute one.

Our last stop was at Joan Promen’s beautiful Bookmark Farm.  Joan had Grace and Faith in dry lotgraciously made two spots available in her barn for us.  Once we realized that the two black and white mares following each other around in the dry lot were to be surrendered to us, it seemed clear that the two spots were to be filled by them.  As noted before, it had taken some time to get both horses on the trailer.  However, once on, the little mares seemed committed to staying on the trailer, even after we had arrived at Bookmark Farm!  It took another half hour or so to coax “Grace” and “Faith” down the ramp and a bit longer to convince them that their stalls (right next to each other) only contained good things.  To be clear, they were not overly fearful, just unsure – and eventually accepted the assurances offered that life (and their accommodations)  had indeed taken a turn for the better.  When we left them, they were standing in deep shavings, had discovered their water buckets and were fully engrossed in demolishing their piles of hay.Grace-Faith at Bookmark Farm

As evening began reaching toward night, Loraine and I said our ‘goodbyes’ to Joan, her sister Annie and the small group of interested people speaking quietly outside the stalls of the two little mares.  We cleaned out the trailer borrowed from wonderful Sharon Chappelear (who was actually using her trailer when I called asking to borrow it, hurried home, filled it with fresh shavings and hay so we could have it!), returned it and went back to Trinity Farm to finish up evening chores there.

Weary, drained, deeply saddened by so much of what we had seen this day – buoyed by the outpouring of help and hearts, grateful that four horses were seeing a better night, grieved over the ones remaining in the dirt lot – and for those in similar straits yet undiscovered.  I wish I could tell you that a glass of wine and a good night sleep returned my heart’s balance. It didn’t, but we continue to be uplifted that so many others share these emotions, and are willing to do what they can, when they can – to help.  This certainty, hand-in-glove with the sure knowledge that there are other horses, in other dirt lots – patiently waiting for hay, water, and attention that might never come, keep us going.    Stephanie and Loraine

If you are interested in joining us in our efforts, this link will take you to a page of our website dedicated to the horses we are helping.  It shares further information about The Shepherd’s Corner and also offers a link to donate funds through PayPal.  http://theshepherdscorner.org/horses.html

Other donations of materials and time, or any questions may be addressed by emailing: stephanie@theshepherdscorner.org or loraine@theshepherdscorner.org

9-20-2013

The Humane Officer for a Central Ohio county called me last week regarding a horse rescue. Our teams had worked together previously and, from the sound of his voice, I knew he was concerned;  “You guys were the first people I thought of” he said.

Our friend had been made aware of, and subsequently visited a site, well down a long gravel drive and hidden from the main road – where a small herd of horses had been living in a dirt lot.  Two horses, stallions, lived in stalls/enclosures inside a covered structure. Most of the horses were thin, some terribly so – scoring 1 to 1.5 on the Henneke Horse Body Condition Scale. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henneke_horse_body_condition_scoring_system

The officer told me that the owner of these horses had agreed to surrender four of them that were severely underweight  in lieu of prosecution, and had agreed to adopt a menu/feeding plan mandated by the large animal veterinarian working with that county’s Humane Society, as well as to accept weekly monitoring at the site.

As our facility at Trinity Farm is currently full, we started to make calls to see who might be available to foster one or more of the horses.  We had fosters for two by the time we hitched our own trailer, borrowed another and headed to the site.  Just as we turned onto the long drive to where the horses were living, another farm had kindly opened their barn and offered to take the last two.

We parked the trucks and trailers in an open grassy area and were met by a representative of the horse owner who was to show us the horses to be surrendered; the owner arrived shortly thereafter.

We were led first to an indoor riding arena, the end of which held a stall and a small corral, each containing a stallion.  The stallion in the stall was standing in fetlock deep muck, both were eating hay and had access to water.  We were told that the stalled stallion was one of the four we were to take that day. First pic of Pirate We were then led to the outdoor dirt lot where the rest of the herd was living.  There was a lone bale of hay sitting outside the dirt lot that had partially been parceled out to the horses in the pen, and, at the time, they had a full trough of water.

Though the horses were sharing the current bounty amiably enough, the herd hierarchy was plain in the hips and ribs visible in those of lower status.

IMG_2872The little palomino mare pictured to the left was one of those surrendered on the day.  After some discussion, the decision was made to transport she and the stallion together.  Despite being told that the stallion was “studdish” and had kicked at the owner several times when she attempted to cleaned his stall – he quietly came to his stall door when I approached, put his head into the halter I offered and allowed me to lead him to the bottom of the trailer ramp.  Within ten minutes, he had been persuaded to walk quietly up into the trailer and stand tied, eating hay out of the net.  Pirate up the trailer ramp         Pirate eating hay on trailer

The little palomino was equally amenable to being moved.  I approached her from the rear as she was facing away from me, working on a little pile of hay that she had to herself.Hope in dirt lot, first approach           I spoke to her as I got closer and she turned to look at me over her shoulder.  She sweetly allowed me to halter her and even though I was clearly leading her away from the hay, she only paused for a moment – and followed me.  In under 10 minutes, she had walked the ramp into the trailer and was companionably eating hay from her own Hope partially up trailer rampnet as well.

The last two surrendered horses were a pair of black and white mares that, as we observed them, seemed to have an attachment to each other, this evidenced by sharing their bounty together, one muzzle virtually mirroring the other as they hovered over the small pile of hay.  The poorest of the two seemed to grasp quickly that walking onto the trailer (and its veritable ‘motherload’ of hay hanging temptingly inside) was the thing to do and took little coaxing to venture inside its confines.   Her friend, Grace on the trailerhowever, took much longer to persuade….it was another two-plus hours before she finally loaded and we could officially remove them from the property and into the next chapter of their lives.  Note: despite her angst about loading on the trailer – once on, this little mare immediately and contentedly plunged into the hay in front of her and traveled without a ‘peep’.

I confess that I have struggled to write this first post.  The Shepherd’s Corner Equine Rescue is solely about helping the horses bearing the fallout of their owner/caregiver’s distress or dysfunction; we see nothing helpful about vilifying the people responsible for such suffering.  However, as you can see in this handful of pictures, the treatment and subsequent condition of these horses is appalling.  And, although we kept a professional demeanor on site, you will understand that tears fell as we traveled down the road toward our fostering farms and have continued to sneak up and tackle all of us involved since then.

Please continue to follow this story as it unfolds on subsequent posts and consider adding your time, talent or treasure to the efforts of rehabilitating and, ultimately re-homing these horses.  Financial contributions may be made by following this link to our website and Paypal information: http://theshepherdscorner.org/horses.html  and contributions of Equine Senior, shredded beet pulp, cocoa-soya, bales of shavings for bedding, hay as well as your hands to help feed and care for these horses at the fostering facilities are all most welcome and may be coordinated through emailing:  stephanie@theshepherdscorner.org

 

Who is She?

Mona 2-26-13Mona Lisa” is a 10-ish year old draft cross mare and has lived at Trinity Farm for almost two years. She is dignified, careful and has gigantic presence. If you look into her eyes, she will utterly capture you. Mona graciously accepts her meals, and occasionally treats, but has not really offered her companionship. Touching is generally limited to the ‘incidental’ moments when her lips take a proffered treat. If you seek to touch her, she will simply move away – even at the cost of her breakfast. Even so, this is a far cry from the Mona we first met….

We know that she arrived in this country from Canada in a horse dealer’s trailer. Because of her breed, and the condition of her udder and teats, we speculate that Mona had lived on a Premarin production farm.

Premarin, a popular hormone replacement drug for post-menopausal women, is produced from the urine of pregnant mares. Information regarding the production of Premarin and all its ramifications may be found in other places, suffice it to say however that farms producing and collecting the urine do so by keeping herds of mares, usually draft or draft crosses, almost continuously pregnant. The mares stand in narrow stalls many hours a day with a urine collection apparatus attached to them. When the mare delivers her foal, she is re-bred as soon as physically possible so that hormone production/collection may continue. The foal is considered a byproduct of the process and though sometimes re-located via equine rescues in the United States, is often simply pulled from the mother and destroyed. As part of a Premarin mare herd, Mona would have little or no time in a pasture setting, rather spending her days in confinement of one sort or another – eating, standing, urinating, delivering foals and repeating the cycle. It is likely that Mona had ceased being useful in the production process, probably by failing to hold another pregnancy, and was culled into the horse dealer’s trailer.

Once in the States, Mona was purchased by a group of veterinarians to become part of their clinic’s embryo transplant program. We are told that at the time she was presented for purchase she stood tied quietly to a trailer, submitted to a physical exam and could be led. She ‘vetted’ well, and transaction complete, Mona went to live in a beautiful and well managed facility.  Mona seemed to have landed “jelly side up” –  but it is here that her story takes an unexpected turn.

Although compliant in the beginning, something began to change in Mona’s behavior. She started to resist being caught out in pasture, and handling Mona became increasingly problematic. Despite competent and kind handling, her defiant behavior escalated and it eventually became too difficult for the team to perform the necessary physical examinations and procedures required for Mona to receive and carry transplanted embryos. Much discussion ensued and the services of an off site trainer – well known for his quiet and sound training methods – was employed. Reports from the trainer were not encouraging. Mona continued to refuse basic training and after she tore down his round pen, he washed his hands of her.

Unable to be utilized further in the transplant program, Mona left the facility and went to live at the family farm of one of the clinic’s veterinarians. She was turned out quietly for awhile in hope that whatever had changed would somehow alter again and offer a way for Mona to fit in somewhere. Enter Heather Valentine – an experienced and savvy horseman who was already working with some of the horses on the farm and was now asked to include Mona in her training schedule. 

Heather had heard about Mona, and had seen her in the distant paddock at the farm, but had not actually visited with Mona. Doing so now, Heather immediately appreciated the finer points of Mona’s build and noted the ‘presence’ her personality generated. She believed that Mona would be an interesting project until, she says with a wry smile,

      “I made the ‘mistake’ of looking into her eyes.”

Heather was immediately and thoroughly smitten by the mare, and it was she who formally dubbed her “The Mona Lisa”;

      “There was just so much in her eye. Mystery, intelligence… a person”.

Heather began regular work with Mona, trying to begin a relationship that Mona would embrace. The sessions included some type of contact, often over the fence, enticing Mona with treats and meals – hoping to underscore in Mona’s mind that good things happened when Heather appeared. She ultimately was able to halter and sometimes lead the mare however when Mona decided not to be led, it usually meant Heather heading back to the field or stable as the ‘crack’ on the end of the whip. Although in the end, Mona could be moved place to place via chutes and gates, and would stay in a stall, she remained tricky (some would say dangerous) to lead and continued to eschew touching or handling of any other sort unless it was solely on her terms.

At last, reluctant to invest further in the mare who seemed so unwilling to embrace more than the barest human interaction, the vet weighed his options. Aware that selling, or otherwise finding a new home for a horse displaying such behavior was problematic at best, and that sending Mona to an auction was likely to turn out badly for her – he sadly decided to humanely euthanize the mare.

Completely understanding the decision but unable to get the mare out of her mind, Heather came up with an alternative. With the blessing of the veterinarian, she took ownership of Mona and developed a plan to continue working with the mare at another site, setting a strict (although generous) time frame within which to work.

     Says Heather, “I wanted more time to see if we could connect in a meaningful way, but knew that both my schedule and funds were already mostly spoken for. I felt that if I didn’t set a time limit, it was possible that Mona’s choices would put us both out of business – but I couldn’t let her go without trying. My goal was to have Mona haltering and leading easily and otherwise ready for some sort of ‘break and train’ program within the time I had to offer. If it didn’t happen, I knew I would have to let her go.”

If it came to that, the vet (still hoping for the best) had agreed to euthanize the mare.

In the Spring of 2011, Heather brought Mona to Trinity Farm as the layout and general atmosphere of the farm seemed to lend itself toward the budding partnership.

We used my truck and trailer to bring Mona to the farm” says Stephanie Phillips, owner of Trinity Farm and founder of The Shepherd’s Corner Equine Rescue. “Heather and I had spoken at length about her and I was very interested to meet the horse that had made such an impression on her. I remember seeing Mona from a distance and thinking, ‘Oh wow! She’s really pretty’ but when I got closer, her presence came at me like a wall and there was such intelligence in her eye – it stopped me in my tracks. I immediately understood why Heather had been so moved, and why I now found myself in the same predicament”.

Heather continued her work with Mona at Trinity Farm – still moving forward but not quite to the place she wanted to be with the mare.

In the fall of 2011, Mona made a science of adorning her forelock, mane and tail with a bumper crop of burrs. Concern that the burrs would drop into or scratch an eye led Heather to call the vet for help. It was agreed that if we could get Mona into a stall, he would come and serve her a relaxing “cocktail” strong enough to make burr removal possible. It was a good plan and, in the end, served the purpose intended; Mona’s mane and forelock were clipped completely and all the burrs cut out of her tail. A wound on Mona’s shoulder that had appeared, festered, mostly healed and then festered again – was thoroughly investigated and cleaned, and vaccinations were given. Mona’s best pasture-pal stood stalwartly by her side during the adventure and when they were returned to the pasture, Mona did not seem to have been offended.

Though all was well in the end, leading Mona from the pasture into the barn for her “cocktail” took a decidedly scary turn when she broke away from Heather and took off toward the back of the farm, went careening across the neighbors field and out onto the country road bordering the neighbor’s property. Heather caught up with her at an intersection approximately a quarter mile from Trinity Farm and, once back in Heather’s company, Mona allowed herself to be led into the barn and waiting stall. Although Mona acceded to Heather’s honorable intention in the end, it was a disheartening event given the time and effort Heather had put forth in nurturing their relationship.

About this time, Heather’s own life took some unexpected (although ultimately good) turns that significantly shortened the amount of time she had to spend with Mona. Heather and Stephanie agreed that though the slight softening in Mona’s stance on contact-with-people had been hard won, and had taken much longer than anticipated, it seemed that Mona might be willing to open up a bit more…that is, even after the time invested and slow results, neither of them were ready to call the vet and let Mona go.

So, Heather passed Mona’s ‘torch’ to The Shepherd’s Corner , the equine rescue and rehabilitation organization based on the farm. It was understood that the work of inviting Mona back into commerce with humans would continue, Heather adding to the process as her new schedule permitted.

     Says Stephanie, “Mona has become the pet project of the farm.” Everyone who goes out into the pasture to get their horse, offers treats and conversation if they pass near Mona. In the beginning, if she deigned to look at you at all, you had to leave the treat on the ground for her to retrieve. Now she will gingerly take a treat from your palm, but the process is still very much on her terms.”

                            It is here that we pick-up Mona’s Story

 Mona's Face