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. 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.
The 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.
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. 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 net 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, however, 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: firstname.lastname@example.org