Wednesday, November 30, 2011

So what do we do now?

The last few days there's been lots of press about the signing of Bill H2112 into law.  The NEW version of this Bill has removed Section 739, the Section that prevented the slaughter of horses in the US since 2007 by removing tax payer funded compensation for USDA Inspectors to inspect horsemeat.   That means that now MILLIONS of our tax dollars will go to once again pay USDA Inspectors to inspect and approve horse meat for exported human consumption.  The door to bring back horse slaughter on US soil has been swung wide open.

I'm working on the assumption that if you read this Blog, you are very likely against the slaughter of horses for their meat.  Like us, you probably see a horse as more of a trusted companion than as livestock chattel.

So what do anti-slaughter supporters do now?

First and most importantly- we need to EDUCATE everyone we can about OUR VIEW.  Many people out there haven't even thought about this issue, and the topic is surrounded with propaganda and intentionally misguiding sound bytes from the pro-slaughter camps. Here's what I wish everyone who was pro-slaughter, or even undecided, would know before they decided to take that stance.

Horse slaughter will NOT HELP decrease the unwanted horse problem, whether the slaughter is in the US, or anywhere else. Slaughter is a demand driven business.  More horses will not be slaughtered just because they can be obtained cheaply or even free.  The proof is in the numbers- the relative same number of horses have been slaughtered since 2007, despite the fact that horses currently now cost about 1/5 of what they did in 2007.   

Horse slaughter is not more "humane" in the US.  While everyone agrees nothing is worse than the horror that is Mexico, the US uses the captive bolt- the same method currently employed in Canada.  The captive bolt was designed for cattle who have short necks and less of a flight instinct.  Horses have long, flexible necks that effectively avoid the 4 inch bolt being rammed into their skull.  Often they are hit multiple times in the face, head, and neck... even eyes. Even Temple Grandin, the famed designer of many modern slaughterhouses has claimed there is no commercially viable method to slaughter horses that she can deem humane. 
Does this look "humane?"
Horses WILL NOT be turned out to run loose and starve if we don't slaughter them!  Excuse me, but OH BULLSHIT!!!!  #1.  Nearly all claims of horses being turned loose have been found false or unfounded.  #2.  No mentally healthy human being would let an animal starve to death.  No one.  Even if they were unable/unwilling to feed it, they could: sell it, auction it, euthanize it, shoot it, give it away, or TURN IT OVER TO ANIMAL CONTROL.  I admit we hear more about animal neglect than ever before.  But we also have a world wide media that can spread news without limit.  Is neglect happening more, or is it reported more?  Having personally been to several starvation seizures, I can assure you that mental illness was the causative factor.... not lack of money. 

It's NOT the only way to get rid of all these unwanted horses.   Everyone agrees there are more horses than homes right now.  But how about some human responsibility here?  Somebody either specifically planned or allowed for every horse on that slaughter truck to be created.  Someone planned a breeding, or turned a stallion out with mares, or kept a colt at it's dams side until it bred her.  Some HUMAN did that.  These aren't wild horses.  We could stop the over breeding by educating horse owners, encouraging gelding, and maybe even requiring breeders to pay to be licensed or have a per-foal fee.

And my favorite:  "But, there's no other choice for someone with an unwanted horse they can't sell!"   Here's some choices I'd be happy to tell that owner about!  How about decency and responsibility?  Those are choices, too.  The choice could be made to train the un-halterbroke 4 year old you created, as well as the 20 year old broodmare who you cranked babies out of but never started.  You could give your horse the skills it needs to make it valuable and have a fair shot in life.  How about kindness?  If it's lame and broke down... euthanize the poor horse.  Or sacrifice?  Do without a few lattes and brown bag it, and maybe you could stretch you funds and keep your horse.  What about gratitude?  You could retire that outgrown or retiring mount and thank it for it's dedicated service to you.  And how about accountability?  Did you do something stupid like jump into horse ownership too fast, buy the wrong horse, not think about the fact that you might go to college in 2 years?  Some of those situations are unfortunate, but it still boils down to YOU being the one who made that choice, and it should be YOU who figures out a responsible way to fix it.  Why not throw hard work in with the choices, too?  You could get that second job, work those extra hours, and maybe even arrange to work off some board.

So now we've covered some of the myths.  But here's what slaughter DOES do:  It rewards a horse who spent it's life trusting and serving humans with a brutal and terrifying death.  It makes them watch other horses being killed and dying before it gets it's turn. It promotes and rewards irresponsible ownership and overbreeding.  It uses our tax dollars to fund foreign owned businesses that profit GREATLY and pay little taxes and offer no benefits to the US.  It creates environmental nightmares wherever it happens to be located.  It destroys property values for the surrounding area.  It creates a handful of measly, dangerous, low paying jobs.

Now here's some GOOD NEWS.
H.R. 2966: The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011 is in Congress.  Call.  Write.  Be calm, concise, and professional.  Tell your friends.  Tell your co-workers.  Tell people on the street if you must! 

America's horses don't need this, and this is our last chance to protect them! 

~Christine Hajek, President and Founder

Unless you are OK with this being a horse you owned, bred, or once rode; you need to oppose horse slaughter.  Every single one was SOMEONE'S.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Announcing the Maryland Hay Bank!

In times such as these, many horse owners find it increasingly difficult to find the finances required to properly keep a horse.  They may move their horse to self-care field board, where before they had access to full care and a nice comfy stall.  They may stop going to shows, and they may stop giving their horse expensive treats and massages. They eat boiled noodles for every meal, and would starve for a day if it means they can buy a bale of hay for their horse.

But what is a horse owner to do when they cannot actually afford to keep their horse? I mean they cut all hard feed (grain) and are hoping there is enough grass to last through winter (which there never is), and if they are able to buy hay, it may not be good enough for horses and could make them sick.  At this point, options are limited.  It usually comes down to either giving the horse up, or the horse suffers neglect, which can come in various forms as lack of farrier or dental care, no veterinary care, and eventually starvation.

Sadly, many owners wait as long as they can, hoping they're about to hit an upturn, and before they know it the horse is a rack of bones with slipper feet.  At this point, actually before it, the situation has become a crisis.  If the horse does not get the proper care before this point, chances of finding a new home and recovering are slim to none.

Several years ago, there would have been room at rescues to take such cases in before they even got to such a state.  But every rescue is operating at or beyond capacity (very few people can afford to adopt and take on another mouth to feed) and having to turn away horses who are not in dire circumstances, and even those sometimes end up being a situation where the rescue will fund the humane euthanasia of the horse, as opposed to death by starvation or horrific end in a slaughterhouse.

No one is safe from the economic downturn, and just because someone cannot afford to feed their horses now doesn't necessarily make them bad owners.  If they are truly good owners, they will explore all options possible for finding their horses good homes before it comes down to "Rescue my horse or it's going to slaughter on Tuesday."  When owners have a deadline and have bills to pay, it is very hard to resist less-than-humane ways for getting rid of their horses.

To help people have just a little more time to find a good home for their horses, get a job that can cover the cost of horse ownership, or even come up with money to humanely euthanize their animals, Gentle Giants has created the Maryland Hay Bank.

Applicants who are accepted will receive (for FREE) one bale of good hay per horse per day for one month.  The catch? They have to come up with a plan (and act on it before the month is out) to rectify their situation (i.e. find new homes, get another job, or even euthanasia).

The hay, in essence, is not a handout, it is a handUP.  We give them a hand up to get them back on their feet.  They may not have their horses at the end of it, but it keeps the horses safe and off of European dinner plates.

For the Rescue's groundbreaking program, ABC2News interviewed Christine, and wrote a lovely article about it:

Maryland Rescue Offers Free Hay to Save Horses

We have received numerous applications already, and hope to help as many horses as we can.  They don't have to be drafts, either.  They can be ponies, minis, Arabians, Warmbloods, even mules and donkeys, etc.

Everyone always talks about the issue of horse slaughter, and how there isn't much anyone can do about the problem.  THIS is our answer!  We help legitimate people network and buy themselves and their horses some time before EVER considering that option.  No horse deserves to end its days on a cramped, hot trailer and being butchered and ending up on someone's table! 

One can only hope every state will begin such a program, and we are willing to help people outside of Maryland connect to get hay or new homes. 

Maybe, just maybe this is the beginning of the end of American horses being shipped to slaughter.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Million-Dollar Question

Here's a topic that has been making the rounds in the horse blog community the past week or so:  How much are horseowners allowed to get away with before they are not allowed to have any horses?

This topic can be somewhat controversial, so I'm going to ask it from a rescue's point of view: Are there any issues in someone's situation that would make us not consider them for adoption? Yes, absolutely.  Every time we adopt out a horse, we expect it to be a forever home, so we do all we can to learn about the potential adopters and match them with the perfect horse.  And if we don't have that perfect horse, we are upfront about it and tell them that we don't have anyone at that time who will suit their needs.

Every adopter goes through an intense process of evaluation.  One step involves several visits to the farm to get to know the horse, and if the horse is broke to ride, it is ridden to see how well the rider's abilities complement the horse.

If a horse is deemed appropriate for an adopter and they seem to have a bond over the course of those visits, we will allow them to put a deposit on the horse, which puts them first in line to adopt that horse, pending further evaluation.

On our webpage, you will sometimes see "Adoption Pending" next to a horse's name.  This means that the potential adopters still need to have their references checked and/or have the facility the horse will be kept at inspected for the safety and comfort of the horse.  Most of the time, they will get through the reference stage with flying colors.  When we get to the inspection phase, we are absolutely meticulous in determining if a facility is good enough for our "furry children."  In almost every case there is room for improvement, and as long as the adopters are willing to work with us it usually works out.  It can be something as simple as getting a better trashcan to store feed in or replacing a few boards in their fenceline.

So where in the process do things tend to go wrong for potential adopters? Everywhere!  Fortunately, Christine is very good at filtering the good from the bad over the phone or via e-mail.

Phone/e-mail screening gives us a general idea of who that person is and what they are looking for.  If they are nonspecific in their needs, most of the time they are not ready for a horse.  If they want a companion for their own horse, and then mention their horse is a stallion and the horse they want is a mare, they are not ready for another horse until the stallion becomes a cute gelding.

Adopters meeting the horses is a no-brainer.  These visits not only give the adopter a chance to choose and bond with a horse, but they give us the opportunity to determine what the adopter is like.  For example, some adopters play up their riding abilities, and once they're on the horse, they don't have a clue what to do.  Heck, we've had people put saddles on backwards, girths around necks, completely dismantle bridles, the list goes on and on.  Seriously, you can't make this stuff up!  Fortunately, the horses tend to let us know when someone is "off" and won't work out.  If the horse doesn't like them, there's no way we're going to adopt them out to that home.

References are a crucial part in evaluating someone's readiness to adopt.  We contact friends, family, vets, employers, barn owners/managers, farriers, etc.  If someone's vet hasn't seen their current horses in several years, that may be a sign they have a form of husbandry that doesn't quite meet our standards, as there are vaccinations and routine veterinary procedures that all horses need at least once a year.  We talk to everyone we can as there is almost always someone who is going to spill the beans that not all is good at someone's farm.

For someone to make it to the inspection stage, it means that we are extremely confident in their ability to provide for the horse.  No one has exposed any skeletons in their proverbial closet, they have a good and honest air about them, the horse really likes them, and there are no signs of a fallout on the horizon.  But every once in a while someone's facilities are so deplorable that we wonder how we were fooled for so long.  How did they get through such a rigorous screening process?!?!  THEY DON'T SEE ANYTHING WRONG with how they keep their current horses, and the people who are around them ALSO see nothing wrong.  I'm talking about tiny paddocks crammed with not just their current horses, but also other livestock, all skinny and in two feet of mud, urine, and feces, no hay or clean water in sight, falling down barbed wire fences, the whole shebang.

We ALWAYS take the opportunity to tell people why we will not adopt horses out to them, and ways they can improve to be considered for adoption in the future.

But here's the thing: Everyone who wants to adopt from us believes they already would be a good home.  From the second they decide they want a horse (and not just from us), they believe they will provide a good home for that horse, no matter what their level (or lack) of experience is.  Some people take critiques of their horsemanship, facilities, whatever to heart and try very hard to make changes, while others see no problem with what they are doing and take great offense to our attempt at education.

So here's the million-dollar question: How do you educate people who believe they already know it all?

Fortunately, we are not obligated to adopt out to just anyone who wants one of our horses.  While we would have a fantastic turnover rate, we would just be putting horses into another situation from which they would need to be rescued again.  That's not fair to the horses in the least.  When we initially rescued the horses, it was with the promise to them that from that moment on, they would have a better life.

Adopters have to agree to a MASSIVE contract before they are allowed to take a horse home.  Obviously (or not so obviously to some), we have a strict no-breeding clause for all mares we adopt out (we do not adopt out intact males, everything is gelded before it leaves the farm- apparently this is not a practice observed by all rescues!). 

Even such an intense evaluation process and placement of a horse cannot weed out every single person who might not be a permanent home.  In fact, everyone starts out as a great owner and gives fantastic updates with tons of photos, but a change in their circumstances may inhibit their ability to properly care for their horses, such as divorce, job loss, medical problems, etc.  Every so often an adopter will just get into a rut and will not contact us for help until the horse is in dire straits.  Fortunately this doesn't happen often, and most of the time we can intervene before the horse is neglected.  In such a rough economy, horses are oftentimes the first luxury to go, and if someone is hesitant to have the horse taken away from them for another day or holds out hope some miracle will come along tomorrow, they may be willing to overlook another visible rib or the hip bones poking out.

So now that you've made it through yet another of my lengthy posts, we could really use your input!  While I'd like to say there are no right or wrong answers, we, as a rescue, have to draw the line somewhere to ensure our horses get into the best homes possible; there are just certain situations we would NEVER subject our horses to.

What conditions do you believe are totally unacceptable for being allowed a horse?

To what lengths would you go to improve your property to be allowed a horse? For example: If you have barbed wire fencing and we said it was unacceptable, would you replace it?  Or would you just go to another rescue that doesn't care?

Is it unreasonable to ask potential adopters to improve themselves (i.e. take lessons on how to handle a draft horse, or take lessons to make them a more competent rider) before being allowed a certain horse?  Should we expect ALL adopters to spend a specified amount of time with us learning how to handle their draft?  Or create a class/program/test they should go through?  Would this deter you from wanting to adopt from us?

And the really big question once again: How would you educate someone who sees nothing wrong with the way they keep their animals, and believes their method is right simply because nothing has gotten seriously injured or died (yet)?
 (Okay, that's a little different than what I asked previously, but that's the ideology that we meet on an increasing basis.)

Whew, some heady stuff.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Howard County Fair: Draft and Mule Show!!!

Whew, what an exhausting couple of weeks!  We're just settling back into our routine after all the prep and showing for the Howard County Draft and Mule Show last weekend at the Howard County Fair.


For those unfamiliar with showing horses, here's a quick rundown of all the prep it takes to get a draft horse ready for a show (and we took eight horses!):

The week before the show:
- Learn how to trot in hand and square up for the judges
- First pre-show bath a week before the show (Sunrise and Penny got their very first baths!)
- Hooves trimmed
- Feathers washed several times the week before the show
- Begin clipping hairs on chin, muzzle, ears, guard hairs, and feathers for Percherons and Belgians the week before
- Thin and shorten manes, tails and forelocks (we use horse-sized dematting rakes)
- Another full bath a few days before the show
- Use hand razors to remove the remaining long hairs on the face and clean up blazes a couple of days before the show
- Go over the whole body with grill blocks to de-shed and flatten hairs (to make them shiny)
- Last full bath the day before the show- tons of deep scrubbing!
- Stalled overnight so they don't go out and give themselves a full-body mud mask treatment

Morning of the show:
- Load and trailer to the show
- Wash the inevitable poo off of everyone's feathers and butts (do they make draft-sized full-body Slinkies?)
- Braid tails (draft buns for docked tails, Hunter braid for long tails)
- Mane rolls for geldings
- Forelock braided, and one braid at the beginning of the mane for mares
- Black hoof polish on Belgians and Percherons (no hoof polish on the Clydesdales, thank goodness!)
- Coat polish spray
- Mineral oil on darker muzzles
- Show in Halter (Adult, Youth Showmanship)
- Those who are broke to ride are shown in English and Western Youth and Adult classes (each requires different tack)
- Those who are broke to drive are shown in an appropriate Driving class (which means we had to bring a wagon with us, too!)


And not to mention the TONS of help we had getting the horses (and riders/handlers) ready!!!  It was hot, it was humid, and despite the inevitable stress-induced crankiness, our volunteers stuck around to help and were so incredibly amazing!  THANK YOU!!!!!


We brought eight horses with us: Manhattan (Belgian), Meadow (Belgian), Texas (Belgian), Whiskey (Belgian), Trooper (Percheron), Sunrise (Clydesdale), Penny (Clydesdale), and Patty (Clydesdale).  Considering that collectively we don't have a lot of show experience, and that we were showing against really big breeders who show all the time, we did very well!

Our star of the show turned out to be Sunrise, who against ALL odds survived a horrific injury to be able to show and BEAT a lot of other Clydesdales at the show!  When we pulled Sunrise and the other Clydes from the kill pen earlier this year, she had a four-inch-long nail buried in her hoof, and the bacteria it injected into her hoof gave her a less than 25% chance of survival.

Sunrise won her age group, she won Junior Champion Clydesdale Mare, and she went on to get Reserve Grand Champion Clydesdale!!!!

She will proceed to show at the Maryland State Fair, as well as the Frederick County Fair.  We're also toying with taking her to Keystone, the biggest breed show on the East Coast!

Other results for the day:

Penny (she doesn't have a webpage yet) won her age group in Halter (3 and 4 and under Clydesdale Mare)

Trooper was 3rd in Adult English Under Saddle

Texas was 1st in Youth Showmanship, 3rd in Halter (Belgian Gelding), 1st in Youth Western Under Saddle, 2nd in Youth English Under Saddle, 4th in Adult English Under Saddle, and 6th in Adult Western Under Saddle

Patty got 3rd place Clydesdale Mare, and was 5th in Adult English Under Saddle

Meadow was 6th in Adult English Under Saddle

Manhattan was 5th in Halter (Belgian Gelding), 3rd in Pleasure Driving

Whiskey was 3rd in Youth Showmanship, 4th in Halter (Belgian Gelding), 1st in Youth English Under Saddle, and 2nd in Youth Western Under Saddle

So everyone went home with a ribbon, woohoo!!

And now, some pics!


Sunrise (Reserve Grand Champion Clydesdale):

Penny (1st Place 3 Y.O. Clydesdale Mare):

Patty (3rd Place Clydesdale Mare):

Manhattan (5th Place Belgian Gelding):

Texas (3rd Place Belgian Gelding, 1st Place Youth Showmanship):

Whiskey (4th Place Belgian Gelding, 3rd Place Youth Showmanship):


Manhattan (3rd Place Pleasure Driving):


Meadow (Left, 6th Place Adult English Under Saddle) and Texas (4th Place Adult English Under Saddle, 6th Place Adult Western Under Saddle):

Patty (5th Place Adult English Under Saddle)

Whiskey (Left, 2nd Place Youth Western Under Saddle), Texas (Right, 2nd Place Youth English Under Saddle, 1st Place Youth Western Under Saddle):

Whiskey (1st Place Youth English Under Saddle):

Trooper (3rd Place Adult English Under Saddle):

For more photos, be sure to visit our Facebook Page!

Again, THANK YOU to everyone who helped out!!!


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Winky's Fun in the Sun!

Such a character!  Despite the pain she must be in from her surgery, Winky is playful and loving life! She is supposed to be on stall rest, but couldn't stay still and we were afraid she'd whack her stitches open.  She's "free" in a small paddock with the Clyde mare (whom we still need to re-name! Ideas? She was "Ruby," but we don't repeat names, as there already was a Ruby [mule]).

This afternoon, Christine was topping off water troughs, and Winky was staring her down every time she moved the hose.  Just to see what would happen, Christine directed the spray onto Winky, and she LOVED it!  She would turn around to get both sides, then go trotting off, kick up her heels, and come back for more. :)

This video is from later in the day, so I had to flush the hot water out of the hose before spraying her down.  Boy, was she impatient!

Enjoy!  (Sorry, it's sideways!)

(The Fire Line tape is being used to alert volunteers to the quarantined area our eye cases are living in)


Friday, July 22, 2011

Winky Update: Post-Surgery

Winky had her surgery today! We took her to Valley Equine Hospital, where Dr. Meagher did her surgery.

The eye was removed, but Dr. Meagher was unable to excise all of the bad tissue in the lower eyelid, so she does still have a large bulge.  He said the tissue did not feel like typical post-trauma tissue, and he is highly suspicious that it is cancerous.  They sent off samples to be tested, and we should have the results within 7-10 days.

The results will determine where we go from here.  Obviously, we hope it's not cancer.  If it is cancer, hopefully it is a type that generally responds well to chemotherapy.

We have had a tremendous amount of support in getting Winky back on her feet, thank you so much!  She definitely needs good jingles right now, so keep your fingers crossed for the best!

A couple of pics right after she got home:


The other eye case (the Clyde mare who came in a couple of days before Winky) seems to be doing a little better.  She is on a course of antibiotics, and now that she is on an EPSM-friendly diet, she is already putting on weight and is a little more comfortable.  She still has a lot of muscle pain, but that should subside as her body becomes accustomed to the diet.

Here is a photo of her eye:

A better pic of her body condition:

Her previous owner called her "Ruby," but we already have one.  Someone suggested "Shaky," as she has almost constant muscle tremors, but that seemed a little too cruel... so I suggested "Shakira" as a joke.  Her hips don't lie! (And that, dear readers, is proof that the heat completely addled my brains today... Keep cool!)


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Injured Mares- Spotted Draft and Clydesdale

In the past couple of days, we had a couple of mares arrive with severe eye conditions.

The first to arrive was a Clydesdale mare from PA.  Her owner believed she had cancer on one of her eyelids, and found that it wasn't within her means to have the eye treated.  Another rescue promised to help, but it was taking too long to get help for her, and the eye was only getting worse.

After examination by our vet, it is believed the mare might only have an infection in the eye.  We have started her on a course of antibiotics to determine if that is the only problem with the eye or if there really is cancer.

The mare is also very underweight, and is in severe pain from EPSM, a disorder which draft breeds are highly prone to developing.   I couldn't get many good pics, as standing still is very uncomfortable for her.  As the pain meds kick in and she settles in, hopefully I can get a better shot of her.

Here's the best full-body shot I have of her at the moment, where she and the Spotted Draft mare are quarantined from the rest of the farm:


The more severely injured mare, a Spotted Draft approximately between 12 and 16 years of age, arrived late Tuesday morning from the area where KY, WV, and OH meet.  What an incredible story this mare has!

She sustained an eye injury (it looks like she was hit by a 2x4) and was brought to Sugarcreek Auction to be dumped.  This mare's injury was so bad that the auction wouldn't accept her into the sale. They also tried to enter a blind Standardbred into the sale, but he wasn't accepted, either. Unfortunately, this means that there is no record of who attempted to dump them there.

Since their owners couldn't get rid of them at the auction, they were just turned loose in the countryside.  They were found in a strip mine and picked up by animal control, who asked Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue to take them.  The rescue was able to find a temporary foster home for the pair, and that's where we picked the mare up.  Below are some photos unloading her from the trailer and settling in.

*Warning*  Graphic photos of her injured eye are below.  You can click on the photos for a larger view.  Don't say I didn't warn you!

The vet examined her and determined that the injury occurred some 2-3 weeks ago.  Sadly, the eye is already dead and cannot be saved.  Her surgery is scheduled for this Thursday.  Since the damage is severe and the area is infected, the surgery is going to be very extensive.  The surgeons will have to remove the eye and bone fragments, reconstruct the area, clean out the infection, and close it all up.  She will probably have a drain to keep fluids from building up for some time after the surgery.

For having such a painful injury, she is a very sweet mare!


If you are interested in helping these two sweet girls, please consider donating here: Gentle Giants  (follow the link and click on the yellow "Donate" button).  Any amount helps!

To have the funds go to a specific horse/cause, either message us on Facebook or e-mail to let us know.


We would also like to extend a HUGE thanks to those who helped get the mares to our farm, especially Athena of Horse Jitney, Carey and Cody of Movin' On Farm, Nick DiFranco, Dr. Brokaw, and all those who helped care for the mares and connect us to them!  And thanks to all our volunteers who stepped up to the plate to help with the chores while we prepped the quarantine and got the girls settled in!


Monday, July 11, 2011

Oldies but Goodies

I hear it over and over and over again: “It’s skinny because it’s old!”
Nothing infuriates me more than hearing that as an excuse for why someone’s horse is thin. There is NO excuse for ANY horse to be skinny, short of them having a serious illness and being under the supervision of a vet who believes the horse will recover from said illness.

Most of the time, the only reason an older horse may be thin is because they have horrible teeth. For my non-horsey readers: horse teeth aren’t like our own teeth; they need to be filed down every once in a while (“floated”) so that they have a level chewing surface to properly break down their food for digestion. It’s a simple enough solution and works for most older horses, who will begin picking up their weight almost immediately without any change in diet.

If having their teeth floated doesn’t work to the extent one would hope, the next step would be to put them on a Senior-type feed, which is specially formulated for older horses. Their bodies can use more of the feed and digest the pellets much better than coarse sweet feeds.

Just giving them the means to eat or have something they can digest will let maybe 90% of those skinny horses re-gain their weight and look like they’re eight years old again.

If the horse is unable to gain weight with having 24/7 access to good pasture and/or hay, and getting several square meals a day, you need to seriously re-evaluate the horse’s condition with your vet. If it is not within your means to keep a horse in healthy weight, you need to re-evaluate why you are keeping the horse. If the horse has some medical condition that is incurable and is only going to get worse and the horse already looks like a starvation case, you should seriously consider euthanizing the horse. I will never criticize someone for humanely euthanizing a sickly horse they don't have the means to rehabilitate.


A decent number of horses who come through the Rescue are what some consider to be “old.” It’s amazing how different the opinions of horsemen/women are when it comes to age. Some believe anything over the age of 10 is old! Heck, if that were true, ¾ of our whole farm are on death’s doorstep! What becomes a somewhat more blurry line is as a horse passes 15 years of age. If a horse is treated appropriately in their early years (i.e. proper nutrition for growth, not being ridden until growth plates close, good conditioning, etc.), there’s no reason they should be getting creaky or stiff at the age of 15. However, usually by this point it becomes apparent if a horse wasn’t given the right kind of care earlier in its life. They may be sore, they may take longer to warm up for riding, or they may be completely unsound before they even reach the age of 10 (as is the case for some horses who are bred for looks, not longevity). If a horse receives the proper care, 15 is a prime age. There are many Olympic-level horses who are hitting their prime in their late teens and compete well into their twenties! For disciplines such as Dressage, it takes a very long time to master such difficult maneuvers as are required in the Olympics. One would be hard-pressed to find any horse competing seriously at that level less than 12 years old.

Why am I discussing such a topic? There are several horses in our care and up for adoption who are at least 20 years old and of sound mind and body who refuse to be ready to retire! We certainly believe they are ready for retirement, but the point is that someone, early in their lives, cared enough for them to make sure they lasted a long time. It is disheartening that someone could put so much effort into ensuring their longevity, but so little into ensuring the horse has a home for life. Does that make sense? Someone raises the horse to be sturdy and last long enough to get as much profit as they can out of it, then as soon as the horse shows signs of slowing down or aging, they dump it. So much care went into creating and developing the horse, but they don’t care how the horse meets its end.

When we rescued Noel, she was so thin that you could see every bone in her body through her winter coat- and believe me, she was one fuzzy mare (where she had hair, at least… extensive rain rot was just one of her worries at the time). Noel is such an incredibly affectionate mare, and at 35+, she is a rare find! Most horses that old would be tottering around their fields with the aid of umpteen different supplements. Not Noel! She has a ton of spunk, and requires only one joint supplement to keep the creaks away. Looking at her today, it’s hard to believe that at several points, we were about to make that last phone call to the vet. She’s a fighter! Noel is somewhat broke to ride, but due to her age she can only do very short pony rides. We can only hope she can find as good a home as she deserves (padded velvet stall, room service, daily massages, etc.).

Noel before rehabilitation:

Noel today:

Wherever you find Noel in her pasture, you will find Echo right along with her! Echo, a 20-year-old Belgian mare, was recently returned to us in very poor condition. Never did we expect these two to pair up! Echo was not only severely emaciated, she also had an injury to her right hind hoof that was just left to heal on its own… which it didn’t completely. All of her feet had been untouched for at least a year, and it is going to take at least that long to get her hooves back in proper condition. She is putting weight back on very well, and spends every minute hanging out with Noel.

Echo when she arrived:

Echo's bad hoof pre- and post-first trim:

(I can't seem to find a decent recent photo of her condition... Noel is hogging the camera in all of them, LOL)

Also up for adoption are Stalin and Meadow. Aged 20 and 19 respectively, they were adopted out together early last year, but were returned a few months later with an extreme phobia of having their feet handled. Having our fantastic farrier work with them has allowed them to overcome their fears, and they both now stand quietly for him. They are both broke to ride, and Meadow even competes on the local barrel racing circuit! A fantastic trail horse, Meadow is perfect for the beginner adult rider.



All of these horses are fantastic, and it is such an incredible shame that if we hadn’t intervened at some point in their lives, they would most certainly be dead, be it by starvation or a cruel ending in a slaughterhouse.

Any horse that works hard for people deserves nothing less than being pampered for the rest of their days. Wouldn’t you like to have a chance to enjoy a comfortable retirement after putting in your own due time?


Friday, June 24, 2011

Back to Our Regularly-Scheduled Programming!

Whew, lots to catch up on! As an avid blog-reader myself, I know how suspenseful a break can be!

Hmmm, what's there to get caught up on?

Oh yeah! The Haflinger colts (now named Gotti and Capone) were scheduled to have their little "brain" surgeries a week and a half ago. Alas, a little birdie must have told them they were going to be castrated, and they decided to keep their jewels out of our vet's grasp. Of course they're going to wait until it's swelteringly hot (i.e. August) to drop, or not drop fully at all, in which case they get to learn how to ride in the trailer (earlier in their lives than they would have otherwise) to get extra-special surgery!  Woo hoo!

In other news, the Arabians are doing well. The one mare who chokes often had her esophagus endoscoped by our vet, just to make sure there weren't any strictures that were making her choke. Nope, it turns out she just eats too fast. So we'll continue feeding her very slowly, which means big rocks in her feed bucket to slow her down, with only a handful of feed at a time.

And how could I forget?!?!?! Marsha Parkinson (the woman from whom the Arabians were seized) was charged with 34 counts of Animal Cruelty for Failure to Provide! I'm very curious as to how they came up with that number, as anyone who has seen these horses would agree that she should have been charged for every single one. At least it means the court process has truly begun, and the sooner we can get these mares into good homes! Her trial takes place on July 27 in Queen Anne County District Court.

Coming up on our busy calendar is Plow Days! We've begun prepping Patty and Dee Dee to make a showing. They are the two older Clydesdale mares we picked up from Athens Stockyard on the PA/NY border along with Sunrise and Penny. They are both broke to drive (Patty definitely, Dee Dee more or less), but they have never been hitched together. Below are photos from their first ground driving session. These harnesses are only for ground driving, as the collars are not fitted to these girls. They were made for big, beefy Belgian necks, not the narrower Clyde necks, so they won't be hitched up to pull anything until we find them the right tack.

A little bit of steering work in the indoor arena. Patty is on the left (driven by Paul, one of our volunteers), and Dee Dee is on the right (driven by Christine).

Yeah, we're going to need a little practice!

Outside, in one of the pastures, still "hitched" together (just a piece of baling twine connecting their collars):

The girls look very confused!

Normally, a team is of similar height and coloring.  Patty is a good hand taller or so.  She is the taller, lankier-type Clydesdale that is popular today.  The Clydesdale standard used to be closer to Dee Dee's build: short and stout.  We're just teaming them together because we got them together and they are best buds in turnout.

Dee Dee had enough, so we split them up for some individual work.

Paul with Patty:

Christine and Dee Dee:

Ahhhh, there's that show horse!  Patty was shown at the PA Farm Show by her previous owner.  She likes to show off!

The hat really completes the ensemble!

Go, Dee Dee!

Dee Dee doesn't appreciate having to work in her own field:

If looks could kill:

Back in the barn, untacking:

Now, to learn what the hose is!  Dee Dee is none too pleased:

Patty handled it like the pro she is: