Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Four New Friends

Sorry for the delay in a new post. THANK YOU to everyone who's been asking about the next warms my heart to know you like it. Tonite, however, I'm taking a break from the Coconut Chronicles to share an entry about the "making a difference in the lives of horses" part I initially intended as part of my blog subject...

These aren’t the kind of adventures I care to have but sometimes your heart just tells me to go…so I do.

Tuesday night Jaime called and needed to arrange things with the Wednesday SAFE Volunteers in regards to the four new horses she was hauling from Enumclaw. While it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to share anything I’ve heard about this case, let’s just say that it’s safe to assume we have another case of a sick mind who doesn’t take in a horse’s well being when they decide just to make more. Thankfully it seems of the four mares, however, only one is currently in foal.

It just happened I had nothing on my calendar for that day so I offered to go up to the SAFE Facility and help out since Jaime was not able to be there during the day. I sent a note to the volunteers to give them a head’s up that there were going to be four neglected horses in the arena and to call Jaime when they arrived.

Upon my arrival I met new volunteer Jodi who had already been slowly feeding the horses a handful of hay every couple hours in between picking up the paddocks. And then it was time to meet the girls…

Three Chestnut Quarter Horse mares and a Percheron-cross mare (in-foal!). What struck me immediately about these gals is that they were very curious about us two legged creatures. I entered the arena and while they all made their way over, the large black Percheron-cross was clearly the leader and she came to check me out. I apparently passed because then the other three all came up to introduce themselves. They were all very sweet horses and fairly well behaved. It appears they’ve got some manners on them. It was, however, clear that the big girl was the boss; I kept thinking “Large & In Charge!”

I took a few photos and waited for Monica to show up with her much better camera so she could get some good “before” photos before we started some grooming. It was kind of a gloomy day so the lighting wasn’t the best. Not knowing if the girls would get spooked by the flash I decided to go with the no-flash option which made for some dark results but I’ll post them anyway. It’s clear that there are huge issues with the condition of these horses.

Next was trying to distinguish three chestnut Quarter Horse mares so it came down to markings. There were clear size differences of the blazes so they graduated to “Thin” “Medium” & “Large” blazes. As I started working on the skinniest horse, the one with the Thin Blaze, I noted she was lame on her front left foot. The poor horse was so skinny you could see every rib and it looked as if a huge chunk of her belly was missing back near her flank. She looked so frail. I wondered if it would hurt her for me to touch her & feel her bones beneath her skin. I lightly touched her at first and then applied a little more pressure. She closed her eyes. I wasn’t sure if it was pain or relief.

I stepped away to get some grooming supplies and even with her sore foot, she hobbled to follow me. I realized she wanted the contact. She wanted to be touched. She wanted to be loved

I first grabbed a soft rubber currycomb to try to break up some of the mud. She lowered her head as she relaxed. I was able to run it everywhere over her. She even lifted her sore foot for me to clean out with the hoof pick but when I asked for any of her other feet I could see she thought about it and even shifted her weight a little but it was clearly too painful for her to put her weight onto that foot to lift another. It broke my heart! She wanted to comply but even her trust in me did not overcome her fear of that pain.

I was able to get most of the mud off her body & combed out her mane, which was actually on the short side and was easily combed through. I can’t say the same for the rest of them who had tangles in their manes that would require hours of work to remove. Her tail was short. It’s possible that a foal ate her tail or it could be that it was cut to remove the dreadlock of mud and tangles it must have been at some point. For an old gal (she’s aged at 20+) she certainly should have had a much longer tail and mane.

A younger mare kept coming over and trying to shoulder her way in to the beauty treatment. I’d give a quick bush and then return to the older mare. This continued quite a bit and for some reason I started calling them Fairy & Ruby after a couple of elderly sisters I know; the Aunt & Mother of my shop assistant Jean.

Fairy was the horse I was working on and Ruby was the interrupter…the horses, that is…I’m not making any kind of statement about the human Fairy & Ruby ;-)

So Fairy and I spent most of the afternoon together. She’d hobble to follow me whenever I had to go anywhere. This made me feel bad because I couldn’t just say “Stay Fairy!” but it did endear her to me.

Monica worked a little while on the big Percheron mare who apparently had enough of the mane detangling and simply walked away. She was, however, checking over our work on everyone else. She’s defiantly “Boss Mare”! Monica also got to work on the other two mares a bit too but I kept focused on Fairy. She seemed the most needy to me but also very appreciative.

Another couple of volunteers showed up in the afternoon; A Mother/Daughter team – Patsy & Caitlin. I could see the compassion in their eyes as they approached the arena rail, reaching over to give some love to these poor mares. They smiled as if to give them hope. I wanted to smile but my first thought had been to cry. It’s easy to get caught up in the anger at how these things happen but I think it takes a lot of inner beauty to get past that to just be there for the horses. It’s that pure love that I see in the volunteers that gives me strength to get on with tasks be it responding to email, schedule arranging, answer the phone or making the hour long drive to help when I know no one else can. This day wasn’t about helping where no one else could; it was more about giving to the horses (and maybe taking a little stress off of Jaime, who’s work allows this place to exist in the first place).

Re-feeding these horses, I’ve learned, is a tricky feat. I’m sure most folks (including myself at first) would probably be inclined to just give them a huge pile of hay and say “Here…have all you want…this is your lucky day!” but in listening to rescuers talk about the tedious method of slowly reintroducing food into a starving horses’ world, I’ve grown to understand that the simple act of kindness can turn deadly. Their systems can get overloaded and horses can colic. As I’ve learned, first hand, about colic it’s not usually the pain itself that becomes so deadly for the horse, it’s the twisting of the intestines that occurs when they roll around in pain. So a slow, methodical re-feeding regiment is necessary so that the horses can acclimate to eating. Can you imagine having to re-adjust to food? They were being given one large handful each of hay every couple of hours around the clock.

Needless to say, the mares were very excited about food time. The big Percheron, being referred to as “Big Momma” by the volunteers that day, would be the first to get her share and then as soon as the other mares got theirs, she’d come over to claim it as well if she could. By the end of the day they each calmly ate their own pile. My photo of the event is pretty dark but it was quiet, peaceful and it felt successful to watch them all lined up several feet away from each other, their heads all down happily eating their ration.

I waited for Jaime so I could update her on the horses. We talked about them while we turned other horses in and fed. I told her about the names we’d started calling the mares and when I told her we hadn’t called the big horse anything really, she said “Oh, you mean Big Momma!” … too funny! That just fits…although she did mention a name that I kind of liked, Delilah & that one has appeared to have stuck.

Jaime walked around with her headlamp on which was good because I had nearly forgotten it had gotten dark. The farm at night, probably any farm at night, has a peaceful quality to it. There was no sign at that moment that starving horses were being rehabilitated nor any hint of the neglect they’d faced. In the dark they no longer had the jagged edges of starvation. They were another four-legged silhouette against the moonlight & another nicker in the wind.

I have a little more to tell about them in another post but you can read their full stories (so far) at:


Ruby & Rose

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