Saturday, January 8, 2022

With Winter Comes Rescue

 It happens with the change of every season, but more so in the late fall and early winter. It’s the time of year all die hard career horse people and farm owners dread, That phone call, or the social media tag, Facebook messenger, (or God forbid the 52 Thoroughbreds in need of rescue), etc. Starving horses, cases of neglect out of sheer ignorance and lack of education on how to care for aging horses. Over the years I have tried to do my part in small ways a horse here a horse there, donations when I personally cannot take a horse. I have many friends who run neglect rescues tirelessly and they are the real hero’s. Day in day out they get phone calls about the disposable horse. Today it was my turn. A super sweet lady called looking for a rescue. She had delivered hay to a farm and noticed an aged mare who was in really poor shape. She explained the situation and the location and before I processed, “I’ll take her came out of my mouth.” Don just grinned and shook his head as he listened to my conversation. It really had not been my intention to take her, really, however I knew that several of the local rescues were busting at the seams with the intake of neglect cases recently and she needed help now. 

Everyone meet Tilly. She is a super sweet 25+ Old little  mare. Tilly hopped right on the trailer and off we went. Seems simple right? What I failed to mention is that Tilly was at the end of a dirt road the was more pig path than road and something straight out of wrong turn. Luckily we were still on Surry county with cell service but man oh man was that little dirt road sketchy. Tilly is a little more special needs than most. She is aged enough that her teeth are worn. So she will be getting many small soaked meals of all inclusive senior grain, alfalfa, beet pulp, and hay stretcher. So far she has slurped up every meal. She is bright and alert. For those of you new to horses or who own horses but never have owned an older one, the pictures below are not how old horses should look, EVER! I get so tired of hearing, “they are just getting old” this does not mean they should walk around like a prisoner of war victim starved to death. It just takes more human effort to keep them healthy. I know for a fact because we have five horses on this farm over the age of 25, and 2 of those 5 take tons of effort with soaking meals, alfalfa and beet pulp soaked, expensive senior feed etc. My point is it can be done but it is not for the faint of heart or for the lazy, cheap, or broke. Most horses cannot live off 7 blades of grass and a bucket of water. Yes with good pasture most can stay in good weight 3 seasons out of the year as long as they can chew grass or hay, but not a dirt lot with no grass or hay.   

Tilly’s hips and backbone

This is not the look of a normal older horse. It is hard to see with her winter coat but if I had to guess she has a body score of 1.5-2 on a scale of 1-10. You can feel and see every rib and her backbone it a good 2” above any flesh. 

Here is a picture of one of our schooling horses at 31 just getting done with a lesson.

Chance at 31

I am not trying to shame anyone only educate those who do not know or understand the commitment it takes with older horses. Chance has been unable to chew hay or grass for several years now. It takes time and effort to pull him out from the group mix and soak his grain to make sure he stays healthy. He has given many people in his life years of pleasure and if Chance can never be ridden again he still deserves to live out his life fat and happy. Tilly deserves this too, and here is where she will get it. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written. I've also heard, when I see a starving horse, "oh that horse is 30 years old!" People erroneously believe that older horses all get skinny. They don't. Old age does not make them thin; a lack of calories does. Like Nicole, I have an elderly gelding whose meal program is rigorous, time-consuming and expensive. People who are not willing to put in the time and expense to make sure older horses keep their weight on should definitely reach out for help. Have a vet do a dental exam, find a rescue or surrender the horse to an equine retirement home. Change their food. Horses can remain a good weight right up until it is their time to go. If you see neglect in your area try to talk to the owners or contact animal control, offer to help or find resources the people can use to place the horse in better hands. Never ignore neglect because you may be the only chance that animal has to escape his or her suffering.