Last year today, we picked up Cricket and Quixote from a nearby stable who was going to send the horses to auction to pay for the unpaid board fees. They were both emaciated, had little muscle tone, and were so bonded that it was dangerous to pull either one out of the stall because they would both freak out. The owner was terrified of both horses, most specifically the large white Andalusian/Thoroughbred show horse that they had purchased for their daughter several years before, who quickly lost interest and ended up becoming fearful of him. Why they did not sell the horses years before, I’m really not certain, but they both languished in the stall, becoming more and more crazed, until finally the economy caught up with the owners and they could no longer afford to board them.
The mother had called me earlier in the week and asked me to help her with the horses, and I went down and talked with her about making arrangements to pick them up. Later that day, the manager of the stable called me that week and threatened me, telling me I was not allowed to take the horses as she had no other way to ensure that the back board would be paid. I tried to make her understand that it would be easier to collect the back board if the horses were no longer continuing to run up the board fee, plus then she could rent out those stalls to another (paying) individual. Luckily the owner and the manager came to an agreement, and later that week I went down with my interns to pick up the horses.
We pulled up in a trailer as we were told by the owner that the horses both trailered well. I’m not sure in what lifetime that occurred, but the little brown Quarter horse (QH) she had insisted would just hop right into the trailer was absolutely terrified of the thing, and it was all but impossible to get her anywhere near the trailer, much less in it. Meanwhile, the grey was going absolutely ape-shit over the fact that his friend was gone. I’m not sure if the owner had hoped that things would be different, but truly, she put me and my interns in a dangerous situation that day by not telling me the entire story. I really do have mixed feelings- the owner knew that the purchase of the grey was a bad idea, and was outvoted by her husband and daughter. She was the one who ended up going down to try to take care of the horses, and she was the one who was dealing with the barn manager. On the other hand, the entire family should have made a decision years before to find new homes for the horses or put them into training if they did not have the time to work with them. That, and anytime an owner purposely does not give me the entire information ends up putting me at risk. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened, and it was also not the last.
After several minutes of dealing with crazy QH, I changed horses, and the grey (the one who apparently didn’t trailer) hopped right into the trailer. Unfortunately, since his girlfriend was not willing to get into the trailer with him (even with him there- she would sniff him through the window, but she would not get anywhere near the back), he ran back out of the trailer to get to her. At this point, I was faced with only a few options, drugging the horses being one of them. However, as we were only about a mile from our barn, I made a decision to put the grey back into the trailer and close the door quickly, tossing my keys to my intern and commanding her to drive to Hanaeleh, telling her I would meet her there, and grabbed the rope of the QH mare from my other intern so she wouldn’t get hurt. She and a few of my other interns quickly hopped into the truck and drove off, leaving me with one intern and one semi-crazed QH.
The screams of the grey horse seemed to reverberate through the canyon as I stood with the QH spinning around me, and I said my goodbyes to the owner quickly (the daughter never bothered to come by that week to say goodbye to her horse), walking back towards home with my unlucky intern. After a very short time, the QH calmed down and began walking placidly next to me, which so far that day was the only good thing that had happened.
When we got to Hanaeleh, I put the mare into the arena and then pulled the truck with the still-screaming and now-kicking-the-heck-out-of-my-trailer grey horse up to the round pen. We opened the round pen gate, backed the trailer up to it, then untied the grey’s halter through the window before opening the back of the trailer (a’la a captured Mustang). He hopped out of the trailer and immediately began screaming for his friend. We put them together that day, intending to keep them together for a few weeks as they settled in, but it became apparent quite quickly that it was more dangerous to keep them together than it was apart. When we did finally separate them a few days later, they spent hours calling to each other, until finally the little QH decided enough was enough, and that she kind of liked it there, and she got food and attention, and she didn’t really need a grey gelding in her life. It took much longer for the grey to accept that theirs was a love that would never again be rekindled.
The little brown QH came with the name Cricket, and we honestly couldn’t think of another name for her. The grey was named Storm, and we didn’t care for that at all, so after much discussion, we decided to call him Quixote.
Both of the horses had been fed the minimum required at the barn, but both were emaciated. Quixote had a melanoma on his face that was raw and bleeding (it healed up quite quickly once we began treating it, and is fine now as long as he has a fly mask on), in addition to other small cuts and scrapes. Cricket had a terrible skin condition that took literally months for her to recover from, partly from laying down in a urine-soaked stall, partly from lack of a proper diet (as she is older, she needed more supplements). Both horses cribbed, but neither had cribbing collars. Those were quickly found and put on, although neither horse was too terribly happy with that turn of events. Their feet had not been done in several months (lack of money plus it was dangerous to try to trim them while they were bonded), so we had them trimmed. It took several trims for them to finally look like normal feet again.
After losing the love of his life, Quixote then tried to bond with any horse we put him next to. This became a problem as he would run around in his stall and scream if we took his neighbor out. He also was very food aggressive, and would pin his ears and threaten us when we fed him. We solved his bonding problem by putting him in a stall where he was surrounded by several horses, so he always had a buddy to talk to, even if a few of the horses were gone. We also increased his diet to the point that he was getting about 40+ pounds of food a day (about double what he should really need). He ate every scrap for the first two weeks, then began to taper off, finally becoming more picky about what he wanted. Now he gets a few scoops of supplemental Timothy pellets in addition to his grain, and his manners have become much improved- he now knows to stand quietly in the middle of his stall and wait for his grain to be placed before him, and does not pin his ears or try to attack the horses on either side while he’s eating anymore.
It took us a few weeks to teach Cricket that trailers were not terribly scary, and often came with food. She still gets nervous when she is trailered, but she will get right in now without a fuss. A few weeks after we took her in, one of our volunteers fell in love with her, and after we decided Cricket was healthy enough, she adopted her. Cricket now lives at Serrano Creek Ranch in Lake Forest, and has been in the Swallow’s Day Parade and the 4th of July Parade with us.
Quixote is still at Hanaeleh and we are looking for a good home for him. It has taken a while for him to come around, but he is a delightful, playful guy who would love a forever home. He would need an experienced handler, and someone who is patient- Quixote has a tendency to sometimes take himself too seriously, and if you get upset with him, he will get upset, too. If you tell him to chill out, however, he usually does. We’ve ridden him exclusively in the arena.
Happy Rescue Day, Cricket and Quixote! 🙂