Last year at this time we adopted out Hope and Grace to what we had believed would be their forever home. They were going to live in Malibu in a large paddock with a steady gelding, only a mile or so from the ocean. We were so happy to know that these girls were going to live out the rest of their lives together, safe and happy.
Unfortunately, life does not always work out the way we had planned. Less than a month after we took them to their new home, the Malibu fire tore through the canyon, burning down the entire mountain. Hope and Grace were evacuated to Zuma Beach, where they stayed with their new owners until a trailer was finally able to get through, at about 2 o’clock in the morning. They were transported to the Humane Society for a few weeks while the owners decided what to do, and then they moved them to another facility in Calabasas.
We continued to check in with them, and things seemed to be going just fine. We last checked in at the end of February, and their owners sent us pictures and told us that they had settled in well into their new place very well. We were so thrilled to know that they were being treated well and loved like family.
Imagine Elizabeth’s surprise, therefore, when she received a text early one morning in September:
“I had stayed home from school- I had a terrible cold and had no voice and, as my father often says, I felt like “death warmed over.” When the text alarm rang, I groaned, not wanting to check it, as I had just settled into my pillow. I was concerned that it might be either my substitute, or an issue at the barn, so I rolled over and picked up my phone. Our fundraising chair had sent me a picture of Hope and Grace- FOR ADOPTION ($500 adoption fee)- on another rescue’s website! To say I began freaking out would be an understatement. They were both advertised as being lame, and the story on the website was blatantly untrue, stating that they had been rescued by someone during the fire, but now that kind soul no longer could care for them. I was livid, and e-mailed the rescue. Then I texted Hope and Grace’s owners to see what was going on, then I called them. I waited for a reply. Nothing.
“The rescue hadn’t responded, but I didn’t assume that they would, given that I had just e-mailed them, so I called them as well. No answer. So I logged into Facebook and sent a private message to the rescue. Then I responded on Facebook to their posts on Hope and Grace, noting that they horses could not be adopted out by them, as we had a first right-of-refusal. Then I texted people I knew in the area to see if they could help. I didn’t know what I could do, but I knew I had to do SOMETHING.
“Finally, the rescue’s president called me. The horses weren’t at her facility, she said- they only networked them and when a home was found, then they would charge an adoption fee. She gave me the numbers of the people who had sent her the information about Hope and Grace, however. And, yes, I then texted, then called, then texted again. At that point in my cold-ridden brain, the only thing that was important at that particular moment was knowing my horses were safe.
“A few hours later, the people finally texted me back, and gave me the number of yet another person who was in charge of the horses. Again, that led to another flurry of texts and calls… and nothing. So I texted the original person again, who said that she had nothing to do with the horses (even though she was the one who called the rescue?). I told her that I had not heard back and I would like my horses like, now, please.
“A few minutes later, I finally got a phone call, so I guess persistence paid off. I was told that the horses had left by the owners at the facility, and since the Malibu facility was not going to be rebuilt, they had no use for the horses. I was not sure at that point why the owners hadn’t just called me and let me know that they couldn’t keep the horses.
“I told her that we had first right-of-refusal of both horses, and she seemed happy just to know that they were going to be safe and were also no longer going to be her problem. She gave me another number of the owner of the facility where they were being kept, and I contacted her to let her know that we were going to take Hope and Grace.
“At that point I had to be a little realistic- I was still sick. I barely had the energy to take my dogs downstairs, much less drive several hours up and back to pick up the horses. Thankfully, one of our supporters, Natalie W., offered to pick them up and deliver them for me. I made arrangements with the facility, and promptly went back to bed.
“Hope and Grace’s adopter did finally call me and explain what had happened. Apparently there was a falling out between her and the manager of the facility, and she left. Why she did not call me and let me know that the horses were there, I have no idea, and when I asked her, even she couldn’t give me a good answer. She said that she thought the horses would be taken care of there, and since we were a rescue, she didn’t want to burden us. Still, we have a first right-of-refusal for a reason, and that reason is that we want to make sure all of our horses are safe for the remainder of their lives. We don’t need other people to make the decision of whether we should provide care for one of our horses.
“A few days later- that Saturday- Hope and Grace were delivered by Natalie. Unfortunately it was very hot that day, plus there was a lot of traffic, so it took several hours for her to get the horses down to us. They were very hot and sweaty when they got out of the trailer, so we bathed them to get their temperature down, gave them electrolytes, and a watered down mash. Both horses drank a little so we were thankful for that.
“The first thing I noticed about both of them is that they were lame, their feet were overgrown, and they were stiff. They had been fed well, so their weight was up, but neither had any muscle tone. Both horses would run away from us unless we had them on a lead line, and Natalie said that was one of the reasons she had a late start- because the owner of the facility could not catch the horses.
“It was heartbreaking knowing that we took them from a situation where their owner neglected them, and we were able to help them heal emotionally and physically, only to have the exact same thing happen to them again!
“Both horses seemed to have regressed emotionally to when we first took them in. Originally, they only had one another, so they were incredibly bonded and could not be separated more than a few feet without freaking out- by the time we had them adopted out, they were comfortable enough that we could even take Grace out for a trail ride without Hope getting upset. Now, however, they are back to getting upset and screaming and dancing around if they are not right next to one another at all times. Both horses had come to us difficult to catch, but after working with them for a short time, they would walk right up. It was so frustrating seeing them regress to the point that they were once again distrustful of humans.
“Things actually got worse, however, before they got better. The next morning I got a call from the person who feeds the horses, saying that Grace was down and would not get up. I called the vet immediately, and raced out the door. I met Lori down at the barn, where Grace was up and walking around like normal. Still, she seemed a little off, so we gave her some Banamine and waited for the vet. He ended up giving her some fluids with electrolytes and also gave her some medication as he was fairly confident that she also had an untreated ulcer. Thankfully, she was her feisty, annoying self within a few hours, with no other ill effects, other than taking a few years off of my life.”
Thankfully, other than the colic scare, both girls settled back in at Hanaeleh very quickly and easily. They seemed to calm down once they walked around their paddock and took a few bites of food; they knew this place, and they knew that they would always get fed here. Just to clarify- this is not to say that the other facility didn’t feed them, but merely to note that they knew for certain that Hanaeleh is a safe place. Within a few days, both horses came up without any issues, and so there is no more fighting in trying to catch them at all- they just walk right up when we call them over, regardless of whether they are in their stall or in the arena.
Both girls got their feet done the following week, and that made a huge difference for them- they were immediately more comfortable and walked out more soundly. Neither had been given a joint supplement for several months, but we have started them back on that, and they get some light exercise to help build up their muscle tone. Grace is still a bit stiff, but she is actually improving better than Hope, who is still lame in her hind end. They are both more comfortable, however, and are doing well.
Another happy accident is introducing them to Stetson. He has been despondent since we lost Onyx, and went on hunger strike after she passed. We tried various horses next to him, but he either tried to attack them, or would just stand in the corner of his stall, bobbing his head, calling for Onyx, and would not eat. It was heartbreaking to watch and we really didn’t know what to do for him. He did better, actually, when no other horse was in the stall next to him, so we had planned to just keep it empty for a while to allow him to heal. Getting Hope and Grace back, however, meant that we couldn’t leave a stall open, and he would have to have a neighbor. After a bit of shuffling around, we thought maybe of moving him and putting him next to the girls. This worked well- almost too well, actually, because Hope immediately went into season and Stetson (a gelding, of course) thought it would be a good idea to try to climb the corral to get to her. Thankfully, he did not succeed. He did start eating, however, so we were grateful for that.
The week we got the girls back we had them vaccinated, and we had the vet also look at Stetson. She was as concerned as we were about his condition, and suggested that he go on a prescription calming medication to help him relax and adjust better. Thankfully they had some compounded already at their facility, so we picked it up that week.
This past weekend we actually tried to put Stetson in with the girls, but that ended up being a poor idea in actuality although we still contend it was a good idea in theory. Stetson enjoyed his turnouts with both Aurora and Onyx, so it seemed that he would be good with Hope and Grace as well. To be blunt, it didn’t work. Stetson immediately began attacking both girls, freaking them out (even Hope, whom he lusts after), and promptly tripped and fell on his face not once but twice in the span of about a minute and a half. Thankfully both Elizabeth and Emily were there so they were able to immediately take Stetson back out, who seemed no worse for wear other than a small nick on his hind leg. The girls were fine and calmed right down once the “brute” was gone, although Hope went right back to the fence and flirted with him. For his part, Stetson took up his position right next to the corral, bobbing his head and looking forlornly over at the girls.
At this stage, we’re not sure whether we will adopt Hope and Grace back out again. If an incredible home comes around, we will definitely entertain the idea, but we need to get the girls back to being healthy both emotionally as well as physically. Our hope is that we will be able to get them back to being as healthy and happy as they were when they left us this time last year.