Freya’s Rescue – Part One of Two
When we write about taking in a rescue, we often talk about the time in which we pick up the horse, and then discuss the rehabilitation process. What we don’t often discuss is the backstory, the phone calls and text messages and all of the boring, mundane details that can literally add up to hours of time before the actual rescue. Sometimes the backstory is even more drama-filled than the rescue itself; this is one of those stories.
Last month we were contacted by Titan’s new owner (they’re both doing great, by the way), informing us about a new horse at her barn who was very underweight. She said that a family had rescued her, but wasn’t sure exactly what to do, and needed some help. I gathered from her conversation that there was a woman who, for some reason, wanted to take the horse. Titan’s owner said she was not comfortable with that woman, and hoped that we could intervene instead. I didn’t really understand the visceral reaction to this individual, although a few days later it became apparent.
“All right,” I said. “Give the owner my number.”
I spoke with the owner, who was overwhelmed. The people at the barn had complained so much about the condition of her horse that the manager was threatening to evict her. She didn’t know what to do as she had just tried to rescue this poor girl from a terrible situation. In addition, there was that woman who showed up wanting to take the horse- without a trailer, apparently (not really sure how she expected that to work?). The previous owner, who allowed the horse to become emaciated, apparently had called her and said she should take ownership of the horse.
I told her that we would do what we could, but it could take several weeks until we were able to take the horse. For one, we did not have a stall open, and two, it was during the last two weeks of school (Elizabeth is a school teacher by day). I went over a feeding plan with her that would help the horse gain weight, and she agreed to go out several times a day to feed. She just seemed grateful that she would have some relief. I thought that things were settled, but, alas, no.
The following day, the owner called me, frantic. She told me that the barn manager said that the horse had to be gone by Tuesday (four days later).
“Tuesday?” I asked. “You mean, as in next week?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Did you sign a contract?”
“Yes,” she replied.
“And paid through to the end of the month?”
“We paid until the end of June, yes,” she said.
“Then they can’t kick you out in four days,” I assured her. “You have a signed contract. Unless you’ve violated that contract, there’s not much they can do.”
Even with this reassurance, the owner seemed frustrated and uncertain of what to do. She didn’t want to give the horse to the woman who knew the previous owner and had randomly showed up, but what was she supposed to do in four days? In addition, people were threatening to call Animal Control, although realistically there wouldn’t be anything they could do except harass the owner, since the horse was being fed.
Just a note: we believe that people should contact Animal Control when they see a situation in which a horse is being neglected in any way. We also wish Animal Control would do more. For example, one of our permanent residents, Onyx, was so emaciated and neglected that people called Animal Control close to 100 times, but nothing was done. She was obviously sick and her feet were obviously not cared for, but they allowed the owner to continue to neglect her for years without any repercussions. In this current situation, however, the owners were trying to help the horse, and were willing to do what they needed to do in order to put some weight on her horse.
Annoyed, I got the manager’s name and promised to call the next day. I also told the owner to put up a sign on the stall saying that the horse was on a feeding regiment and had been rescued, and was currently being rehabilitated.
The next morning I called the manager and told her that we were involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of the horse, and would eventually be taking her. The manager was very amenable, and said she was just concerned about so many people complaining. I refrained from my criticism, and essentially told her to lay off of the owner. If she did not, I told her, the owner might be forced to give the horse to yet another unscrupulous individual because she wouldn’t have many options. The manager seemed to understand, and I was fairly certain that there would be no other issues. Again, I thought that things were settled, but, again, no.
Alas, the drama surrounding this horse was not over. On my way home from work that same afternoon, I received a call from a woman.
“What are your credentials?” she asked.
“Huh?” was my incredibly brilliant response.
“Your credentials,” she repeated.
I didn’t understand. My educational credentials? I have a Ph.D. After a minute, it became obvious that she wanted my “credentials” for Hanaeleh.
“Um… well, we are a non-profit rescue and are GFAS-verified,” I said. GFAS is the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. It’s a long, arduous process, a 30-page application and a sight visit. It’s essentially an accreditation for animal sanctuaries.
“No, your credentials,” she insisted. “How do I know you’re qualified to care for the horses?”
I was getting annoyed at this point. “How about 33 years of working with, training and rehabilitating horses, and 15 years of running a non-profit horse rescue?” I asked. “What exactly do you need, and why are you asking?”
There was a short pause. I discovered later that this was because she was trying to come up with a lie. “I have clients who are thinking of donating to your rescue,” she said. “They want to know what your experience in training is.”
My experience in training? How about 15 years of running a rescue? But no, she wanted to know that I could ride and train a horse. I wanted to laugh. Was she really serious? I told her a little about my career in working with horses.
But at this point the story changed. Her clients did not want to donate money, they were looking for a retirement home for their horse. We do get people who call regularly looking for homes for their horses, so while I thought she was odd, I was prepared to discuss networking their horse for them. Something, however, niggled at my brain. Something wasn’t quite right.
“Is this the horse in Ramona (CA)?” I asked. “The 25 year-old chestnut mare?”
After a few more questions, she verified that it was – she had lied not once, but twice in under two minutes. She had no clients and she certainly did not represent anyone. She was the lady who Titan’s owner had warned me about a few days earlier. I now understood the immediate and negative reaction.
“The owner has wasted a lot of people’s time,” she said, rambling on about haulers and vets. According to her, the owner had promised to give her the horse, and had since reneged. This didn’t seem right, especially since it hadn’t even been 24 hours since I had spoken with the owner last, and had promised to take her.
The woman kept talking about the horse. “I don’t want her,” she said. “Do you know how much it’s going to cost to take her? She needs a stifle surgery (actually, she doesn’t- she has fallen suspensories, not a stifle injury), and her teeth are going to need to be done. It will cost at least $500 for her teeth…” she kept rambling on about the costs associated with rehabilitating the horse, as well as what school she had gone to in Europe which was why she knew so much and I finally interjected with a laugh.
“Wait, wait, wait,” I said, barking a laugh. “Are you serious? Are you trying to tell ME how much it costs to rehab a horse?”
“Well, it’s going to be expensive,” she hedged. “And I don’t want the horse…” she continued.
I interrupted her again. “Then you don’t have to worry,” I said in a low, tight voice. “We have already committed to her care. You don’t have to do anything. The horse is safe.”
She then began arguing with me, again saying that she didn’t want the horse. “And you will not have to worry about getting her,” I said. “We have committed to the horse. We are taking her. Just be happy that the horse is now safe.”
Another 30 seconds of her rambling, I finally hung up. I rarely hang up on people, but there didn’t seem to be any reason in continuing the ridiculous conversation.
I texted the owner, telling her about the call. She called a few minutes later, and she reaffirmed what we had discussed last night, saying that she had not agreed to give the horse to anyone, especially that woman.
“Why does she want her?” I asked.
To that, the owner could not say. I couldn’t figure it out, either. The only thing I could think of is that she might have wanted to breed her, but she was relatively old for breeding. It just didn’t make sense that a person would be so emphatic about a 25 year-old horse who could never be ridden again. To be honest, I still haven’t been able to ascertain the reason she wanted the horse. What I will note, however, is that this phone call brought my protective instincts to the forefront; I was even more determined to ensure the safety of this horse.
The owner sent over a bill of sale that evening, and I breathed a sigh of relief. No matter what, at least legally, the horse was ours.
And since she was ours, she was safe for the remainder of her life.
Total immediate donations needed for Freya: $1,010
- Farrier: $40
- Vet Intake Exam: $70
- Teeth float: $250
- Vaccinations: $250
- First month’s food and supplements: $400
Please DONATE here using PayPal.
If you prefer to send a check: P.O. Box 291 Trabuco Canyon, CA 92678