She was tired and cold and everything hurt. The man came into the paddock and tried to grab her, but she ran away; everytime a man grabbed her he hurt her. The man just yelled at her and threw her and the other horse in the paddock a thin flake of old alfalfa. She didn’t care how thin it was; she was so hungry she would eat anything. Her ribs were sticking out, but they were partially covered by her winter coat that was long and brittle. The old halter was cutting into her face, and created scars along the back of her head and neck, and was digging into her nose.
It had been a week since the auction; that horrible, terrifying place where so many horses were corralled into small stalls and stared at by any number of people. It was loud and horses would scream and neigh for the friends who had been taken from them. A man put stickers on her hind end, and from then on out she was referred to as “Number 166.” One evening a man grabbed her by the broken halter and pulled her out of the stall. He jumped on her back and rode her through a small corral while people stared at her. She didn’t try to buck or fight; she was too scared and her legs hurt too much to try to do either. He put her back into the stall, and the next day another man pulled her out of the stall and put her into a trailer. She was put into the corral where she currently lived with a young grey gelding, but the man didn’t take the ill-fitting halter off. He didn’t even take the auction stickers off of her hips. He just threw her one of those thin flakes of alfalfa.
On Thursday night I was sitting at home, watching reruns of The Great British Baking Show and trying to get some grading done before the last day of the semester, when my phone dinged. It was Natalie, who is fostering Cindy Lou, so I thought she was sending me an update. Instead, she sent me a picture of a sad looking little mare with an auction sticker on her hip. She was wearing an ill-fitting nylon halter and was thin and had no muscle. She looked liked she hadn’t been well-cared for in a while.
“Can I call you?” she texted.
I called Natalie, and she said that this little mare had been at the latest auction. She had been ridden bareback through the auction with the halter on her- and with almost no muscle. I cannot imagine how scared she- and all of the other horses- must have been in that situation. If you haven’t read our position on auctions, please click here for why we do not support them. Auction Horses Rescue, however, does try to outbid killer buyers at the auctions, and they find safe homes for many horses who run through the auctions. They had tried to purchase this little mare, but they were outbid. They were concerned about this little mare, so they went up to the man and told him that if, for some reason, he no longer wanted this mare, to please contact them.
A few days later, he did. And that was why Natalie was calling me- the man who had bought this little mare no longer wanted her. Unfortunately, AHR was full. Unfortunately, so are we. Thankfully, Natalie offered to foster this little girl while she is being rehabilitated, and she hoped that the little mare would eventually be adoptable.
I looked at the picture again. The little mare was staring straight at the camera. She hadn’t given up on life yet, but it was obvious that she had been through a lot in her 11 years. We had just rescued Cindy Lou, and the thought of adding yet another horse to our caseload was daunting. Even though Natalie offered to foster her, and AHR would help with vet bills and food, I had no idea how long we would end up having to take care of her. Part of our reason for a limit of how many horses we have is due to how many stalls we have, but it is also limited to the number of horses we can afford. Cindy Lou was already going to cost us hundreds in vet care and would need to be on pain medication for the remainder of her life. But what would happen to this little girl if we didn’t say yes? She obviously was undernourished and had not been treated well in a long time.
“What do you think of the name Noelle?” Natalie asked.
The next day the man came into the paddock, but she knew enough what he wanted; he wanted to get on her back and ride her. In the past, the men would get on her and run her towards the arena wall, kicking and hitting her until they got very close, then would pull back very hard on the reins, trying to make her stop quickly. Reining, they called it. When she started limping, they gave her a blunted shot that hurt her neck, and the pain would stop for a few hours while they competed, then it would come back even worse later that night. She didn’t want to be hurt again, so she ran away from him. After a few minutes, he gave up, and didn’t bother her again.
A few days later, the man came into the paddock again, but this time he brought two women. They talked to her differently than the men had, and had treats. Instead of trying to grab her, they were patient, and waited for her to walk up. They clipped a rope to the old halter and led her out of the paddock, leaving the grey gelding alone. She walked into another trailer.
Natalie texted me when she picked up the mare. She said she had given her two flakes of grass hay in the trailer, which the mare finished on the ride home, and for dinner she gave her another 20-25 pounds of hay. To try to prevent her from eating too quickly, she put some of the food into a slow-feeder hay net. She was fairly certain that Noelle hadn’t been fed well in a long time- her ribs were evident even through her winter coat, which was long, but thin and brittle. She had no topline and her legs were obviously hurting her to the point that she had difficulty getting out of the trailer. She immediately took off the stickers from the auction, which had never been removed, even a week after the auction was over.
When she got Noelle into the quarantine stall, she took off the halter- it was a thin, nylon thing which had obviously been left on her for a long time; the buckle had broken, but someone had tied it together with twine to keep it together. Natalie had to cut it off of her head, but said that Noelle was very patient and stood without flinching, and even rubbed her hands with her head when she was finally free. The halter was a symbol of her past abuse and neglect, and it was only fitting that it was immediately thrown into the trash. When she took it off, there were scars along her neck and on her nose, indicating that it had been left on her for a very long time. Although Noelle didn’t know it at that point, she will never go another day without food, or be hurt again; if nothing else, that we can promise her.
Natalie let me know that the vet would be out the following day, for both Noelle and Cindy Lou. She checked on her a few times that night, and said she was very polite, but also very nervous and sensitive. She obviously had been manhandled and treated poorly, but seemed very appreciative of any kindness.
When the trailer stopped, she had difficulty getting out; her legs and hocks hurt so much that she couldn’t bend them. She finally scrambled out. The woman petted her and walked her into a stall, and for the few times in several months, the old halter was taken off. The buckle had broken, but instead of putting a new halter on, the men had just tied the halter on with bailing twine, so it took the woman several minutes, but she finally got it off. It felt so good! The halter had left scars across her neck, and she had a bulge on her nose where it had dug into her nose, but at least it was finally gone. The woman also took off the stickers from her hips. Then the woman left the stall, and the mare looked around. There was a huge amount of grass hay, and she immediately walked towards it; she was still so hungry. She ate and ate and ate, and there didn’t seem to be any end to the hay. Some of it was in a hay net so it was a little more difficult to get the food, but that was fine; she was just happy there was food. A while later, the woman came back with some grain. She told the mare her name was Noelle. She didn’t understand, but she liked the smell of the grain. It tasted very rich and she ate it very quickly, in case the woman would take it away again.
Yesterday, Noelle was visited by Dr Mark Williams of Sweetwater Veterinary Clinic, just 24 hours after her rescue. We knew Noelle wasn’t going to be the easiest rehabilitation, but we didn’t realize just how much this poor girl had been suffering—likely most if not all her life.
As to what Dr Williams found:
He estimated her to be 11 years old, likely a grade Quarter Horse.
3 of her 4 legs have thickened, scarred tendons, while all 4 legs have scars. Noelle has sizable popped and calcified splints on both front legs along with tendon damage. Dr. Williams said he’s seen similar injuries in roping horses and even reining horses when ridden and stopped on the forehand. The tendon on the front left has calcifications and is very tight. The left hind has been injured and then re-injured possibly in the last 6-9 months—Dr. Williams believes that was why Noelle was unable to make the 10″ ‘jump’ out of the trailer. To help with this, Noelle was given a Legend injection, as well as started on Equioxx, an anti-inflammatory that won’t irritate sensitive stomachs.
The thick scarring over her carotid artery indicated repeated injections using reused hypodermics
(hypodermic needles develop barbs that tear the skin and tissues when reused). So if a rope horse is sore with a tendon injury but there’s a money jackpot, the backyard roper drugs the horse on the cheap and ropes off his injured horse.
When it came to her teeth, they showed no signs of ever being floated. This resulted in hooks on her molars that were so large they locked her jaw into place — there was little to no side-to-side movement for her to chew. She would have succumbed to colic very soon if left untreated, and it was far too severe to ever be effectively dealt with by hand float. It took twice the time of your average power float, with extra sedation to keep her calm throughout. But in the end, she could chew again!
The next day another man came out with another woman. They called her Noelle again and gave her more shots and she was sleepy, and they started filing down her teeth. They were sharp and would cut her cheeks while she ate, but when they were done, there were no more sharp edges. They gave her a shot that made all of the pain go away for a long time, so she was able to sleep well better than she could remember. She ate a lot again that night, which was even better since her teeth were no longer hurting her, and fell asleep with a full belly again.
Natalie called me Monday after the vet had been out and gave me a report. Noelle’s teeth were awful and probably had never been floated in her entire life, they were so bad. She had huge hooks on both side and literally could not chew correctly due to her poor teeth. This, compounded with poor food, is likely what led to her poor condition. On the plus side, now that she will be able to eat correctly, and is getting decent food, she should be able to gain weight well now.
She had some thick scarring on her neck, indicating that she had been stabbed over and over with dull needles. The vet believes that she was used as a reining or roping horse, and was never taught to stop properly. When reining horses are not trained by people who know what they are doing, the horse stops using their front legs, leading to scarring and thickened tendons. The same issue goes for roping horses as well- they also need to be taught to stop correctly or will cause permanent damage to their legs. Unfortunately, when Noelle started to come up lame, what would happen is she would be given drugs to mask the pain so the rider could compete, thus leading to greater and greater damage- and increased pain- to the point that at only 11 years old, she will will need to be on Equiiox for the rest of her life.
That being said, the vet did believe that she will be comfortable with a decent trim and the Equiiox, and would one day be able to be lightly ridden on groomed trails. Right now, however, she has nothing to do except eat and heal.
The woman came out and gave her breakfast and called her Noelle again. She liked that name, and she liked the lady who was kind and didn’t hurt her. The lady gave her a lot of hay and she was so happy to eat now that her mouth doesn’t hurt, and she could actually move her jaw. The woman gave her a cookie, which she liked, and a bucket with some grain in it. The woman said there was a pain pill in her grain, so she needed to eat it all, but that was not a problem. The grain tasted good and she ate all of it. Her legs didn’t hurt so much anymore, and she sighed happily as she began eating her hay.
Noelle is still fostered with Natalie, and will be for several months. She will need time to heal and gain some weight and muscle before we think about adopting her out. She still needs her feet to be done, and she will need to be on Equiiox because of the considerable damage her previous owners did to her legs. Thankfully, the vet believes that she will be comfortable enough for light riding, which is nice as she is a very sweet little mare, and will make someone a very sweet light riding horse. I feel like I know her, since I’ve been talking and texting with Natalie quite a bit over the past few days, but I will actually meet her next Monday.
Today is Christmas, and this will probably be the first Christmas Noelle has had in a very long time where she is safe, happy, and has enough food. It is only because of so many people that we have been able to help her- if it weren’t for the people of AHR and its supporters, or Natalie, or anyone else who helped already to donate towards this girl, she would still be out in the middle of a sandy paddock, with a broken-down halter on her face and auction stickers on her hips.
AHR paid for most of her vet bill, but we will need to raise funds for her continued care and upkeep. We appreciate any donations you may be able to provide towards our Christmas girl, Noelle. Please click HERE to donate for Noelle. No amount is too small. Thank you!