Quite a bit of rescue work happens behind the scenes; answering phone calls, getting information about horses and determining how we can best help in a particular situation. The story of these two horses actually started two months ago, when we received a phone call from a concerned individual, letting us know that there were two Arabian mares who were being neglected and were starving. We let them know that we could help, and ensured that the horses would be fed.
After two months of trying to meet with the owner, we were finally given the address where the horses were boarded, and went down to look at them. The horses were underweight, a result of previous lack of adequate food, and their feet were severely overgrown. The little chestnut was limping on her right front, and the grey had severe fungus across her back and legs. After expressing a need for both to receive basic vet and farrier care, we were finally able to get him to agree to relinquish ownership of these two mares. We still are not certain why someone who had not seen his horses in months, who did not provide even the most basic of care, would refuse to allow people to help his horses. Eventually, however, he did sign them over, and on Friday, we went down to pick them up.
The horses are very bonded, and are difficult to work with individually, so luckily there were people who came down to help me get the mares loaded. Their halters had not been used in so long that they were stiff and hard. They had not been haltered in months, but we were able to get them over to the trailer without much of a fuss. We loaded the grey mare first, who, after a few minutes of indecision decided to walk in- difficult, because her feet were so overgrown that she had to lift up her feet high to hop in. She quickly found the alfalfa hay and began eating. Once she was settled in, the chestnut quickly loaded, and I drove them to Hanaeleh.
Unfortunately, I did not have any help at the ranch, so the process of unloading was a little trickier. I unloaded the chestnut and tied her to the trailer so the grey could see her, then unloaded the grey. I knew that I would have to walk them up together, as they refused to even get a few feet from another without freaking out. We walked up the driveway, the horses stumbling as they went up, their long hooves preventing them from walking normally. I tied them up for a minute and took Jesse out of his paddock and put him into the roundpen, and they seemed calm as long as they were together.
I put them in a paddock together, and they walked around a little, exploring their new home. I gave them some hay, and they both attacked it together- eating both out of one feeder together before moving onto the next feeder and eating out of that one together. The little chestnut squealed a little at Brutus, but the grey, being older and infinitely wiser, stayed away from him entirely.
As they ate their hay, I made their grain. The owner said that they would sometimes get grain only as a treat, but nothing regularly, and they were not given any supplements, even the older mare. Even then, it would have been months if not longer since they had had anything besides hay. So it was gratifying to give them both a pink bucket with some grain, electrolytes and a joint supplement, with the promise that they would receive one everyday for the rest of their lives. They were grateful for the grain, but as they are Arabians, still acted like ladies, and ate daintily, albeit quickly.
While they were eating their grain, I started eating my lunch at the table in front of their paddock. I wanted to give these two girls new names, but nothing came to mind. I usually try to give Arabians names of royalty, as they are the princes and princesses of the horse world. I looked up names on my phone, and after about 15 minutes, the only names that stood out to me were Grace and Hope. And so I renamed the 28 year-old grey mare “Grace,” and the 14 year-old chestnut “Hope.” I stayed with them for a few more hours, but they seemed quiet and relaxed, if not a little dazed. It was almost as if they did not know exactly what had happened, but were almost afraid that their good luck was a mirage, and they would be returned to their small stalls with hard ground and just enough hay to keep them from starving. With a promise that they were safe at Hanaeleh, I left them to finish their hay.
Saturday morning we have volunteers out to help clean, groom and exercise the horses, and we cleaned their paddock and decided to give Grace a bath, as she has fungus all across her back and legs. Knowing that we would have to get them out together, I enlisted a few volunteers to help me to hold them. I looked through our stash of halters that had been donated to us, finding two purple ones that would work for the girls. They were a bit skittish at first, and were not thrilled about being haltered, but since they haven’t really been handled in months, that isn’t too surprising. We walked them to the tie rail right in front of their stall, and let Hope stand next to Grace as we gave her a bath.
Grace was pretty calm during the entire process. There was fungus across her back, all around her legs down to her hooves. I washed her with the help of a few volunteers, but there was only so much we could do the first time, and we didn’t want to be too aggressive, as we could do more damage to her skin. We will give her regular baths with a fungal shampoo, but what will really help eliminate the fungus will be good food and a steady, healthy diet.
We gave the girls their grain again, which they ate with gusto. They continue to start to eat their hay apart, but then move to eat together, still concerned about being separated. Horses who are neglected often bond more strongly together, as they have nothing else in their world to depend upon besides each other. It will take some time before they realize that they can depend upon humans again.
Sunday morning the farrier came out to trim the horses, including our newest arrivals. We gave the mares some grain with a little bute, as we were concerned that they would be a bit uncomfortable. They actually turned up their noses at the grain, which is both good and bad: good, because they were no longer so hungry that they would eat anything; bad, because we wanted them to get the bute. Jocelyn grated some carrots into their grain for them, to treat them as the princesses they are, and they subsequently ate their grain.
Our farrier, Josh Riley, spent a long time working on the two horses. Both horses had soles that had grown beyond the hoof walls, so their weight was on their soles, not on their hooves, which must have been terribly uncomfortable. In addition, their feet were so overgrown that their tendons were stretched and strained, and being trimmed helped to alleviate that pain as well. Hope had seedy toe in her front feet and abscesses in all of her feet, which what was probably causing her so much pain. These were from neglect and lack of any hoof care at all in many months. Josh did not want to be too aggressive with the trim, but even after one trim we could see a huge difference! After another trim or two, with good food and decent care, her hooves should return to normal.
Hope’s feet were pretty awful, but Grace’s feet actually looked worse. They were much more overgrown, and her soles were even more overgrown, with her toes beginning to start to curl upward. She was very calm and quiet throughout the trim, however, and it was so satisfying to see her hooves look normal again!
After Josh was finished with trimming Grace and Hope, he definitely needed a break! We turned the girls out into the arena, where they walked around on their new feet, and even did a little trotting and a bit of a canter! It was so wonderful to see them comfortable again! Both girls rolled in the arena and were visibly more relaxed and happier. What a difference some food and a hoof trim can do!
On Tuesday, the girls will have a basic vet check, and they will get the first part of their vaccinations. We will need to have their teeth done and their second set of vaccinations done as well. They will also need another few trims before their feet will be completely healthy. They have almost no muscle tone, as they haven’t been worked at all in months, so we will need to slowly work them to build up their muscle tone as well. Although they don’t appear to be starving, they are both about 200-300 pounds underweight because they essentially have no muscle at all. Grace’s fungus should clear up within the next few weeks with both the topical treatments and a healthy diet.
Both horses were trained to ride, but there is no guarantee that they will end up being sound enough to be ridden again. We are thankful that we were able to get these two girls before they suffered any further neglect, but they do need more care before they will be healthy again. We are thankful for Josh, who did such a great job with their feet, as well as out volunteers who have helped us with them, and for the people who identified that these poor mares needed help and contacted us. These little girls are safe now because of so many people, and we will do everything we can to ensure that they will stay safe and healthy for the remainder of their lives.
If you are able to help sponsor a small amount to help with the care of Grace or Hope, please visit our sponsorship page!