Posts tagged Rescue Horses

Blotched, Botched, or Blessed? One Indian Pony’s Amazing Journey

“Lucky,” with his slaughter number attached to his left shoulder.

Lucky was named Lucky because he was dumped in the desert on the Mexican border seven months ago with about 40 other half-dead horses. How this could possibly be “lucky” sounds like a mystery, I know, but had his trailer-load of horses bound for slaughter in Mexico crossed that border, what little meat there was left on Lucky’s emaciated body would now most likely be digesting in the gut of some person in France… or flowing along the rivers of waste below the city of Paris. A noble equine life wasted.

The horses were dumped because several had a disease known as strangles, which can be a death sentence for horses, is highly contagious, and is certainly not acceptable for animals intended for human consumption. It was no doubt far cheaper for the hauler to release them into the desert than to try to sell them or park them somewhere.

We don’t know the whole story, and surely many of these horses perished, but Lucky was picked out of the herd in a holding pen by a teenage girl as a “gift” from a benefactor who often rescued some of these poor critters.

This girl herself had a rare gift with horses, and she must have seen some spark in the eye of this little horse the day she chose him, even though that “eye” reflected such poor health and resignation.
Supposedly Lucky was only six, so that was in his favor. And he didn’t have strangles, so that was a double-plus. So off he went for rescue and rehab at the girl’s family’s stables, where they regularly took in as many of his kind as possible, brought them back to life, and placed them in good homes.

Fast forward to July of 2012 when Lucky arrived in Nambe, New Mexico, just north of Santa Fe, and was picked up by his new owner, my dear friend Cindy. Cindy had been looking for an appropriate companion for her only-horse, Nova, and, once again, there was just something about Lucky’s pictures that made her staunchly committed to giving him a permanent, forever home. He had been through months of rehab with his rescuers, Cindy’s friends, and had even recently survived a life-threatening round of severe colic. But Cindy never waivered. She was absolutely, positively sure that he was the one for her and her four-year-old mare, Nova.

Cindy began researching the little guy, posted pictures of the strange markings on his left side, and thereby learned much about his probable heritage. She found out that these marks are known as “blotch brands” and are Navajo in origin. (Cindy says they should be called botched brands because they are so messed up–no doubt due to improperly restraining the horse during branding.) The hip brand traditionally has three overlaid images which reflect the tribe, the land, and the family of the horse, so it’s easy to see how that brand alone could easily be “smeared” and hard to read. There are also often many other smaller markings/blotch-brands on a Navajo pony, of which Lucky has at least two, one of which looks like a face.

One Navajo horse trainer offered further description:  “If you can ride him bareback with a halter, and he can’t back up, then he’s off the Navajo Reservation.” Later, responding to Cindy’s horrified message that this horse had been sold for slaughter, probably for $100 or less, he said, “You haven’t seen poor until you’ve been on the rez.”

Due to the drought, hay prices, and the economy, horses are being given away, sold for slaughter, or just turned loose these days by folks who are far more prosperous than those on the rez, so no, it is no wonder that Lucky ended up on that truck bound for Mexico. Still, I like to imagine little children on him, riding bareback with just a halter, and that his family was bereft to give him up. But that $100 sale price to them probably meant at least a few months of staples for their larder. It’s hard for any of us reading this to relate to that, but it certainly is a fact of life for many, and definitely for many of those among the Native American population of our country.

So Lucky lucked out and finally made it “home,” just one week ago. He was shaking all over as we started to unload him, but when he stepped out of the trailer, all of that went away and one could feel a total sea change in his being:  he KNEW. We humans have epiphanous moments, why shouldn’t the animals? We could feel Lucky registering that this was his home, forever. It felt familiar being back in the high desert of New Mexico, and he immediately went into a place of total trust, relaxation and appreciation for the patient woman who stood murmuring quietly by his side.

In the last seven days, Lucky has flourished. He is on ten acres with one to two hours of at-liberty time each day to move freely, test the legs he hasn’t had a chance to use in a long, long time, and to graze on familiar stubbly, native desert grasses. But he also has his own pen with plenty of hay and feed. He is so thankful for this bounty that he went back into his pen, unprompted, all by himself, the first day he was turned out, after only an hour and a half. And he glues himself to Cindy whenever she is with him, following her from chore to chore, muck to muck. He knows. He had an epiphany. He understands and is grateful.

Other things Cindy has learned: Many of the rez horses date back to the original Arabian breed of ancient lore—the type that slept in tents with the Bedouins. A rare type these days because they are so calm and devoted, not as “hot” as many of their modern-day counterparts. Considering Lucky’s head, conformation, size and disposition, he certainly fits this mold. According to her vet, he is 11 years old, not six, which is just fine with her and will only help stabilize her four-year-old filly’s adolescent ways. And he has a spirit that can survive things most of us don’t even want to think about.

Lucky has been renamed “Sharif” (pronounced “Shar-EEF”) honoring all the traits he bears from his long-distant ancestry: nobility, honor, gentleness. He still needs to gain more weight and rebuild muscle, but no doubt one day soon Cindy will be able to find out if he can be ridden “bareback, with just a halter” (though by then she will have taught him to back up!).

Sharif is one of the lucky ones. So many horses, dogs and cats are being discarded these days due to lack of resources to take care of them. I hope Sharif’s story will inspire others like Cindy to step up and rescue or sponsor just one animal who would otherwise be lost. In this case, I don’t know who lucked out the most: Sharif or Cindy. She agrees.

Sharif, on his 6th day at “home,” clearly at peace after his long and difficult journey.


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Pound Puppies = Problem Poops

This is just another way of saying:

  • Rescue dogs usually have upset tummies. Or . . .
  • Shelter dogs have digestive problems. Or . . .
  • Yuk! What’s wrong with my new dog?!

Any way you want to put it, this fact is usually paramount for the dog or puppy you bring away from a shelter or rescue situation. Same goes for cats, kitties, and horses. Why?

If this looks stressful to you, just think what it feels like to him.

Stress. Poor nutrition, possibly even starvation. Emotional anxiety. Grief. Any or all of the above, and more, often plague the rescue while on the streets or in the shelter. They’ve lost their families, or been abandoned, are totally confused and trying to figure out where in the world they are.

This has recently been brought to my attention once again by the arrival of ‘Bear,’ an unspayed, year-old Great Pyrenees female I rescued from the animal shelter 12 days ago. Meet Bear, my number six (yes count them, SIX) dog:

Bear at the shelter. Stay tuned for a follow-up picture and report soon!

Bear was picked up at the landfill in Taos, NM, pretty bedraggled, and then spent a few weeks behind bars being evaluated for aggression (emotional stress) before being spayed and put up for adoption. I heard about her and did a ‘meet & greet’ with two of my other dogs, and listened to her and to my heart about her disposition. I approved, she approved, and my other dogs approved. So she was immediately spayed and home with me the next day.

All is well, and Bear is the perfect ‘peaceable kingdom’ candidate already, just two weeks in. But she came home ravenously hungry 24/7 and burping all day every day. She was underweight, her stool loose, her coat rough and matted.

Chiweenie Tucker now, hale and hardy.

Ah, yes. Shades of my last rescue experience two years ago — bringing little Chiweenie Tucker home from the shelter. Tucker, who now weighs in at 18 lbs., was only two-thirds of that weight when I got him, and his diarrhea was so bad we feared for the worst.

Or Hank, the 29-year-old Quarter Horse I rescued from starvation several years ago. His was a very extreme case and required a carefully orchestrated re-introduction of food and supplements  into his life.

Some of my particular ways of rehabbing rescues include top quality food (I use Flint River for the pre-prepared part of my dogs’ and cats’ diets), Simplexity’s  Super Blue-Green Algae products, especially probiotics to replenish their depleted natural resources, and the herb powdered Slippery Elm (the inner bark) to soothe their highly irritated digestive tracts. There are different variations of these nutritional elements, and other things I use as well, but everybody who comes in as a rescue gets very, very special food and care until they are back to balance. As an example, you can read about Tucker’s special diet HERE.

Just be prepared if you rescue an animal. Don’t expect them to be the picture of health and perfectly well adjusted the moment they come to their new home. Give them time, love, and attention. Just grit your teeth, start brushing out the mats or bathing out the dirt, and customize your new animal’s diet and exercise program. You can bring them all the way back and make them gloriously beautiful, healthy, and happy. They never forget and are grateful to you forever for it.



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Letting Go of Lopeh

Lopeh, the day I met her at the cattle ranch.

Right now I’m trying to practice what I preach. A while back I wrote a blog about gutting it up and making a change if you have a horse that’s the wrong horse for you. (You can read that blog post HERE.) The client involved was really an inspiration for me, as both she and her horse were unhappy and she was brave enough to admit it AND to contemplate rehoming him.

For most of us, that kind of thing takes a lot of guts. Some folks may trade horses like baseball cards, but not most of the horse lovers I know. Myself included.

I have had many horses through the years, not just a few of whom were less than a great match for me, but none of whom I passed on or placed in more suitable homes. But I have come to the conclusion that not doing so may not always be the best or kindest choice, either for oneself or for the horse.

A recent shot of Lopeh in her "I am the ultimate Quarter Horse!" pose.

Lopeh, pictured above, came home with me 6 months ago, the only unwanted member of a breeding herd of fine horses that was being dispersed for free  from a local nearby ranch. I won’t go into detail, but the ranch breeds fine cattle, and found itself in an unanticipated situation with this horse herd, with lots of untrained babies on the ground, so did the right thing and gave the horses to qualified applicants. Lopeh came to me because she was the only horse nobody wanted, and I had promised to take any such “leftovers,” in order to make sure they didn’t end up at the slaughter house.

So it’s not like I chose Lopeh exactly. But I did think I might keep her if she were a good, quiet, all-purpose trail horse for all types of riders.

But to make a long story short, she’s too out of practice to be safe for just anyone, and I’m too old and brittle to get her back into shape and trailworthy. Plus, my heart really lies with my Bella, and that’s who I want to do my working and riding with.

Lopeh went to a new home yesterday, to a sweet and very young woman who has wanted her for months, knowing all her foibles and special needs. Nikki has been around horses just about her whole life so has tons of the experience and skill necessary to help Lopeh once again live up to her full potential, plus there are other horses in the herd so Lopeh won’t be alone.

I had Lopeh with a trainer for two weeks before delivering her to Nikki, so I think they’ll have a head start on their work and play together, and I could not have asked for anyone who would be a more perfect match for this little mare.

But today I am downhearted. I miss Lopeh. And I am NOT a horse trader. So this was a new experience for me and one that has been emotionally difficult to work through.

I know Lopeh is going to flourish in her beautiful new surroundings. And I know Nikki will keep me informed of her progress. And I know I will be the first to know if things don’t work out, and Lopeh will come right back here in that case.

But the fact of the matter is, when you sell or place a horse, or any animal for that matter, if your heart is in it you really have to follow the divine adage:

“Let go and let God.”

. . . and trust in the goodness of all, and that all will be well.

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My Two Girls

My Two Girls: Bella & Her New Friend, Lopeh

I never thought I’d have a mare . . . much less mares in the plural. Why I thought that, I can’t tell you, except maybe for the fact that my geldings seemed so well-suited to me and my needs.

I’ve had horses in my back yard for 25 years now, and they’ve always been geldings — until four years ago. That’s when I broke the mold and took my beloved Mustang mare, Bella, and she has gone beyond all expectations in terms of being the perfect horse match for me.

So what did I know? Nothing, obviously, about mares.

Still, after Bella arrived, and we were so perfect together, I was quite sure I would never get another mare. For one thing, none would ever be able to measure up to Her Highness; for another, I didn’t want Bella to feel her supremacy was being challenged in any way.

And then along came Lopeh, a little QH 8-year-old mare who was a rescue from a nearby breeding herd that was being dispersed rapidly — headed for the chopping block if not adopted out fast. I took Lopeh only because nobody else wanted her, which I chronicled in Be Careful What You Wish For.

Two weeks later we lost our alpha gelding, Gabriel, and Bella went into a deep depression. Our other herd member, Copper, was 33 years old and not much into keeping company with Bella, so I thanked my lucky stars that Lopeh had joined our lot and hoped her presence might take some of the bite off losing Gabriel for Bella.

For weeks nothing much helped Bella, though she did naturally gravitate toward Lopeh and the two of them stayed together. But Bella was very sad and unhappy, often seen with her head hanging low. So there was bickering and nit-picking between them while Bella worked her way through the heavy throes of grief she was experiencing.

During those early stages Lopeh wasn’t a very attractive herd mate either. She came to us scared to death and unapproachable, and laid her ears back and threatened to kick if anyone, human or horse, did something she thought might be threatening. I seriously doubted I would keep her because I did not want that kind of energy in my herd.

Fast forward four months. I had Lopeh sold in late January, and thought it was the right decision, but then the buyer flaked out and didn’t show when she was supposed to, so, for some reason I’ll never understand, I decided to keep Lopeh.

I guess that was a turning point in many respects because about that time Lopeh finally absorbed the good vibes of our peaceful tribe and turned from a hot little tart into a sweet, loving, cooperative little lady. She’s great on the ground, hopefully will be a good ride (soon to be determined), and now loves our attention and treats.

And, best of all, she and Bella are now true pals. They’re exactly the same age  so have a lot of youthful energy. We see them running and playing together frequently out in the pasture now, something Bella has never had a real opportunity to do with my herd because all its members were elderly or ailing. And being a rather, ahem, robust draft horse type of Mustang, this is something Bella needs desperately! Bella is happy again, and slim (for her), and Lopeh has become a little pussycat (knock wood!).

So things turned out for the best and all is well in the small horse herd here at Sol y Cielo.

And, the best part? I have learned that I LOVE MARES!!!!!

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All’s Well That Ends Well – The New Arrivals

Nova and her 'throwaway' mom, name yet to be determined.Not that it’s the end. In fact it’s only the beginning. We have “miles to go before we sleep” with these two equines we’ve rescued, but so far so good.

We successfully hauled the “leftover” mare and her year-and-a-half-old filly, now known as Nova, home to my house yesterday. (I don’t know what the mare’s name will be yet and would welcome suggestions. Her registered name is ridiculous.) Cindy and I decided it would be safest and best to temporarily keep the two together, in a horse-safe pen, while they adapt to a completely new and different life.

Nova will eventually be living at Cindy’s on 10 acres, with neighbor horses just across the fence, but we didn’t want to turn her out by herself in that setting right away with Cindy’s two goats. Better that she and her mom settle in over here in a safe, pipe-fenced pen first. And if, after a couple of weeks here, we feel it would be safer for Nova, we will move the mare over to Cindy’s with her for a while.

As you can tell, we have both had the fate of these two horses uppermost in our minds ever since adopting them last weekend. Bringing in new horses always has its potential perils, but since these two have been living wild on open range in a herd with a stallion, this change will be a huge shock for them.

They are both curious and getting to know my other horses – over the fence of course – and it looks like things are going to go smoothly. Even Bella, my Mustang mare who loves babies and whom I thought would be very jealous, has accepted them quietly.

One surprise to us has been that the mare is quite ready to keep the filly in her place — actually to be rid of her, probably a result of having just had a 6-month old weaned this past week. So she’s a little out of sorts, and a bit distrustful, but on the whole is very manageable. And her rejecting attitude toward Nova will surely prove to be in our favor when we do finally separate them.

For the record, we are more than impressed with the great job the cowboys on the ranch did with the filly, given the little handling she had. She’s not real excited about having her feet picked up yet, but loads in a trailer and ties well, and I know lots of grown-up horses who don’t even do that!

On the whole, we’re very pleased, mama and daughter are happy, and everybody is settling in just fine.

Meanwhile, we’ve heard rumor of another herd of about 50 registered Quarter Horses who may be up for grabs in Colorado.

Oh me oh my. How to take care of all the unwanted animals in the world. I guess just helping one horse, one dog, or one cat at a time is the best place to start.

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