Monday, December 28, 2009
I made a few phone calls and learned a bit more about their situation. The gentleman who owned them died on Christmas Eve and his family couldn't take care of the horses. There were two geldings at the farm and they were both "skinny and in bad shape". A kind local lady saw their condition and dropped off a round bale for the two of them yesterday.
On my lunch break, I jumped in the truck and headed over to see them. I was greeted by a teary-eyed lady who used to own one of the geldings. She trained and showed him in his younger days and sold him to this man 13 years ago. He is now the ripe old age of twenty. Unfortunately, she wasn't in a situation where she could take him back and wanted to find a loving home that would rehabilitate him.
We stepped out back and my heart sank, again... Standing behind a round bale was a skinny, sad looking grey Thoroughbred. His spine was jutting out of his back, his ribs were all visible, his hip bones poking out.
Absolutely nothing I write here can describe the feeling I get in my chest when I see an animal in this condition. It's a feeling of heartbreak, infuriation, sympathy, sadness... the list goes on.
I took a deep breath, choked back the emotions and got to work. I started evaluating "Jaggar" and learned that besides his weight loss, he appeared overall healthy. He is approximately 250 pounds underweight and has a body score of 2/9. Not nearly as bad as Faith was when she first arrived, but not a whole lot better, either. He needs dental work and farrier care, but my first priority was to get a visit from our veterinarian to evaluate him and update his vaccinations.
His conformation was pretty decent for a man of his age. He was sweet as I worked with him and seemed to be an overall pleasant horse to be around. (Although so did Faith when I first got her, and we all know how that little princess's attitude just blossomed!)
As I talked to his previous owner, I learned more about his history and that he is a registered Thoroughbred and a son of the great racehorse "Affirmed". "Affirmed" was the last horse to win the Triple Crown, so his bloodlines are nothing but amazing. Jaggar, however, wasn't all that wonderful on the track as he was on paper, so they retired him as a 4-year-old and he was introduced to the Hunter/Jumper and Dressage world but his new owner.
After an early retirement from his show career, she sold him to this older gentleman who owned him for the past 13 years. He was a trustworthy, quiet trail horse and had always been well taken care of. However the gentleman's illness interfered with his ability to care for his animals, and his family didn't know what to do with them.
Besides him, there is also a 21-year-old Appendix Quarter Horse gelding that needs to be placed. He is also thin, but not nearly as thin as "Jaggar" is. There is a possibility that he has a home waiting for him, but we are not 100% certain on that yet. Jaggar, pictured below, does not. Keep in mind as you look at the pictures, that he has an incredibly long, thick winter coat that covers up quite a bit of his condition.
So after another one of my (all-too-frequent) financial conversations with Dan, (what a great guy he is, kiss kiss!), we have decided that Jaggar can come to live with us on a temporary basis for rehabilitation until we can find him a "forever" home. Finances are tight and we have decided to do a fundraising campaign to help with the cost of his care.
All money raised will go directly towards his rehabilitation expenses. If we are so lucky as to find him a new home before his fund runs out, the balance will be sent along to his new owner! You can click here to help us out: http://horserehab.chipin.com/help-us-with-the-rescue-and-rehabilitation-of-a-neglected-horse Thanks for reading and please pass this link along to everyone you know!
On the way down, we stopped in Connecticut at the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. That is my all-time favorite restaurant ever, and if anyone has the recipe for the "Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake", I will gladly buy it off of you. Moving on...
We made it through New York and passed the New Jersey border around 10pm. Everything was going well... until my truck started shaking violently. After about 15 seconds the shaking subsided, followed by a loud pop. Even though we had already passed through the Bronx, I still looked at Courtney to make sure we hadn't been shot at. I glanced in my mirrors and didn't see any issues with the trailer. My brakes worked, my steering was fine as well. Thankfully we were getting off at the next exit, which was only 10 miles down the highway, and I could get a better look at it.
As I pulled off, I glanced at my mirrors and saw what I had dreaded - there was rubber flopping from underneath the wheel well of my trailer. It didn't just pop - it was shredded. Ugh...
We pulled into the nearest hotel and I called AAA. I explained that one of my tires had blown and I needed help. I was then overwhelmed with happiness when she told me that my membership only covered the vehicle I was driving, not trailers. Wonderful. (If anyone who reads this hauls horses frequently and has AAA, call them and upgrade before you get stuck like me!)
I forgot to mention that the tow truck driver didn't show up until 1:00am and it took him the better part of a half hour to change it. And it was 5 degrees outside. And we needed to leave by 5:00am.
My hot shower was wonderful, but 5am came way too quickly. We checked out of the hotel and headed over the auction house. We were picking up two horses, a chestnut mare and a bay mare. The chestnut loaded up beautifully, but the bay wasn't nearly as willing. Of course, the guy who works there and was "helping" us by cracking her repeatedly on the butt with a whip wasn't making her trust us any more. Eventually she made the smart decision to jump on with us rather than stay with him, so we loaded up and headed out.
The ride back was definitely better as far as driving conditions went, but there was quite a bit more traffic. We opted to take the scenic route through New York City. Courtney was having fun with my camera and took some fantastic shots of the New York skyline!
And below is the George Washington Bridge. Note the crazy traffic, snow on the vehicles and the immense amount of salt on my windshield.
The horses made it back safe and sound. They rode fairly quietly and seemed pretty content to munch on their hay nets. We arrived home around 1pm and unloaded them. You can see the green kill pen tags on their hips. I don't know if they realize how close they were to getting on the wrong trailer, but the look on the bay mare's face says it all.
They will live to see another day and hopefully will provide years of enjoyment to their new families!
Also, I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone who donated towards our cause! We received a few donations towards our travel expenses and they were well needed and extremely appreciated. It's so wonderful to have such wonderful followers!
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Tomorrow evening, weather pending, I will be leaving to transport a few more horses north. Their pictures are below.
Unfortunately this auction is weekly so there will be a new group of horses looking for homes beginning Thursday morning. If anyone wants to be put on my email list, just let me know and you'll get a complete list of available horses, ponies and donkeys.
Also, I'd like to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who donated towards our cause! We raised over $200 towards shipping fees!
It is 10:00pm now. I have to head downstairs and make sure all of the horses are snuggled in for the evening. Their buckets are topped off with warm water, their hay racks packed full. It's going to be a long, snowy evening.
Before I shut the aisle lights off each night, I check on Faith last. I like to spend a few extra moments with her, sometimes just watching her munch on her hay. I pull a treat out of my pocket, give her a kiss on the nose and tell her, (jokingly and lovingly of course,) that she started all of this crap for me. And I wouldn't have it any other way...
Friday, December 18, 2009
Again, I will be shipping as many horses out of there as we can raise the funds for. We are currently working with other farms and rescue organizations to raise money for the horses' bail and shipping costs.
If anyone is interested in donating towards our cause, donations can be made via PayPal to: email@example.com
Thank you for your continued support!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
The trip on Sunday was successful, despite absolutely horrendous driving conditions. We were hauling five horses from the kill pen in New Jersey to safety northbound. Two horses were being delivered to a farm in Connecticut, two horses were spending a layover at my farm before heading north even further, and then there was our special pony that was coming to live with us.
The ride down was fine - we made it to the auction house by 11am. The place was eerily quiet. I parked my trailer in the lot just outside the barn doors, right next to the auction house rig. That trailer was one that would be leaving at 9pm with the slaughter bound horses...
I walked into the barn and quickly scanned the horses who's hip numbers matched those that I had jotted down on a piece of paper. Four of them appeared to be in OK shape, but one Saddlebred did not look well at all. (Pictured at the top of this post.)
The horses were led out individually and eagerly climbed aboard my trailer. It was almost as they knew that this trailer was their ticket to safety. At the head of their individual stalls, a fresh hay net hung in front of them. Fresh, fluffy wood shavings under their hooves gave them a comfortable place to stand.
I made the decision to load the sickly-looking saddlebred last. His legs were atrocious, he was underweight, and from what I could tell in my 90-second evaluation of him before he was loaded, he was extremely foot sore. I've never seen a horse quite like him, he just looked like he was in pain all over. I gave him some banamine orally and pulled over to check on him a half hour later. He seemed more comfortable but still not right.
On our way back North we ran into quite a few problems... First, we were stranded on Route 684 for over three hours. It was 34 degrees out and raining; the rain was freezing to the road surface creating an absolute nightmare for travelers. We had to wait as tow trucks and emergency crews pulled cars back onto the road. Some people ran out of gas; I was lucky to have filled up just before we got on that stretch of highway. However, I wasted a 1/2 tank of gas sitting there, but couldn't shut my truck off because it would have shut the power to the trailer down. We kept a close eye on the horses; oblivious to our worries and frustrations, they happily munched away on their hay nets. They may not have known what their fate may have been, but they knew they were safe.
Once moving again, our top speed was about 15 mph. At one point, going about 5 mph, my entire rig started sliding sideways into the brakedown lane. I straightened it out and got it back under control quickly, but it was enough to still send my heart racing. We finally got to the farm in Connecticut and unloaded the sickly Saddlebred and a Standardbred. They unloaded well and settled right into their stalls.
Then it was back to the interstate, topping out at about 40 mph the entire way back to New Hampshire. Our journey began at 5:30am and we spent 18 hours in my truck, not including the collective hour to load, unload and eat dinner! Ughh....
But the horses are safe and sound, and that's all that matters!
Pictured below is our little pony mare, who is still nameless! I have a few that I'm considering, but I honestly just have not had time to think about which one is most suitable for her. Our hope is to evaluate and train her and then find a safe, loving home to adopt her.
She is very sweet and personable. The one "odd" thing about her is that when she walks up to greet you, she walks past you a bit and stops with her shoulder right next to your body. Then she leans into you as if she wants a hug. I've tried scratching her on her back, neck and shoulders but that's not what she wants. She just wants you to wrap your arms around her neck... How a sweet, young horse like her ended up heading with a one way ticket to a slaughter house is beyond me.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
This post is going to be a short one because I need to finish preparing my horse trailer for a big day tomorrow.
Accompanied by my good friend Liz, I will be hitting the road around 5:30am to go to a well-known livestock auction in New Jersey. There, we will be picking up five horses who have all found homes in just the nick of time. What's the rush? They were all scheduled to be sent to a slaughterhouse in Canada at 9pm tomorrow evening. I'll pause while we listen to those collective hearts break...
Of the five we're hauling, two are being delivered to a farm in Connecticut. They consist an aged Saddlebred gelding with leg problems and a 24+ year old Standardbred ex-racehorse who won over $300k on the track. Nice retirement, huh?
Two more are scheduled for a layover at our farm until they are both picked up by their new owners. The first is a Saddlebred going to a farm in Vermont, and the other is a Standardbred is heading to a foster home just south of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.
The last one? She's the one pictured at the top. She's a 13.3 hand pony mare, just 4 years old. She'll be coming to our place...
The new pony mare we're getting will need a name. I like naming my horses after songs - any suggestions?!
I will be on the road for about 10 hours tomorrow and probably won't post again until Monday morning. Keep your fingers crossed for us that everything goes smoothly tomorrow!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Everyone asked to see her, so here she is! This is the little mare we went to see, and the only one who was supposed to come home with us, ahem...
She's a registered Welsh pony mare, about 13 hands tall. Between her flaxen mane and tail, her high white stockings and that adorable face, she is just perfect!
Good luck Courtney with your new project pony! You two look adorable together! :-)
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I was certainly not in the market for another rescue. But, as you all know, I am a sucker for the underdogs. Not to mention that we currently have two open stalls in the barn, so I should have known it was only a matter of time.
Halfway through the sale, the auctioneer called for the next horse to enter. Before us was a homely looking gelding, the size of a large pony, covered in mud and manure, with a defeated look on his face. He didn't appear to be anything we were interested in, so I glanced back down to my booklet, waiting for Courtney's prospect to come through.
The bid started out extremely low and remained there. The arena was quiet, with no calls for bids ringing out. The silence caught our attention. As they walked him around the arena, we both looked up and saw why no bids were being placed. His ribs were visible beneath a ratty winter coat, his shoulder blade and withers all jutted from his little body. He looked terrible.
His conformation, however, was decent. But it was his calm demeanor that really caught my eye. I was even more impressed with him when the auctioneer said that he was only 4 years old.
When the bidding stopped within range of a kill buyer's price, Courtney and I exchanged worried glances. Granted, kill buyers normally do not attend this auction, but you can never be certain. Regardless, I had about 10 seconds to weigh my options, 10 seconds to make a decision. And that decision could change the pony's life.
My number went up. My bid was in. The auctioneer glanced around the room, but no one else raised their hand. With a drop of the gavel, the pony gelding was safe. But I wasn't...
Courtney looked at me and calmly said with a smirk on her face, "Dan is going to kill you...". No, probably not. But I'm more than likely never going to be allowed out of the house unsupervised with Courtney again.
I went through the paperwork that came with him and learned that he is a 4-year-old, 13.3 hand Paint gelding. He is registered with the American Paint Horse Association and even has decent bloodlines. On paper, he seemed like a great prospect to rehome. His condition was what worried me.
We went to his stall to get him. I opened his door and he eagerly walked over to me. He followed Courtney and I out to the parking lot, jumped onto the trailer like he had done it a million times before, and we headed back home.
He didn't come with a barn name, so on the ride back we decided that he looked like a "Stewie". And yes, he is just as sweet looking and adorable in person!
I am pleased to say that there is really nothing bad about this little guy. He is an absolute gentleman to work with and has wonderful ground manners. It's clear that he doesn't know a lot, but he is patient and willing to learn. We were told that he has been ridden a few times, but we won't be doing anything with him under saddle until he puts more weight on.
His weight is the biggest, and really the only, concern to me. His ribs and hips are visible in the picture above, although he is certainly not in as bad of shape as Faith was when she arrived. Overall, he appears healthy, but we'll know for sure when our veterinarian comes to check him out. That won't be for at least a few more days due to a horrible snow storm we are getting right now. (Have I ever mentioned before how much I hate snow?!)
Our plan is to have Dr. George evaluate him, update his vaccinations and float his teeth. Once he has put enough weight on, we'll start training him and see where that brings us. I can totally see him being an adorable kid's show horse by next summer. Keep your fingers crossed that nothing gets in our way!
Monday, December 7, 2009
Amanda gave me an update on how Jack is doing. I present to you, "The Mirror Story":
"Sunday night I brought all my tack and I was planning on riding him if he had settled down enough. I tacked him all up and brought him into the indoor. It was later at night, and I was the only person in the indoor (besides my friend that came with me). I started to lunge him and quickly realized he had a bunch of energy, so I decided I'd try free lunging him.
Now the sad part:
After sitting around for so long I decided it was time to put him away. I walked up to him without the lead rope, and tried to see if he would follow me to the other side of the indoor. He followed until he reached the end of the mirrors, and all of a sudden came to a dead halt and glared at me. His eyes got real big and he was pacing back and forth between looking at the mirrors and looking at me, looking at the mirrors and looking at me. I had to walk to the other side of the indoor to get the lead rope, because at that point I realized he wasn't going to be able to just leave the "other horse".
He's doing much better now though. When I go there right after school to clean his stall he comes to the gate in his paddock when I call out to him as I'm walking up. He's learned who I am and I'm SO happy for that! I'm so excited to see how far i can get with him!
Thank you for everything again, I appreciate it all soooo much!
Talk to you soon,
Amanda - Thank YOU so much for putting work into him! Please keep us updated on how he's doing!
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Here are my answers!
1. Gallop along the beach - Done it and LOVE it! Now that I think of it, I need to go again soon...
2. Win a blue ribbon, even if it’s for the egg and spoon race - Done it, although I was never very good at egg and spoon!
3. Enjoy an evening of equestrian theater, from major touring productions such as Cavalia to local performance troupes. - Done it! Watched the Lippizaner Stallions and numerous productions of the Pfizer Fantasia.
4. Try your hand at cattle work. Find out what it means when they say a horse is “cowy.” - Did this last year at a farm in Arizona and LOVED it! I wish there were more experiences like that closer to home!
5. Jump! From crossrails to cross-country obstacles, experience the thrill of soaring over fences. - I have jumped in the arena, but have always wanted to do cross country, even if the thought frightens me a bit!
6. Fall off and get right back on again. Conquering fear is empowering. - I have fallen 7 times in my career and have gotten back on each time except for one. It was a pretty bad fall, but knock on wood, no broken bones!
7. See the majestic white Lipizzan stallions of the Spanish Riding School. - I haven't seen them in Vienna, but would love to! I have seen the local performances by the US troops.
8. Come to a sliding stop on a well-trained reining horse. - This is the one thing that I have ALWAYS wanted to do but have never been able to. Maybe some year for Christmas I'll get a reining lesson as a present!
9. Take a lesson with your equestrian idol. - I have LOTS of idols, not sure where to start!
10. Nurse a horse through a crisis and back to full health. - Check! That's kind of the point of this whole website!
11. Experience the smooth ride of a gaited horse. - I have been on Rocky Mountain Horses, Standardbreds and Trotting Ponies before, but have always wanted to try a Tennessee Walker.
12. Watch the horses come through the Head of the Lake on cross-country day at the Rolex Three-Day Event. - Not done.
13. Have the courage to do the right thing for your horse, even when it’s not easy. - Yes, we had to put one of our school horses to sleep a few years ago. She came to us as a rescue and was just an amazing horse. I'll have to write a post about her someday...
14. Attend the Kentucky Derby dressed to the nines—including hat! - Not done, but always wanted to! Minus the hat... :-)
15. Tackle a trail accessible only by horseback and enjoy the view. - Done! Picture above!
16. Take your dream vacation on horseback. - We went to a dude ranch last year and got to work cattle, learned how to team pen, rope, etc. It was a blast! I've always wanted to go to Ireland, too.
17. Master the sitting trot. - Mastered? Probably not. But I don't think I'm all that bad at it either!
18. Ride a fine-tuned horse in your discipline of choice, be it dressage schoolmaster or barrel champ. - I have also always wanted to have a lesson on an upper level dressage horse. Looks like fun!
19. Watch polo. Even better, try your hand at it! - Not done.
20. Feed, muck, groom, ride. Repeat daily. - ALWAYS done, just not the riding part!
21. Wake up to a whinny every morning. - Either whinnies or our donkey Dominic braying right outside our bedroom window.
22. Fly down the track on a Thoroughbred. - I have always wanted to do this, but think I might be too much of a chicken to attempt it! I am not sure if we get less courageous or more intelligent as we get older. When I was younger I would have done it, no doubt about it.
23. Meet one of your favorite famous horses in person. - I met the horse from Lord of the Rings, which was pretty interesting.
24. Ride bareback, bridleless ... or both! - Yes, of course!
25. Share a bond with your horse that’s deeper than words. - I think the bonds I have had with some horses have been stronger than the bonds I've had with humans!
Have a wonderful weekend! :-)
Thursday, December 3, 2009
The movie "The Bucket List" follows two terminally ill men (played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) who embark on a journey with a wish list of things to do before they “kick the bucket.” Here’s our equestrian version of a bucket list—25 ultimate things to experience in a lifetime as a horse lover.
What's on your equestrian bucket list?
1. Gallop along the beach.
2. Win a blue ribbon, even if it’s for the egg and spoon race!
3. Enjoy an evening of equestrian theater, from major touring productions such as Cavalia to local performance troupes.
4. Try your hand at cattle work. Find out what it means when they say a horse is “cowy.”
5. Jump! From crossrails to cross-country obstacles, experience the thrill of soaring over fences.
6. Fall off and get right back on again. Conquering fear is empowering.
7. See the majestic white Lipizzan stallions of the Spanish Riding School.
8. Come to a sliding stop on a well-trained reining horse.
9. Take a lesson with your equestrian idol, _________ (you fill in the blank.)
10. Nurse a horse through a crisis and back to full health.
11. Experience the smooth ride of a gaited horse.
12. Watch the horses come through the Head of the Lake on cross-country day at the Rolex Three-Day Event.
13. Have the courage to do the right thing for your horse, even when it’s not easy.
14. Attend the Kentucky Derby dressed to the nines—including hat!
15. Tackle a trail accessible only by horseback and enjoy the view.
16. Take your dream vacation on horseback.
17. Master the sitting trot.
18. Ride a fine-tuned horse in your discipline of choice, be it dressage schoolmaster or barrel champ.
19. Watch polo. Even better, try your hand at it!
20. Feed, muck, groom, ride. Repeat daily.
21. Wake up to a whinny every morning.
22. Fly down the track on a Thoroughbred.
23. Meet one of your favorite famous horses in person.
24. Ride bareback, bridleless ... or both!
25. Share a bond with your horse that’s deeper than words.
I'll post my answers tomorrow! :-)
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Looking back at the events of the past ten months, I truly cannot believe the changes Faith has made. I never thought it would be possible for her to recover as well as she did. Hell, I honestly doubted that she would make it through those first few nights. She has transformed in front of all of our eyes, coming to us as a walking skeleton and slowly blossoming into a beautiful swan.
And now, she has transformed back. This time, into a wooly, hairy beast. Old man winter is on his way and Faith is going to make sure that she's prepared for him. Boy, that old lady can surely grow a winter coat on her!
Faith has made a full circle - first an ugly duckling, then a gorgeous swan, and now... a moose. (She really looks like one, I swear!) At least now her coat is shiny and thick, unlike the poor, dull winter "coat" she had when she arrived.
I haven't had time to take many pictures of her lately, but I will try to get some new ones posted soon so everyone can see how snuggly she looks!
Pet - This little mare is probably the sweetest horse I have ever owned! She is quiet, well mannered and patient. And it's so cute to hear her nicker to me each morning when she hears me coming!
Victoria - Our lovely little piglet has found a wonderful home in Woodstock, NH! She now lives at a farm with chickens, cattle, a pony and a few other barnyard critters. They have sent me updates on how she's doing and they love her dearly. I'm so glad we found such a perfect home for her!
Jack - Yes, we finally decided on a name for the big guy! The choice was an easy one - he was a little naughty the first few days here when he was still unwinding, so "Jack" was his first name and, well, you can figure out what his middle name was!
Once he settled in and adjusted, we started working him under saddle. I am honestly impressed beyond words - he was nothing short of amazing! He was quiet, well behaved for the most part and... slow. He actually didn't want to move! (This is probably why he has been retired from racing!) He needed to be pushed into the trot, and once he finally decided to comply, his trot was slow and steady. I can see a career as a dressage horse in his future; his movement is incredibly fluid and balanced.
A wonderful young lady named Amanda has taken him on as a project over the winter. She is experienced with eventing and just loves working with off-track Thoroughbred race horses, so the two of them are a perfect match! She is boarding him near her house and will be working with him every day. Hopefully in the spring and summer they will be going to a few events together! I will keep everyone updated on his progress!
As a side note, one thing that "Jack" likes to do after he is ridden is stick his tongue out of his mouth and bite it. Sometimes it comes out the side of his mouth, other times it is sticking straight out. He lets you play with it and grab it, and if you don't, he flips his head up and down making it flap around. He's bizarre, but such a cutie!
Jack & Amanda, November 2009
65 more days until Faith's one-year anniversary! Can you believe it?!