Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Guest Post -- Rescue Horse Update

This guest posting is by Denise Parsons who recently rescued a mare.  This is a great recap of the potential challenges, cost and reward of rescuing a horse from auction.   Thank you Denise for sharing your story.

Some of you may recall me posting about going up to Camelot in New Jersey to possibly pull a TWH mare. Thought I'd send an update on our discoveries, pictures are from today when we got home.

I ended up buying her, sight unseen other than photos - something I've NEVER considered doing. She had been sold to Camelot through New Holland. She had been at Camelot for two weeks the Friday I pulled her. She was slated to go back to New Holland on the following Monday - where her future would have been quite uncertain. She might have been lucky enough to find an owner at that point, but could have just as easily ended up slaughter-bound or at another auction in an unending circle of auctions. She was in very good
weight and relatively healthy so would have brought a decent meat price for sure. I've never done a "rescue" and never really had a desire to, but for some reason, I felt pulled to go grab this mare.

Well here we are 6 weeks later...

She's been in quarantine for the past 6 weeks. When I got her back to Maryland she had a slight cough and a mild runny nose - looked like a simple upper respiratory, so we put her on penicillin for a couple days. After about a week, the tell-tale swelling of the lymph nodes started to warn of something more sinister than a simple case of the snots. Sure enough, it was strangles. The good news - I had not brought her back to my place, and she was in quarantine, and all of my own horses had recently had a strangles booster. The bad news, poor decisions about putting her on penicillin early on caused a major delays in the eruption of the abscesses. Just this past week she finally blew what I hope is the last of the abscesses. And were still several weeks from a clean bill of health at best.

This poor mare has been through the ringer over the last couple months. All I know about her is that someone had cared enough about her appearance to clip her before sending her on her way. I don't know how she ended up at New Holland or where she had been before that. But here's what I have discovered:

1. The clipping that was done on her I've only ever seen done by TWH show people. It included clipping under the forelock, and I've never seen any other people do that other than the walking horse people.

2. She had a matt in her tail that I've only ever seen in a horse that has had the tail up in a tail bag for too long. It was a solid mass in the center about the size of a broom handle and I could barely get through it with a knife. No debris or anything in the middle of the matt, just solid tail hair.

3. Her stall manners are impeccable. When you enter the stall she politely retreats to the back - not out of fear, but being respectful.

4. She has been amazing for the vet and for the barn people. She was getting 20cc shot of penicillin 2x per day for 10 days - the shots were given without her even having a halter on!

5. She spent nearly 6 weeks in a stall and never got antsy, cranky or had any indication of being uptight or unruly in any way. You can actually leave the door open to the stall and she'll just stand there politely.

6. She doesn't seem to care for other horses, prefers to be left alone and gets very "marish" if they approach her stall, however has never flicked an ear in the wrong way with a human.

After 6 weeks, I finally made the decision to bring her home. I wasn't thrilled about the cleanliness of the quarantine barn (dark, dusty and damp) and felt like her recovery was being delayed by the circumstances. I have put up an electric fence to keep her away from any shared fence lines here at the house and there will be no shared water or food buckets. I will be sure to sanitize everything I touch and handle her last after dealing with the boys each day.

After being in a stall for nearly 6 weeks without stepping foot outside, she quietly walked to the trailer and loaded right up. She stood quietly in the trailer and rode quietly back home. I pulled her out of the trailer and I
tied her there while I got her grazing muzzle ready (my fields look like a golf course). I brushed her, sprayed her down with fly spray and then turned her out. I expected 6 weeks worth of pent up energy to come busting
out. She walked around trying to figure out the grazing muzzle, looked around at the field and took about thee gait strides and then proceeded to eat. She's totally ignored my other horses.

I've been really amazed by this horse every step of the way. I did have a chance to hop on her the first week I had her, and although I kept the ride very short, it was long enough to find out that she knows seat and leg aids and even neck reins - not common for a gaited horse! I'm going to give her another week or so and see how she's doing with any remaining abscesses then it's time to see what she can do under saddle. I have purchased a safety vest and always wear a helmet, I'm looking forward to seeing if this mare is as wonderful to ride as she is to work with on the ground.

Right now I'm considering myself quite lucky. However, I will say that rescuing a horse is NOT for the inexperienced or for someone that thinks they're going to get a horse "cheap". Not counting the bale money paid to the auction house, I spent $300 to have her hauled home, $550 in board for the quarantine barn and well over $1500 in vet bills and meds just to start. I also had to have her feet done and I still need to have her teeth done and shots done. This is on a horse that was in good weight and relatively good health when she came out of the auction yard. And I still don't know what I have for a riding horse. I knew all of this as a possibility going into it however, but I suspect a lot of people don't consider this when they walk into an auction. In today's market, I could have easily gone out and bought a very nice riding horse that I could have papers and a history on for less than I'll end up spending on this mare.

With that said though, I've had the opportunity to make a difference in this one horse's life. I'm hoping to find out what she can do under saddle and depending on what I find, I will get her placed in a great home where she will have the opportunity to have a job with a loving owner.

But if I were to offer an invaluable piece of advice - if you want to "rescue" a horse, please visit one of the reputable area rescues. They have done the hard part for you - pulled them from a dangerous situation, brought them back to health, temperament tested them, etc. It's certainly the safest way to "rescue" a horse. And every horse that gets a home through a rescue makes room for another one to come into the rescue from a dangerous situation.

-- Denise Parsons

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