I just want to share our blessed rescue horse and his story while I have the chance.
A view of our pen at the rental house and the horses having some lunch.
At the end of May of 2012 my neighbor knocked on my door asking if I would take in a stray horse. Haha, I have never taken in a "stray" horse before, at first I thought she was pulling my leg. We've had pleanty of stray dogs before, even a cat and a lizard once, never a stray horse. As she was telling me everything I kept expecting her to laugh and say it was all a joke, lol.
Several of the neighbors found him out roaming around and were unable to find any one who recognized him. Nobody else really had room for him and at the time our pasture was empty, so we decided we were up for boarding him and figuring out whatever came next from there.
When I got to the neighbors barn to bring him home it was just a heart breaking site. The horse was just skin and bones, it was so sad. He was just so disconnected and sad, and moved so slow and broken down. Despite all that, he was still very friendly, tolerant, and calm. My good friend and neighbor Sherry who had stowed him in her barn long enough to come get me kept telling me what a sweet thing he seemed to be. None of us could imagine how he came to be so thin.
But if you could see past the bones, he was just a beautiful horse under all that emaciation.
This is how he looked when I brought him home that first night. It was May 25th.
Since we didn't get him until after 5pm on a Friday night, I wasn't able to get a vet out until the following Monday. I have never had a horse come to us anywhere near THIS thin, I was intimidated and super worried I might do something wrong to make him worse. When I got him that night I had such a strong urge to make the vet come LIVE with us to be on the safe side, lol.
His feet were so sore, and a bit long. He was hardly able to walk from my neighbors house over to ours. He was trying his best to please us, but you could tell it was so painful for him to walk on the rough road. We had to stop several times because it was so hard for him. Once we got him to our pen and back on softer footing, he did much better.
And these are from the next day....
Looking at these pictures still makes my heart sink...
All the many neighbor horses who lived around us were fat and happy and had lost their winter coats by this point. It was almost June and already getting pretty hot out, but this guys heavier coat remained because his body was so compromised and unable to shed.
Because he has such a noble face, and seemed to have such a faithful attitude despite having been through so much we decided to call him Trooper.
The following Monday our vet came out and gave him a full examination. They found he scored a 2/9 BSC on weight and needed to gain possibly up to 200lbs. If this is what a 2/9 looks like can you imagine what a 1/9 looks like? All in all Trooper was diagnosed with a severe heart murmur, suspensory desmitis (ankles that have been broken down and don't stand up properly) in his back ankles, and thrush in is front hooves. She checked his teeth and said he was well over due for a teeth float (which she wasn't able to do that day because she had come out on such short notice). She estimated his age at 20-25 yrs old and felt he was most likely a Paso Fino with his build and gait. She did a heavy dose of wormer that day to take care of parasites and then had to go on to her previously scheduled clients. Although he seemed to be happy, she said he should never be ridden again because of his ankles and the heart murmur. Although a tad bit bummed, we weren't surprised.
So on the vets recommendation we began feeding him freely on orchard grass, and working him up to lots of equine senior each day. We eventually added rice bran and veggie oil into the equine senior and alfalfa into his hay mix, which worked out really well. With proper nutrition came the ability to finally shed his winter coat by mid July I believe it was, and a body that was starting to function the way it should.
We were also able to get our "barefoot" farrier out right away, Troop had very under run heals and long toes to add to the already heaping pile of problems. Poor boy, he just wasn't getting any good reports.
Later that first week in late May I found he was loaded FULL of huge ticks that had definitely been on him for a long time, but all of us missed them when checking him over because his body cavity went up so high on the inside of his hips. I could reach up to within an inch parallel of his hip bone, on the INSIDE of his thighs (you can see the hip bone sticking out near the top of his rump in the photos). You shouldn't be able to reach that high up on the inside of a horses thighs, they are suppose to have a ton of fat and muscle up in there. Discovering the state of his under carriage was a whole new blow. I felt so bad for Trooper.
My awesome neighbor Sherry and her son Michael came down that day to help me remove tick after tick after tick. Some were the size of lima beans and it was tough getting at them because they were so far and high up into his thighs. When THAT was over we all had a serious case of the eebie jeebies, lol. I felt like I had ticks crawling all over me the rest of the day. I think Trooper felt much better though!
In hopes that he had just been wandering for months and that some poor family was really missing him, we went knocking on doors around the neighborhood, checked craigslist, and also checked with the pound. We didn't find anyone who was missing him. When calling the pound I was informed the state requires that all stray horses be fostered for around a month in order to go to through a process of giving the owner time to come forward. If no owner comes forward they begin advertising the horse and it's condition in local papers to be put up for auction. I had no idea we couldn't just keep him if owners didn't pop up, so that process had me really nervous. The bright side was that we were allowed to keep him with us and foster him here, but I was worried sick someone would out bid us on auction day and he end up in a bad situation. Many horses are bought at auctions in this area and taken to slaughter houses in Canada to harvest. It's a harsh process to put a pet through. Thankfully the auction was held at our house (which is pretty far out of town) over a month later, nobody else showed up to bid, and we got to keep him for the high price of $5.00.
Best 5 bucks I can recall spending.
This was taken 6-7-12, about two weeks after we got him. Before the auction but still so very thin.
That process with the state is a whole other story in itself, I could go on about. I'll skip it for today.
This was taken 8-23-12. This photo and the ones below are easier to see his broken down ankles. They are pretty bad and squat down pretty low. This isn't something that can be corrected according to our vet and farrier. I've not ever had a horse with ankles like this... Thankfully, so long as he isn't carrying much more weight, they don't bother him. So far anyway. So for that reason we probably won't be going for the goal of adding 200lbs as the vet first estimated.
After he was finally ours we were able to float his teeth, and make the last adjustments to his food. It was then he finally started to really put some weight on. Or then that we finally noticed it anyway.
This is what our boy looks like today (9-9-12), about 3 months after he originally found his way into the neighborhood!
Until writing this post I hadn't realized how much of a difference these 3 months have made for him. Showing my mom today she said, "Wow, he looks so ROUND now!" Haha. He really is looking round now, less jagged and bony. His hip bone still sticks out a bit, along with his spine, but his ribs are almost all hidden now. We're all excited about the progress so far.
We've pretty much fallen head over heals for Troop, and he's made such a bond with us in return. His personality has blossomed so much in the last 3 months too.
It's always the rescues that seem to appreciate what they have so much more than the others isn't it?
Trooper has gone from disconnected but cooperative, to completely dependent and connected to our family. He looks to me for direction, follows along for companionship, and seems to especially love when I pull his bangs out of his eyes. He didn't do any of that when he came like he does now. He now has a warm look of love and appreciation in his eyes, and he's one of those that wants to sit by your side and quietly just BE with you. Does it get any better than that? Yes it does! My 4 and 5 year old boys can lead him around and groom him, he is so gentle and sweet. They are learning so much around him. Our mare Sage is very sweet but she is 6 and just doesn't know her own size, so I don't really trust my boys to just run around her at this point. Trooper on the other hand is so slow and steady, sweet and gentle, he is perfect for little ones to learn around.
And with hardly any weight, it doesn't hurt if someone accidently gets stepped on, lol. That's truly the only positive I can think of with having a starved horse.
I let Trooper out of the pen during the day to graze in the lawn, and he never runs off even though he could. At the end of the day he goes to the gate and waits for me to come out of the house and let him back in the pen, I guess he likes it here enough to call it home.
Something else neat to discover is he seems to know it all, not in a haughty way, but with an old quiet wisdom. Even just his eyes alone show and old quiet and wisdom in them. Beyond that I believe he was an amazing riding horse at one time. We've never ridden him, but figured out he knows how to neck rein, spooks at NOTHING, and knows his way around barns, farriers, tack and trailers better than any of us. And back when he first came and colic was a much bigger risk, he moderated his food intake better than I did! ...Our mare would eat until she burst if we let her, but Trooper just knows...
I don't know how much longer he'll live. Really, it may not be much longer. I hope he has a few good years left in him but I don't really know at this point. When we see he isn't happy or comfortable anymore we'll have the vet out to put him down, but we feel like God sent such a diamond in the rough to us when Trooper ended up in our neighborhood.
And that's Troopers story in just 3 months time. People are nice and say how lucky he was to find us... I never would have thought I'd say this about an unridable horse, but I think the blessing has really been ours.