It’s May 2, 2009. Volunteers at a horse rescue ranch outside of Bend, OR, stand in high-winds and drizzle bracing themselves for the Jefferson County Sheriffs to arrive with what the officers described as five of the most emaciated horses they had ever seen.
The horses had been locked in a small shed for who knows how long. They had no food, little water and barely any light…they just stood there in their own filth literally wasting away to skin and bones until the sheriff’s department seized the animals and arrested their owner.
The horses included three mares, a foal and a young stallion. On a 10 point body scoring chart, all the horses, except the stallion, were a level 1 and some had open wounds. The stallion was actually in a little better shape because he’d been lucky enough on several occasions to escape the shed and visit the hay-grower next door. Somehow, he was always caught and put back with the others though.
Equine Outreach, a non-profit horse rescue organization, agreed to take the horses knowing full-well what they were getting into as they have a long history of saving horses who have been starved and neglected.
Joan Steelhammer, president, said “It’s really tough to see animals who have been treated so badly but we do what we have to do…we have excellent veterinarians and farriers, a special supplement that works miracles and volunteers with patience to minister not only to the animal’s physical needs but also to their mental needs.”
The special supplement Equine Outreach uses on all their under-weight or hard-keepers is called Super Weight Gain.
Super Weight Gain is a weight gain product from the makers of Horse Guard that combines vitamins and minerals (for over-all health) and exceptionally high-quality protein (for weight and energy) with potent probiotics (for gut health and better digestion). For horses that are your typical hard-keepers such as older horses or active stallions, just 8 ounces a day can make the difference between thin and “just right”. For horses that have been starved, it makes the difference between a long and challenging recovery and one that takes as little as 90 days.
In addition to specialized medical care, another corner-stone of Equine Outreach is their unique volunteer program where a volunteer is matched with a horse so that relationships and trust can be built. Annette, a long-time volunteer was still having trouble overcoming her fear of horses but almost instantly fell for the neglected stallion Phantom and asked to work with him.
“When the horses initially arrived, they were so scared and weak. Phantom actually struck out but once he figured out he was now safe, he became a real sweetheart. The more I worked with him, the more I thought he wanted me to be his forever person.” said Annette. “Still, I was afraid and went slowly. Picking up his feet for the first time was a big deal and then mounting him for the first time was a huge win for me. Phantom didn’t so much as flinch though.”
Unfortunately, as Phantom’s rehabilitation at Equine Outreach became complete, Annette lost her job and was unable to adopt him as she hoped. “I just knew he was a special horse and needed a special home. That was when Green Acres Boarding approached Equine Outreach about taking a few of the horses for further training and evaluation and I was so happy that Phantom was one of the ones who got to go.”
Green Acres is a boarding facility in Lincoln City who also runs several trail and beach riding operations as well as children’s equine programs. Gary Fromm of Green Acres says “In the winter when things slow down, we try to help rescued horses by bringing them here and having our 4-H kids work with them. Often times, we’ll find homes for them but if the horse is exceptionally great with children, we’ll add them to our herd.”
Phantom happened to be that gentle with children. “The kids just love him to pieces. You’d never know the horror he’s survived. Now he starts a lot of 3, 4 and 5 year olds out on horseback riding” Gary said.
Phantom has also become an integral part of the beach-riding business they operate in near-by Pacific City. Gary said “Beach riding is hard work. We were having problems keeping weight on the horses then, when we got Phantom, Equine Outreach recommended Super Weight Gain. It’s made all the difference. We’re constantly getting comments on how great our horses look.”
Fortunately, Phantom’s story has a very happy ending but it took a great deal of donated money and volunteer hours to make it happen. Equine Outreach (www.equineoutreach.com) and other horse rescue organization like it are always looking for adopters and appreciate donations in the form of money, time and supplies. With enough support, happy endings like Phantom’s are possible.