We got a call from a local auction about a horse that came in, and they knew the horse needed help. It was extremely skinny and elderly. On the way down to the auction I looked at all the beautiful green fields. One field had round bales left in it, and the grass was as high as the bales. In a land where bales of hay rot into the ground, there are still starving horses.
I didn’t know what I would find when I arrived at the auction. The workers led me over to an extremely emaciated mare with her head hung low. The name on her coggins paper said Smoke.
I looked at her teeth and saw that she was somewhere in her 30’s. She had a distinct smell about her. I’ve smelled it before, it’s almost like the smell of death. I’ve been told before that it’s organ failure that causes the smell.
I never get used to seeing horses this emaciated. It’s hard, no matter how many years you do rescue work, knowing that this horse has suffered for a long time to get her into this condition. It doesn’t happen overnight!
I put the halter and lead rope on her and took her out to our trailer. She was such a good girl and so willing and trusting.
She loaded into the trailer good. I took her halter and lead rope off. I never haul horses in this condition tied. You never know if they will fall or lay down due to their weak condition. Having their head free helps them hold their balance, and if they do lay down, they are much more comfortable.
I was very thankful when I arrived at the shelter and she was still standing. Poor girl is so skinny!
I put her in Ace’s pen. Ace was not quite as skinny as she was when he came in, and as you can see he is doing so much better! Smoke was happy to have a friend and started grazing with him.
The next day Smoke was doing ok. She still had the smell. I could tell she was enjoying being a horse in a green pen.
I noticed that she had a wound on her withers. I’ve seen this before and it always makes me so angry. Somebody put a saddle on her and rode her in this emaciated condition! All the pressure from the saddle rubbed right through her hide. I cannot imagine how hard and painful this was for her.
It had healed over, but it was clear that someone rode her with a saddle not very long ago.
The 3rd day (Sunday) she was doing ok, I knew my job was to keep her comfortable and happy.
Monday morning she was walking around and eating hay. Later I saw her lay down in the morning sun. I started getting worried. When horses in Smoke’s condition lay down, it is extremely hard for them to get back up. I went out to her and she seemed very relaxed, but tired.
It was so heart wrenching just looking at her! Pretty much just hide stretched over a skeleton.
I saw her try to get up on her own several times, but despite her best efforts, she couldn’t get her body to do what she wanted it to. I told her everything would be fine and stroked her neck and face. I called the vet and arrangements were made. I knew it was time to say “Goodbye” and I knew the vet would agree. The vet said most likely she had multiple medical conditions due to her old age and her body was just shutting down.
I have rescued so many horses, and so many times rescuing horses like this I get criticized by some people. “Why would you rescue a horse like that, and then just kill it? That’s not what rescues do,” they say. I could have rescued her and never shared her story, but I feel it is important to shared what the reality of rescue is. Every animal deserves love and kindness. Any animal in a bad situation should be taken out of that situation and shown love and respect, even if it is only to spend 3 days with them and show them someone cared and was there with them in the end. Rescuing horses like this is not easy, but I know it’s the right thing to do and that’s why I do it. I will always remember Smoke, her beautiful kind eyes and her body that was so emaciated and falling apart around her beautiful spirit. I’m glad that I could be there for her and that she knew I cared for her.
I would like to thank everyone for your support. Before coming to TN I had no idea how many animals there were that needed help here, and I’m thankful that I can help as many as our funds allow. Operating 3 shelters across the United States stretches the budget very thinly. I need your support to rescue horses just like Smoke! Please continue to support our rescue efforts by making a donation. Any donation is greatly appreciated and desperately needed. To donate, click here.
With Much Gratitude – Tawnee Preisner
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