Story told by Ranger’s Legacy Equine Rescue:
Meet Cash. He arrived at Ranger’s Legacy Equine Rescue on the 7th of April 2013. We ended up picking up another horse that was boarded at this location, but that is another story for another day.
On that particular Friday, during one of our youth riding classes, I received a phone call. The man on the other end was asking me if I still rescued horses. “Yes I do” I replied. He said, “I have an older Quarter Horse gelding that is starting to lose weight and I can’t feed him anymore. I would like you to come get him before he gets any worse.”
Now, in the short time that I have taken owner surrenders, I have learned when someone says “starting to lose weight” that means much more than they are telling. I told him I wouldn’t be able to come and get him until Sunday. The response I got gave me even more insight in to this man’s character. He says, “Can you make it before 11? I am taking the family to the river with the inner tubes and the 4 wheelers. We do this every Sunday.” I assured him I would be there before 11.
One of my volunteers at the time, Jessica (who is now a board member) went with me. This was her first time going to pick up a horse with me so as we drove, I tried to prepare her for the possibilities of the situation. I told her that no matter what, we have to bite our tongues. We cannot say what we really feel. We have to be diplomatic and nice. We want this man, this family, to know that we sympathize with them and we have to tell them that they are doing the right thing. Above all else, do not let them see you cry.
When we arrived at Cash’s home, we could see this emaciated horse in a small pen with no shelter and no food in sight. The owner came out of the house and I asked him a few questions. How old was the horse? How long had he had him? What had they been feeding him? When did they feed him last? Had they ever wormed him/given him shots? How long had he been losing weight? When did he last get ridden? (The riding question because it never fails…. Someone always rides them. Even in his condition). Their 13 year old daughter had ridden him just two weeks prior, they fed him Alfalfa that morning. Remember, no food in sight-anywhere on the property. He hadn’t had shots as long as they have had him, but they wormed him a month ago. They have had him for five years and he had pretty much been losing weight since they got him. But, “He is old.” The man says……. Unfortunately, people with very little understanding of the horse as a species, seem to believe that, when they get old, they automatically lose weight and look like death warmed over… I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Since I believe that neglect is a symptom of ignorance, I try to educate the owners so that, if they ever get another horse, they have more information on how to care for it. I said to him, “Just for future reference, if you ever get another older horse and he starts to lose weight, try feeding him Purina Equine Senior. It has a high fat content and it is a complete feed so it helps horses in his condition.” The man looks at me and says, “We were feeding him that when we got him.” I said, “How did he do?” The man says, “He did great. But when we took him off of it, he lost weight again.” I said, “Why didn’t you keep him on it?” The man said, “Because it was too expensive.” There you go. Not a case of ignorance, just a case of not giving a damn.
As soon as we were able to load him and remove him from the property, we took him to my vet and he said that Cash had not had food for at least two days. His body was eating his muscle (he actually had no flesh under his skin on his jaw bone) and he was pooping fluids. He had stomach cramps (Thank God they never progressed to full blown colic), he was dehydrated and depressed. But, when we looked in those eyes, we knew he wasn’t done yet, so we took him home and proceeded to get him settled in. We gave him fresh water and fed him small meals four times a day. I swear, I don’t think I have ever seen a horse drink as much water as he did in the beginning. He had a 50 gallon water tank and I was filling it every other day for the first few days (he did have the other horse that came with him in his corral too, but that is a lot of water, even for two horses).
Although he would not lay down when he first arrived, as he started to feel better, he would lay flat out in the sun as if he were gaining energy from it. In the beginning, he could not get up without help. I would watch him, and when he tried to get up, as far as he could get would be a sitting position. Then he would proceed to spin in a circle. I would go out, put a halter on him and give him a little leverage and he would pop right up. He got to a point that he knew I would help him and he would wait for me. At that time, I have to admit, I did have my doubts about his future….. But he showed me that doubts are best reserved for the less strong of heart.
Look at him now. Although he still hasn’t got all of the flesh back in his jaw, he looks fantastic. Cash is the most gentle and forgiving horse I know. Because of that, Cash is used here for our fledgling youth program. Everybody who has had any interaction with Cash has fallen for him. He is a great guy and we are very lucky to know him and be a part of his life.
Ranger’s Legacy Equine Rescue
Laguna, New Mexico