Saving one horse won’t change the world, but surely it will change the world for that one horse.
One week ago, we weren’t planning on adding another horse to our family, let alone two. The thought wasn’t even on our radar. I had no idea that I’d be sending my mom, Mary, to a kill pen in rural Southern Minnesota on a busy Friday to pick up a pony to save him as he waited to be loaded up onto a slaughter truck to be shipped off to Canada or Mexico. I definitely couldn’t predict that not only would she come home with a beautiful grullo gelding boasting a biting problem, but also one of the cutest miniature appaloosas I’ve ever seen.
At Enchanted Hollow, we are blessed with the resources and extra space required to house rescue horses. We have a quarantine pen, access to a fabulous vet and farrier, plenty of hay, experience working with horses that come with some special quirks or temperament issues, many friends that are always wanting to help out, and a whole lot of love to give. We’re blessed to have made many rescues over the years — some people reading this may be familiar with Posey, Charlie, Olaf, or any of our other rescues. When we think that we can help a horse or pony that is at risk to be an issue for some others, we don’t hesitate. That was the case with the beautiful grullo gelding (and his little spotted friend, but we’ll get to that in a bit) that is now sitting in our quarantine pen.
He doesn’t have a name yet, and he probably won’t until he is healthy again so that we can see his personality shine through and give him a name that is fitting for him. He stands 13.3hh and we were told that he is approximately 14 or 15 years old, but we haven’t had our vet confirm that yet. He’s quite sick with an upper respiratory infection of some kind that’s given him a wet cough and a fever, so we’re treating him with antibiotics to help him recover in addition to some Bute — a pain reliever for horses — that will help relieve his high temperature and any discomfort he has from shipping from the East Coast to the kill pen we rescued him from. I’ll get to that in a moment, though, after I explain what led to the decision to rescue this beautiful guy.
We have rescued horses from a kill pen in Cannon Falls, Minnesota several times now. There’s a Facebook page for this particular pen, Ryon’s Rescue Pen, that gives people the opportunity to adopt the horses and ponies they have before they ship out of the country to a slaughter house, giving them a second chance at life. They post photos of the horses in the pen each week, and any horses not rescued by Friday afternoon are shipped out. The ones that are rescued and bailed out of the pen have their photos removed from that page and they head to a new home. Luckily, since this pen began opening up to outside adoptions over a year ago, there has been nearly a 100% success rate in placing these horses into new homes.
On Auguest 22nd, I was browsing through the horses available for the week and stumbled upon a beautiful 13.3hh grullo pony. He was gorgeous, and I had no doubt that he would find a new home very easily, given his desirable color and height. That was Monday. I saw his photo again on Tuesday. And on Wednesday. And on Thursday. I couldn’t fathom how a pony that was — presumably — broke to ride, a great size for both kids and adults, a unique color, and a reasonable age could still be waiting in that pen so late in the week.
Thursday morning, my dad, Bob, contacted the people that manage the pen and auction house that he was in to get more information on him. They had quite a bit to say about him, and it wasn’t very positive. He showed aggressive behavior, and usually bit anyone that got too close. He seemed pushy, they said. They also told my dad that several people had called interested in him, but ended up changing their mind when they heard of his behavioral issues, which explained why he was still not adopted yet. He sounded like a handful. Everyone had turned their backs on this aggressive, angry, and pushy little grullo. Which, naturally, means that the moment I heard that, I knew I’d do everything I could to get him.
So on Friday, just hours before the deadline to adopt from the pen and with the help of my parents and our dear friend Shannon, Mary Sansevere trucked it over to Cannon Falls to pick him up. Before she left, I received a photo of a tiny little appaloosa gelding that had just been dropped off hours earlier. Not surprisingly, she came home with two ponies that day. 🙂 We’re thinking of calling our little bonus pony Cookie, short for Cookies & Cream, which Bob came up with.
Cookie — if that is the name that we decide to keep for him — is so very, very sweet. We were told that they estimated his age to be about 2, and he’s probably about 36″ tall at the shoulder. I think he’s at least three, but we’ll find out for sure when the vet takes a look at him. He’s a little thin, but otherwise in decent condition. Even his hooves are in pretty good shape! He still needs some corrective trimming to fix the angles and straighten out his little legs, but he doesn’t show signs of extreme neglect.
When I found out that the grullo gelding (it feels so awful to not have a name for him yet, but we will be patient to find one that fits him perfectly!) had bad habits and showed signs of aggression, I just knew in my heart that I wanted to try to do anything I could to help him. I think that he was afraid and stressed out in the pen, and that caused him to bite his handlers and be pushy with the other horses. I also knew that if he was responding to the stress with aggression, that it just means he’s a fighter, and that’s the kind of horse that I want in our pasture. I want a horse with drive, and attitude, and a little bit of sass. All that he needs now is to learn how to apply that energy in a more positive and constructive way.
Since arriving at Enchanted Hollow, he hasn’t bitten me, but he went after my dad once or twice, which is absolutely unacceptable. He’s been here for four days, and I think the upper respiratory infection that he is dealing with really started wearing on him yesterday, because he had no energy and just seemed so sad. He very sweetly accepted all attention that we gave him, and I can’t quite tell if it’s because he’s just a sweetheart that was misunderstood or if it’s because he just feels so lousy that he doesn’t have it in him to be a stinker right now. Either way, he’s been very easy to handle since he got here, and we’ll see how his attitude and personality changes as he gets healthier.
The photos featured on this post were taken yesterday, and I feel like we really captured how he was feeling. He just looks so sad and withdrawn. I hope that in a couple of months I’ll post pictures and he’ll look like an entirely different pony, bright eyed and eager! Neither pony is groomed in these photos, but they were afterward. We wanted true “before” pictures to compare to in the future, so these photos are of them straight out of the kill pen.
Both of them are covered in scrapes and cuts, especially the bigger grullo in the photo below. I’m confident that under all of that dirt and grime is a diamond in the rough. This is just the beginning. We plan to share their journey on this blog, so stay tuned for more! Not every post will be quite as lengthy as this one, we just wanted to share their story with you and document it for ourselves so that we can refer to it in the future.