December 1st, 2009
Our EARS team in Tennessee is working practically around the clock to care for 84 sick and starving horses who were rescued from lives of neglect last Tuesday. The volunteers barely have time to sleep, let alone take photos or write blog posts. But we did just speak with UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies, who told us about a few of the many wonderful horses who are fighting for their lives.
The most critical case from the rescue was a two-day-old foal who had never eaten. His mom was so malnourished, she was never able to produce milk. She had a body score of about 1.5 on the Henneke Scoring System. The baby was very weak and in critical condition. If he had been out there another 24 hours he wouldn’t have made it. (Photo at right courtesy The HSUS)
An EARS volunteer spent an entire day trying to get the foal to drink milk from a bottle or bowl. He wouldn’t do it. Janell and this volunteer stayed up all night, then finally at 4 a.m. the foal took a bottle. Then, he discovered a bowl and, as Janell put it, “started eating like a pig.” During the day a volunteer was on “foal duty” and fed him every two hours. For five nights, Janell stayed with the foal all night so she could feed him every two hours.
Janell said that during the rescue mission, the mom was doing everything possible to keep the rescuers away from the baby. “When we were trying to feed the baby, she was charging us in the stalls and wouldn’t let us near her,” Janell said.
But by night two, when the baby was eating a lot, mom’s attitude changed. While Janell was kneeling and holding the bowl for the baby to drink, Mom was kneeling down right by her side.
“She started licking my head,” Janell said. “Then she would nudge baby toward me and keep her nose right next to the bowl while he ate. Within 24 hours the mom went from trying to hurt us to bringing her baby over to us to eat. Some people say the animals know we are trying to help them – this is absolute proof.”
The foal who was so limp and lifeless that he had to be carried into the temporary shelter last week is now frolicking and playing. Janell said he’s been named Forrest because “all he wants to do is run.”
Another problem prevalent at that emergency shelter is colic, abdominal problems that cause the horses to lie down. The owner of the horses fed them all sweet feed right before the rescue, which is causing many of them to colic. But because the horses are so weak, many of them cannot get back up again once they are down. When a horse goes down at the shelter, at least six people have to physically hoist him or her up because lying down for too long can cause organ damage or even death.
Janell said many of the horses won’t even try to get back up. “They’ve completely given up,” she said. “But we watch them constantly … we don’t care if that horse has given up, we are going to get him up and hold him up. We are not giving up on them.”
Long Shot (pictured at right) is one mare who has given up, Janell said. But she is young and she is healthy, and nobody is going to let her stay down … they are not going to let her give up.
“The volunteers all feel the same way, they don’t want to leave at the end of the night,” Janell said. “Even on Thanksgiving, I told them to go get some dinner, but they all wanted to stay. They wanted to spend their Thanksgiving here with the horses.”
A retired military officer stopped by the emergency shelter the other day to offer help. He recently returned from Iraq and is in the local volunteer fire department. He and some of his fellow firefighters are now helping the volunteers hoist the fallen horses back up, as well as stacking and organizing the overwhelming loads of hay that are being donated. (Photo at right courtesy The HSUS)
Janell reported that the horses eat 24 hours a day because they are so starved. The volunteers are keeping “hay under their noses all the times.” Each horse eats between one to three bales of hay per day. That is a lot. They all came into the emergency shelter scared and completely unsocialized. They would stay at the back of the stall. Now, they hang their heads over the edge of the stall looking at the volunteers, wondering where their hay is. They start making noises in the morning and kicking the boards.
“We’re seeing a lot more activity and sassiness come out,” Janell said. “Stallions are starting to act like stallions. When they run out of hay, they are beginning to make a fuss.”
The horses are starting to get names. Volunteers named one Tease (pictured at right with Janell) because she keeps going down and staying down. “There is nothing wrong with her,” Janell said. “She just likes it when we all come in and make a big fuss.”
Eventually the horses will be made available for adoption. But right now they are not strong or healthy enough to be transported anywhere.
“We will go to whatever extent it takes so they get what they need to live a happy and healthy life,” Janell said. “We’re going to give them what they never had before.”
If you would like to support our mission to help the horses, you can make a donation to our Disaster Relief Fund.