Last summer, we were driving to Johnson City, Kansas, to pick up a new horse trailer. The small town is about 50 miles east of Blue Rose Ranch, our horse rescue and adoption facility in southeastern Colorado. A few miles outside of Johnson City, we passed three horses wandering loose on the side of the road. They were in poor shape and one was clearly emaciated.
We drove directly to the sheriff’s office to report the lost horses and let the officers know we could pick them up and take care of them until the owner was found. Ten minutes later, while we were getting our trailer, a sheriff’s deputy called and requested we do just that. With minimal difficulty, we loaded the three horses and headed back to Blue Rose Ranch, christening our new trailer with its first load.
The new arrivals were named by our youth staff, 13-year-olds Emma and Clarissa. The emaciated mare was named Blessing, as she was in need of many. Blessing’s feisty yearling colt was dubbed Wrangler. The third horse, a gelding, was given the name Rommel.
We immediately made appointments with the veterinarian and farrier. The list of health issues among the horses was a long one, particularly for Blessing. The first of her many healthcare visits was to float her teeth so she could properly eat. Based on their condition, the vet estimated her age to be 25–30 years old. Incredibly, we later learned through her AQHA papers that she was only 17.
All the horses were severely neglected, but Blessing was starving, and her hooves were so overgrown she could barely walk. We began the long process of correcting her hooves and refeeding her. A concern with starving horses is systemic organ damage, and Blessing had us worried. Though she was happy to have food, she refused to drink. By her third day at Blue Rose, she still hadn’t taken in much water and was becoming dehydrated. We took her back to the vet and she came home with a port and multiple rounds of IV fluids to be administered by our staff. Five days later, she still had no interest in drinking and we were prepared for the worst. Amazingly, at the eleventh hour, when we had nearly given up hope, she started to drink.
A month later, Blessing had gained 50 pounds and her hooves were looking better, but her health trials were far from over. An eye ulcer eventually resulted in the removal of that eye and she was becoming increasingly lame on her left front. We speculated she had foundered and to help ease her pain, we had 28 tons of sand delivered and placed in her corral. Unfortunately, while Blessing enjoyed the deep sand, her pain continued. Ultimately, the farrier discovered a very deep abscess and opened it to drain. It’s required antibiotics, multiple rounds of draining, and constant monitoring and care, but Blessing is finally feeling better.
It’s difficult to convey all the emotions we’ve felt throughout this saga while taking care of Blessing and her friends. We’ve been scared and hopeful, overwhelmed by the support of our community, and awed by the relationships forged between horse and human. Our horse care manager, Elizabeth, has fallen particularly in love with this mare with a fighting spirit. She returns to the ranch almost every night to check on Blessing, to give her more hay, blanket her when it’s cold, or just spend quality time with her. They have a truly special bond and it’s been a joy to watch that develop. We have grown to love this horse who trusts us and who has shown courage through it all.
The owner of the three horses was located and charged with animal cruelty. The court decided to work with the owner. Because their weight was not such to merit abuse, Rommel and Wrangler were returned to the owner. However, the Stanton County sheriff will be monitoring the horses to make sure they receive sufficient care. The county attorney agreed with us that Blessing would be endangered if returned, so she is staying at Blue Rose Ranch.
Today, Blessing is thriving. She arrived at the ranch weighing 822 pounds and is now a robust 1,142 pounds. We are also told that she could be pregnant—wouldn’t that be “a blessing” to count!