One vet was going about his business in rural Romania when he saw something that broke his heart. There in a field was a horse that was chained at the legs. And after the vet had done all that he could to help the animal, the grateful horse’s reaction was touching.
Founded in Austria in 1988, Four Paws is an animal welfare charity that operates worldwide. Areas that the organization works in include the United States and Australia as well as many countries across Europe. It also runs sanctuaries for rescued circus bears and captive lions.
Through a range of campaigns and projects, the charity aims to improve the lives of animals across the globe. Its ultimate goal is to create a world in which all creatures are respected and understood. To do so, Four Paws hopes to provide a voice for the vulnerable animals that cannot speak for themselves.
And not only does the charity want to improve living conditions for domestic pets, but it also wants to help those that live on farms and in the wild. To do this, Four Paws wants to drive legal changes and educate people about animal suffering.
Vet Ovidiu Rosso is part of the Four Paws team, and in 2016 he was out in Letea, a small town in the Danube Delta in Romania. The delta is an idyllic part of the world, but it was here that Rosso stumbled across a shocking case of animal cruelty.
Unfortunately, many horses are forced to endure poor living conditions in Romania. Across the country people use equines for agricultural and transport purposes. However, some owners have little concern for their animals’ wellbeing.
It’s not uncommon, in fact, for owners to chain their horse’s front or rear legs together. The practice – known as hobbling – was once popular across the world, but many people now consider the tradition to be cruel.
The purpose of hobbles is to prevent horses from running away. Usually, the contraptions are made from rope, leather or synthetic materials. In some cases, though, owners have used metal chains to tether their animals.
And it was these more brutal metal restraints that Ovidiu witnessed when he was out on the Delta. Yes, unhappily, when the vet stumbled across a team of horses in the rural setting, at least one of the animals was wearing a hobble. Moreover, it appeared that the device was causing the animal great distress.
As Ovidiu looked on, the horse jumped around, as if trying to shake its legs free. There was no way of telling for how long the animal had been chained, but it was pretty clear that the creature was sick of having its movement constrained.
Consequently, Ovidiu walked up to the horse to see if he could provide any help. The vet approached slowly so as to not startle the animal. Then he pulled out a tranquilizer gun and carefully shot the horse from behind.
After a few moments, the horse fell to the ground, allowing Ovidiu to then approach the animal to investigate how best to alleviate its suffering. When he got to the scene, though, the vet was still shocked to see the metal chains binding the animal’s legs together.
With no time to lose, Ovidiu took out a pair of chain cutters and freed the horse’s legs. It was only after he’d removed the shackles, however, that the vet discovered their awful price. Yes, because of the metal hobble, the poor animal had suffered painful cuts to its legs.
When the horse came around, Ovidiu’s team helped it back on its feet. The animal was a little shaky at first, but it soon rose up onto its hooves. At last, thanks to Ovidiu’s work, the animal was free from its chains. And it then appeared to thank Ovidiu by gently nuzzling its nose against the vet’s face.
Later, a video documenting the vet’s good deed appeared on the Four Paws International YouTube account. The channel features many videos of the charity’s work and boasts more than 4,000 subscribers.
The video of the shackled horse is now among the charity’s most popular uploads. Since the footage first appeared online in February 2016, over seven million people have tuned in to find out how the horse thanked Ovidiu after being freed.
The video also accumulated a number of comments. Among the messages, many people condemned the horse’s owner for using metal hobbles, while many others simply praised Ovidiu for his selfless actions.
“Sometimes I think we humans are the foulest creature on earth,” read one such emotional comment. “And then I see these wonderful people and [am] reminded that angels walk among us.”
“Wow, thank you so much for rescuing this precious horse,” another viewer wrote. “This practice of chaining is not only cruel, but very dangerous for the horse. The horse could easily get tangled in brush or trip and fall. If the horse couldn’t get back on its feet, it would die.”
Thanks to Ovidiu, this particular horse was freed before anything too serious could happen to it. Although its experience left some scars, the horse can now gallop again – just like its species is supposed to do.