The property was in such bad condition it didn’t look like anything could live there. The field was a mire of sludge and quick mud, dotted with dangerous debris. Suddenly, one of the rescuers heard a noise coming from a decrepit trailer. Something was moving inside.
When you think of animals suffering from neglect and abuse, it’s often house pets that come to mind. However, they aren’t the only victims – larger creatures are also vulnerable. That’s one of the things that Oregon-based charity 3 Sisters Equine Refuge is fighting to raise awareness about.
On its social media site 3 Sisters explain that slaughterhouses claim the lives of more than 150,000 healthy horses. The organization seeks to “make a difference one horse at a time” by saving horses wherever possible. It’s not the only group trying to do so either.
Another organization battling along is Silent Wave Horse Rescue, a shelter in the Pacific Northwest. “Silent Wave Horse Rescue is committed to changing the way America deals with its unwanted horses,” its Facebook page informs us. It’s no surprise then that the groups collaborated on March 11, 2017.
The unity was a result of a phone call made to one of the charities. Apparently, someone in the Hood River area was concerned about horses in a neighboring property. If the reports were accurate, the animals were suffering large-scale neglect.
Not only were the horses deprived of simple nourishment, but their other living conditions were supposedly horrific too. Both 3 Sisters and Silent Wave joined a group of Hood River horse lovers to investigate the accusations. Sadly, they proved to be true.
In fact, when rescuers arrived at the scene, it was far worse than they had imagined. To begin with, what were once fields had been transformed into something more akin to a bog. The mud reached up to the volunteer’s knees and threatened to drag them down.
In addition, the land was littered with discarded farming implements and hazardous debris. The rescue video revealed that there was “metal tools, like pitchforks, with their tines sticking up.” It also described “miles of barbed wire and sharp sheet metal pieces everywhere.”
After scouring the fetid ground, the rescue teams saved seven horses. Their humans had left them almost bereft of food and water and in various stages of neglect. The volunteers could only imagine how the animals must have suffered.
They caught a glimpse into that hell, however, after stumbling across a sorrowful-looking trailer. One rescuer – Silent Wave’s executive director, Lisa Neuburger – heard a noise coming from the locked ruin. On June 14, 2018, she told The Dodo what happened next.
“I heard the clambering of hooves as I walked past,” Neuburger recalled; “I looked in and saw this little guy.” To be more specific, she’d found a miniature horse sealed in the trailer. The conditions he’d somehow endured were abhorrent.
As Neuburger’s eyes adapted to the enveloping darkness, she saw nothing that could be described as food or water. The trailer’s floor was covered in hay, but it was damp with mold. And the small horse that peered back at his rescuers looked even worse.
Rascal, as the horse would later be called, was in a terrible state. Not only was he infested with parasites, but he had injuries all over his body. Furthermore, it’s impossible to say how long he’d lived in such a condition. “I’ve had nightmares ever since,” Neuburger added.
Initially, Rascal cowered away from volunteers in the trailer’s corner. He was too scared to so much as move. They could only rescue him with the combined efforts of four members of the rescue team. They literally carried Rascal out of his prison.
Rascal found a temporary home with nearby foster carer Michele Lynn, who wanted to help nurse him back to health. She told The Dodo, “Our biggest concern were his long hooves and overall poor hoof condition.” And as it turned out, her worries were not unfounded.
Unsurprisingly, no one had kept Rascal’s hooves trimmed, and they’d started to rot. This, added to his wasting leg muscles, meant he could barely trot. “He was pretty weak from being locked in the trailer,” Lynn reported. “When we first got him, he would try to run and fell down every time.”
But Rascal was in good hands with Lynn. She gave him vitamins, fed him up and provided him with something he’d likely never experienced before – compassion. She also had the patience it took to break through Rascal’s understandable trust issues.
Lynn elaborated, “It took about six months of love before Rascal started to trust me.” In that time though, Rascal has become a healthy little horse. No doubt it also helped that he was around other animals, too. This gave him a chance to see what his life should always have been like and to catch up on lost time.
For example, Rascal has become firm friends with a fellow miniature horse called Spanky. He was bound for slaughter before Lynn took him in. Now Spanky spends his time happily dashing around the paddocks with Rascal, and the two are virtually inseparable.
In fact, Rascal has made such strides that Lynn thinks he’s ready for the next stage in his life. “This next year, I hope to do some training with him so he can be a therapy horse,” Lynn revealed. “He has lots of personality and is [a] very sweet boy.” It sounds like the perfect vocation for the little Rascal.