Pebbles: August & Strangers No More

Published 9:44 am Monday, August 6, 2018

For those of you who have just begun reading my monthly column, I want to recap on why the month of August is called the “Dog days of summer.”

The phrase honors Sirius, the dog star, who graces our heavens this month and often brings disaster during this sultry time of the year. It is the brightest star in night sky.

Furthermore, while dogs lie panting and complaining of their uncomfortable fate this time of the year, I relax in my roomy stall, which is replete with three robust fans — a far cry from last summer where I endured living in a pasture with a run-in shed and daily dose of fly spray, which I detest!

August 2016 was far worse. I was in a kill pen, fearing for my life.

Strangers No More after her exhausting trailer ride from Louisiana to Tryon. Photo courtesy of Scott Homstead

During this dog star month, Lee Major provides only the very best for me. I nibble on hay and await sunset for leisurely night grazing with my two donkey pals.

Here, by day, I rest in my cool digs. John Major has also suspended large zip-lock bags from my ceiling that contain pennies. I am told it wards off the flies, and indeed, my stall is devoid of any pests.

Heavenly positioning for my creature comforts. No stinky spray required here!

Wait, I hear a familiar motor hum in the driveway. My mistress, Heather, has arrived.

Jessica Orr, the patient farrier, is in tow, so I alas I must “toe the line” and behave. It is time for my manicure.

No prancing or dancing today — I will surrender my hooves and stand still. Life is all a negotiation, and where is that carrot for coaxing my obedience?

During my routine foot care appointment, Lee quickly darts to the house to fetch our new family member.

Heather must meet my unwavering fan, Brit. A very fancy Norfolk terrier, hailing from Finland with breeding and pedigree galore, well it rivals my own!

She has come to live on the farm with us, and what a stellar addition. Our own new bright dog star.

Smart, fearless and, of course, fond of me. It was instant dogmatic attraction.

Carrots rule for me, but dog biscuits are for Brit. I believe this is how Lee lured her into my realm at the barn.

We are spoiled, kindred spirits, with a nose for adventure and fierce determination. A high-stepping pony and a brave canine with places to explore.

Heather had to leave me as suddenly as she came, as HERD has a new arrival on the way today.  A 3-year-old Thoroughbred filly the team has decided to call Starlight (for her barn name) is finally making her way into our care.

It is an epic journey this poor filly has endured.  At a mere 6 months old, she sold for $60,000 in a Kentucky Thoroughbred sale.

Her pedigree, like both Brit’s and mine, is exceptional. Born to run, what a beauty, with a registered name of “Strangers No More.” We discovered who she really was through her lip tattoo.

The filly had shown great promise and began racing in Delaware. Unfortunately, she bowed a tendon in full gallop at 3 years old.

Her owner had pledged he would rest her and find her a safe home. Instead, he sold her to a meat dealer who buys up Thoroughbreds and ships them to a kill pen in Louisiana.

Heather spied this pretty young mare on a Facebook posting, having no idea at the time that she was a valuable prize who sold for a high price tag as a weanling. Something about her was very special.

The meat buyer had no idea. He noted that her racing plates were still on her feet, and pointed to the injured tendon that was visible as they walked her in a tight circle.

This heartless new owner would ship her to Mexico for slaughter in two days. The price tag to save her was $650. Her value was now based on weight only, and she had lost many pounds during this stressful ordeal being shipped from Delaware to Kentucky to Louisiana with no food or care.

This once pampered horse was now treated as a meat commodity. The bloody wounds scaring her elegant coat were of no concern where she was going next.

HERD paid her ransom.

Next, she was adopted directly from the kill pen by a nice woman who saves many Thoroughbreds. She placed her at a veterinary facility in Louisiana as she was too sick for travel.

There, our Starlight sat for several months, waiting to go home, but, alas, it was not meant to be.

HERD was contacted to take her back into the fold and get her to Tryon. Heather secured clean transport arrangements, with all the proper documentation, up from Louisiana. She would travel with a few other nice horses headed to Virginia.

Strangers No More — our Starlight — arrived in North Carolina and calmly walked off the horse trailer, staggeringly tired. She went straight out into the field and collapsed.

Heather was all alone trying to get the 16.1 hand lanky mare back on her feet. Impending disaster required immediate calls for help.

If Dr. Kris Woodaman had not arrived within 30 minutes, HERD might have lost her. Her thin body was shutting down.

Luckily, with the right combination of medication and fluids, within an hour, she was out exploring her pasture and grazing. A true miracle under the dog star, catastrophe was averted.

Each day, this courageous horse grows stronger, and will one day be ready for a new career. For now, she must eat and rest up in our care.

Heather has been in touch with Strangers No More’s original owner who bred and sold this beauty. She is horrified her prize weanling ended up in this condition, and has offered a helping hand.

What is in the stars for this young horse, only time will tell, but all of us are now strangers no more! •

Pebbles is the “spokespony” for HERD, or Helping Equines Regain Dignity, a local nonprofit that saves equines from dire conditions and in many cases slaughter. She dictates her monthly columns about her adventures and what a rescue organization does to Heather Freeman. Pebbles and Heather can be reached through HerdRescue.org.

PEBBLES’ IRON SKILLET PEACH CRISP

Ingredients:

Topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Assembly:

1 1/2 cups pecans

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

2 1/4 pounds peaches (about 7 medium), cut into 1/2 inch wedges

1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Whisk flour, brown sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Rub in butter with your fingers until clumps form and no dry spots remain.

Heat oven to 350 F. Toast pecans on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until slightly darkened in color, 8–10 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop.

Smear bottom and sides of a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with butter. Toss pecans, peaches, brown sugar, granulated sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl to combine. Transfer to skillet and crumble topping, breaking up into large pieces, over filling.

Bake crisp until topping is golden brown and juices are thick and bubbling around the edges, 25–35 minutes.

TIP: Crisp can be made 1 day ahead. Store lightly covered at room temperature. Great with a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.