Life in our Foothills October 2022 – Journey’s End

Published 11:39 am Thursday, October 27, 2022

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It happens to the best of us. We formulate a game plan. Then fate enters the equation with a different idea of how the journey will unfold over time.  


With equines, fate is at the mercy of their owners. Will they keep us for our entire life, or sell us, breaking apart bonded friendships?  One day follows seamlessly just like the last. Then an unrecognized horse trailer arrives. We gallop around at the intrusion. Which one of us will leave? What is next? As the trailer exits the gate, we call out frantically wondering where our friends are going. 

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I am one lucky pony. Oh yes, I had my brush with cruelty, as I lost my family in a Texas livestock lot. However, I ended up in a loving home with a career as “Spokespony” for Helping Equines Regain Dignity (HERD). So many of the horses and ponies HERD has rescued over the last six years have found wonderful homes in the Carolinas and well beyond, as far away as Colorado, Washington State, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. They are champions at eventing, endurance, in the show ring, and in the hunt field as the hunt master’s prize horse. Ninety percent of the horses we save thrive in competition careers. However, there are a few equines that meet challenges that derail our best-laid plans for their future. No one ever promised us that rescue work was going to be easy.  In fact, 2022 has been the toughest year for HERD. Fate threw handfuls of marbles underfoot to trip us.


There are horses that have been the catalyst for so many sleepless nights. All were purchased to avoid them going to slaughter. The plights of Klaus, Journey, and Tapas come to mind.

Young equestrian student, Ella Mayer, on Klaus taking a lesson.

One of our foster training partners adores fox hunting. When she saw Klaus, she thought with his great looks and draft cross-breeding, he would be ideal for the hunt field. Klaus was a reactive handful, age five, with loads of muscle.  While in quarantine, he learned to accept a halter and the human touch. Then off he went for over a month to a trainer the foster knew in North Carolina. Klaus made modest improvements. He was too challenging a steed for the foster to train as a fox hunter. The decision was made to send Klaus to Hearts of Phoenix in West Virginia, as this is a much larger horse organization with tremendous reach, sponsors, and expansive facilities. Klaus would enter the Appalachian Trainer Face Off.  After 90 days of intensive training, by a gifted professional rider, Samara Manich, he would compete as her mount. The prize money for the winning horse trainer is considerable. As with HERD, the horses are assured great homes with an adoption contract to keep them safe, after the competition.


Klaus’ progress reports have been posted monthly on HERD’s Facebook page for followers to marvel at his transformation. He went from a frightened force to a mellow fellow, thanks to Samara’s steady training and patient nature. He is going to make someone an incredible partner whether it be for riding lessons, trail riding, or even moving cattle. As I pen this column, Samara can ride him without a bridle and drag a long pole behind him. Life is looking rosy for Klaus. HERD did right by him despite not being able to rehome him directly through our program.    

Tapas with Ava Gibson in the saddle

The same month we saved Klaus, we also rescued a bay roan mare, Journey, and a cute chestnut large pony we named Tapas. These two were both broke to ride but needed reconditioning. Described as country horses, their former career was trail riding in the mountains. Tapas arrived exceptionally friendly, but Journey was more aloof. Both suffered from respiratory infections that needed time and medication to recover. 


On a Sunday night, the dreaded call came. Tapas was experiencing a bad case of colic. She was rushed to a vet clinic. The doctor was not hopeful she would survive. Tapas surprised us all and pulled through. However, her respiratory illness had also worsened into a case of pneumonia. She was placed on stall rest with additional steroids and antibiotics. It took over six months to secure, but HERD eventually found an equine therapy home that would welcome sweet Tapas in Virginia. Her bout with pneumonia had scarred her lungs. She needed an easy life with low-stress riding and ample interaction with people. We donated her to become an equine partner helping children. 

Tapas recovered from pneumonia and is ready to begin retraining

Journey went back to work when she was well enough to ride. Her training level was perfect for a beginner, and she was adopted to a local family.  After about sixty days in her new home, the owner of Journey called and asked HERD to take her back as she was limping on every ride. We sent Kailey Greene to pick her up the following day. Journey was very thin.  Kailey took her straight to the Hunt Country Equine and Bibi Freer x-rayed the foot in question. She found only a bruised sole, and no serious issues. So, Kailey took Journey home with her for rehabilitation. With the horse’s weight gain, came a swollen belly. Journey was pregnant. 

Journey saved from the kill pen

HERD secured a foster situation for Journey with a member of our network of supportive friends. Everything was going well. Then came the punch-in-the-stomach news. Journey was suffering from a severe case of colic. Her unborn foal was in jeopardy. We all prayed hard, but Journey turned septic very quickly. Her body was shutting down, her intestines had twisted. She was dying internally. There was no hope of recovery. The vet ended her suffering quickly, and we arranged a private burial service on the foster’s farm.  


HERD invested heavily into these three horses and received no adoption fees, which is how we cover future vet bills, feed, and training costs. The upside of this saga is we did our best to ensure that each of these equines experienced the kindest outcome for their journey’s end.