Car after car drove down the street, passing by the skinny horse that stared at them over the barbed wire fence. Hundreds of people must have glanced at him, some probably shook their heads, muttered words like, “What a shame” and “Why doesn’t someone do something about that poor horse?” Maybe they were too busy, doing the important things in their world in which horses play no part. Maybe they thought the horse was sick and someone, somewhere, was taking care of it. Or maybe they just didn’t care at all. After all, it wasn’t their problem.
He stood in the pen beside the road for six months, baking in the hot sun, standing in the filth and the mud, waiting for someone to look, for someone to notice. There was no way for people to avoid seeing him. He was there, beside the road, growing thinner and weaker by the day. The old man, the one that was suppose to feed him, occasionally threw some grain in a bucket, sometimes dumped a few flakes of hay over the fence, but it was never enough to satisfy his hunger, certainly not enough to make up for the weight that kept dropping downward.
In all those cars occupied by all those people, there was only one person, a lady named Jennifer, who saw and felt the pain the horse was experiencing. She finally stopped and talked with the old man, offering to buy the horse for $100, to take it off his hands. He refused, made all sorts of excuses.
Jennifer didn’t walk away and forget about it. She talked about the horse with her friends at the office. Someone finally suggested, “Call Habitat for Horses. See what they can do.”
We came the next day, tried to discuss the problem with the old man and his wife, and heard all the typical answers – “Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that horse. I feed him everyday. He’s one of them Arab horses. They suppose to look skinny.”
When we asked about who owns the horse, the old man became belligerent, not giving any information. “He belongs to some boy. I just feed him. It ain’t my horse. I don’t know where the boy lives. Up in Houston somewhere.”
It’s never our intention to take a horse away from someone. We’ll do everything possible to help in any way we can, if the owner is willing to listen to us. Not this time. The last words we heard before we walked away were. “You don’t worry about that horse no more. I’m gonna’ move him out of here. Ain’t no one got any reason to complain about that horse.”
If they moved the horse, we knew what his future would bring. The horse was starving to death. Removed from the eyes of the public and the horse would be dead within weeks. We’ve seen it too many times before, skin and bones left far out in a pasture. Not this time.
A quick visit to the Judge, a call to law enforcement, and two hours later we were back with a Warrant For Seizure. Fuss and fume all you want, old man, I muttered. This is one horse that’s not going to die. “You are due in court in ten days,” the officer told him. “You can tell it to the Judge.”
He did. The old man and his friends offered every excuse they could think of, produced a couple of receipts from the feed store, talked about the vet being out two months before. The Judge gave them every opportunity to explain why they were starving the horse.
We presented our side, pointed out the scar tissue under the neck from leaning over the barbed wire fence to get a bite of grass. We produced our case book, filled with photographs and vet statements, the results of the blood work and stool sample. Worms, anemic, grossly underweight, no known reason other than a severe lack of nutrition.
The Judge gave them one more chance. “They ain’t got no right to come take that horse,” the old man’s friend said. “They can’t just show up and take any horse they want.”
“It’s obvious,” the Judge answered, “that you never had a problem finding food and yes, they do have a right because I directed them to seize your horse. I am now ordering that the horse be given to Habitat for Horses. As of this moment none of you have any interest or ownership in this horse.”
If you stop by the ranch and see a skinny horse with his head stuck in a hay bale, now you know why. In his new paddock there is a well worn path between the hay, the water trough and the feed bucket. We changed his name from “White Boy” to Ziggy, wormed him, washed him, hugged him, brushed him and turned him loose to heal. We’ll give him a shot of this and that, feed him Equine Senior mixed with beet pulp and a few alfalfa cubes. We’ll continue to put Dupont’s hay in front of him, but it’s up to him and God to heal the damage. So far, they are both doing a wonderful job.
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Habitat for Horses is always on the lookout for a few great people at our ranches. The work is unique, the animals are special and we want folks who both know and understand the special connection our animals need.