The scene as we approached was all too familiar. Debris, junkyard cars, discarded parts and pieces of machinery and trash are strewn about. The yard was littered with beer cans, liquor bottles and other household trash, making it difficult to approach the disheveled home. As we looked around cautiously, not knowing what we would stumble upon, there, tied to the bumper of one of the junked cars was the reason for our visit - a skinny bay horse trying desperately to nibble the few sprigs of grass just out of her reach. She looked at us, the approaching strangers, with caution, not sure what to expect. She had no reason to expect kindness or soft words. As my partner went to knock on the door, I approached the horse to get a closer look before the owner had a chance to ask us to leave. The first thing I noticed was that look of hopelessness – once you’ve seen it, you never forget it – the emotional starvation. Physically, all of her ribs were readily visible, her hipbones and backbone protruded, her hooves were long and overgrown, beginning to curl; her halter was so tight, the surrounding skin bulged. It had begun to grow into her face. The “BLM” brand was still apparent on her neck. What a tragedy. To have been born wild and free, to have once roamed the beautiful plains and mountains, tasted God’s bounty, and now to be reduced to life in a nasty junkyard with no sustenance whatsoever.
As predicted, her owner answered the door, and bellowed at us to leave the property. Without the presence of law enforcement, we had no choice but to leave. After many failed attempts to solicit the support of local law enforcement or animal control, we made the decision to visit the property once more ourselves. As is often the case, the bay horse was gone. We were certain that her suffering had not ended, but now, it was shielded from view. She would continue to suffer a slow and lonely path that would eventually lead to starvation. We had few choices left – we had done all that we could. Without law enforcement, we could not make the owner disclose the location of the horse. So, in the fall of 2002, we closed the case we called “Mustang Sally.”
Over the next few years, numerous cases came upon the horizon, many resulted in favorable futures for the horses we were able to rescue, yet for those of us in the field, we never quite forget the ones that slipped through the crack. They always live as ghosts in the distant corners of the mind. Then, in March of 2005, another representative and I traveled to the site of another complaint. This time, there were reports of several pregnant mares – without food or water, all in emaciated condition. This time, we happened to be working in a county where law enforcement fully supported our efforts, and were willing to enforce the law on behalf of the animals. We approached the run-down barn, noted the broken fence and evidence that the horses were running at large, and then we located them behind the farm, in an adjacent hay field. Standing there with three duns, a chestnut, a palomino, and a paint was this bay mare with a BLM brand on her neck. The closer I got, I had little doubt – we had just located “Mustang Sally” once again. Her hooves had grown even longer. In fact, she had probably had no farrier care since our initial visit in 2002, and she was still emaciated, only now, it was likely that she was pregnant as were the other mares. We left the property, promising each of the horses that their life had just taken a turn for the better - we would be back. It was such a cold, rainy day – the wind was piercing. We delivered fresh hay to the site, met with the judge to secure the warrant, and left to make all of the necessary arrangements to pick the horses up the next day. The next morning, we pulled onto the property with trailers in tow, and started the process to remove the horses. Even with hooves so long they now curled, Mustang Sally lead her ragged band away from the encroaching strangers – we were not to be trusted, she had no reason to trust any of us. One by one, we were able to catch each of the horses, except for the little paint mare with a perfect “heart” on her side, we later named “Valentine,” and “Mustang Sally.” Taking a deep breath, I approached the little paint. She was quite a foreboding picture, with her ears pinned flat on her, eyes glaring, and teeth barred - she was ready to lash out at the world. With a few soft words, (and a bit of grain), she was convinced that it would be easier to go with us, and the rest of her buddies than to stand alone in the cold, rain. So now, with everybody else ready to go, I approached “Mustang Sally” slowly, talking softly, until she finally allowed me to gently touch her withers. In that space and time, she looked me deep in the eyes, and somehow she understood that we meant her no harm. We were there to help. She lowered her head and allowed me to buckle the halter around her head – the white hairs marked the scarring left from the previously too small halter.
Today, although “Mustang Sally” knows the tenderness and affection of a loving home, she still fights to regain the health that her abusive owners robbed through the years of abuse and neglect. Even as we support her valiant efforts, her life, and that of her unborn foal hang in the balance. The years that she spent tied out in a junkyard, with no farrier care have left her with severely foundered hooves. The severity of this condition would likely have already caused a domesticated horse to be humanely euthanized. Veterinarians look at her x-rays and scratch their heads. The coffin bones of both front hooves have rotated drastically, and yet, with supportive care, she causally grazes on the tender grass, seemingly oblivious to the pain that she must feel. For now, we take one day at the time, and hope that we can sustain her through the last months of her pregnancy without the added weight becoming too much for her tolerate. As I watch her, I feel such admiration and respect for her resilient nature. She stands ready to trust us, willing to do whatever we ask of her, in spite of the years of abuse and mistreatment she has lived through. When I think back to that first day I met her glance in 2002, it pains me to think of the distrust and fear that I saw. There are no remnants of either fear or distrust now however. Her large brown eyes are soft and fluid, filled with trust, and eager to live. Thanks to the efforts of volunteers of this rescue and others like it across the United States, there is hope for horses like Mustang Sally.
To see the adoptable pets for SCARE - South Carolina Awareness & Rescue of Equines click here
Return to list
SCARE - South Carolina Awareness & Rescue of Equines Location
Below is a map for SCARE - South Carolina Awareness & Rescue of Equines, please call for specific directions.
***Note: PO Boxes will not show correctly on the map below.