Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What I Do

This is part of what I do on the "reality" side as a writer for the El Paso County and Fountain Valley News. Of course the story doesn't stop here. I'm investigating the 80 year old woman who lives alone in a falling apart spook house. She's taking care of her two remaining horses.
My mother (retired social worker) is concerned about her mental health and is forcing me to look at the humanity side of this situation, not just the horse.
We went to her property, couldn't get her to answer the door, but took pictures of the remaining horses. There is a stack of hay, water, shelter and 2 very thin horses, although not as bad as Majestic.
The gate opens into a small pasture with lots of very green grass, so obviously they have been kept off it until recently.
I'm afraid she'll founder the other two.
Where are this womans kids (she has 5)?
Why is she alone?
Is she slipping mentally or is she hiding the fact she finacially can't care for these horses?
Is she truly an evil bitch who was dumping her companion of 20 + years or did she really think she was going to go ride?
The Sheriff's Office is going to investigate and nosy old me is following this to the end.
I'm hoping we'll end up with the horses safely surrendered and the old lady (evil or no) getting some help.

Horse Abandoned Along Fountain Creek

By Janet Huntington

The little bay Arabian mare peeked around the corner of the barn. With a friendly nicker she left her hay to get a scratch behind the ears. Her backbone and ribs stand out is stark relief and her hip bones are a lesson in the skeletal structure of the horse.

“Majestic” is barely alive, but her eyes have a spark of interest and she keeps working on her feed. Wisp by wisp of hay she is slowly coming back.

Majestic has a body score of one on the Henneke Body Scoring System, the lowest rating possible on a scale used by veterinarians and emergency responders.

“By the time a horse gets this far down their organs have begun to fail, it takes months of starvation for a horse to get to this point,” DeMuesey said.

Majestic could have simply disappeared along the banks of Fountain Creek.

DeMuesey first heard of the horse’s plight when she received a phone call from a neighbor.

He said he had stopped to help an elderly woman who was trying to unload the horse from a trailer at I 25 and exit 116. The horse was down in the trailer and the woman was trying to drag her out with a rope tied to her leg.

The neighbor talked the woman into taking the horse and trailer to his ranch and used a tractor to pull the horse out. He then called DeMuesey.

“The first time I saw her she was laying on the ground. She was nothing more than a bag of bones, I was sure she was dead,” Dreamcatcher Equine Rescue manager Julie DeMuesey said.

“She had let us talk her onto her feet by the time the vet arrived and it turns out the only thing wrong with her is starvation and age. So we had to give her a chance.”

The elderly woman kept repeating her story. She said she was planning on taking the horse on a trail ride. She insisted Majestic was her favorite riding horse and she didn’t know why she had fallen.

“She kept brushing the mare off with a broom,” DeMuesey said, “she not only had no brushes with her, but there was no saddle or bridle.

“If the mare hadn’t fallen in the trailer I’m sure the plan was to dump her along the creek.”

By the time the sheriff’s department had arrived DeMuesey had convinced her to surrender the horse. The woman was allowed to return to her home in Colorado Springs.

Situations like the one Majestic was found in are happening more and more.

“Since the slaughter plants closed there isn’t any easy solution to getting rid of an unwanted horse,” DeMuesey said.

“It used to be an unwanted horse would be dropped off at a sale and the owner could pretend the horse would find a new home. But even the kill buyers aren’t going to take on a horse without weight on them. Not when they have to haul them to Mexico or Canada to the slaughter plants,” she stated.

Majestic is calm and friendly. She has obviously had a life of kindness before now. How she ended up on a desolate highway exit, starved and neglected is anyone’s guess.

DeMuesey is concerned about the woman who surrendered her also.

“People are too proud to ask for help,” she said, “instead of waiting until a horse is in this condition and then dumping them, a phone call to a horse rescue or the humane society will get immediate assistance.”

Horse owners in trouble or neighbors aware of starving horses in the Fountain area should first call the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region. If they still need assistance a call to the Fountain Fire Department at 382-7800 will generate an investigation.

“Area rescues will do what they can,” DeMuesey said, “we’re stuffed to the brim with horses, but we’ll do what we can to help.”

Like finding room for one more; an aged, starved little mare with sweet eyes and a soft nicker.
Dreamcatcher Equine Rescue can be reached at 719-266-2199 . The expenses to rehabilitate a horse like Majestic are high. Donations are always appreciated.


  1. Good work! I like earing or reading these rescue stories... unfortunately people think they know all about horses and it turns out that they are neglecting or abusing of them in the process... Unfortunately, it is to that point... People should have to pass an exam before having to care for horses, if not, they should be constantly visited by experts in evaluation that could flag any problem and nip it in the bud... This system would be costly but I am sure it would save a lot of equine lives.

  2. Situations like that make me shudder. I'm terrified of ever selling my horse because of that very possible outcome. Here in Canada we still have slaughter plants, but there are still cases like that.

    I'm glad this one had a happy ending.

  3. Well done, Mugs (not that you need my approval, but you have it nonetheless.) You did a great job presenting the facts in a solid, interesting tone without managing to let any biased outrage peek through... something I *never* could have accomplished. It's pretty impressive, especially considering how wonderfully descriptive you can make your writing when you want it to be.

    On a side note: Dragging her out of the trailer with a rope? Really? And a friggin' BROOM? REALLY? Favorite riding horse, my a**... grumble, mumble, mumble.

    One of my plans (that The Bean doesn't know about) is that after we move to Arizona in a couple of years and get settled in on horse property, I plan on finding the skinniest darn horse I can find and rehab it. Even if the horse ends up being a lawn ornament, it's still a goal of mine. When I see cases like Majestic, the urge to slowly fatten them up is so strong it makes me kind of twitchy.

    And on a more controversial note--- I saw skinny, nearly abandoned horses loooooooong before slaughter plants were outlawed in the US. Regardless of whether slaughter plants are right or wrong, they aren't to blame for idiocy such as this--- having them here won't make it easier for crazy people to keep their horses fat. It'll just make it easier for them to cover up their tracks.

  4. "“People are too proud to ask for help,” she said, “instead of waiting until a horse is in this condition and then dumping them, a phone call to a horse rescue or the humane society will get immediate assistance.”"

    I'm sorry, this is not true. The paragraph after tells why. Rescues are already full to the brim, and many rescues were really hoarders, and now the unwanted horse issue has enabled them to the max.

    Can't comment on the rest of the story, wasn't there, don't know.

    But I can say I had a 'friend' who was going to pay me $50 a month and buy feed for her horse that was to stay with me. 3 months later I figure out I've been dumped on. e-mailed all kinds of rescues, never got a peep back from any of them, and then find out some of them are now facing neglect charges.

    My solution? finally put a free horse ad on craigslist, and had an email within an hour. They picked her up and took her. I have no illusions, hope for the best, know probably the worst happened, but I had my own to care for and think of first. Still hate myself for it, but there wasn't another option.. she wasn't worth the price in gas to even take her to the weekly sale barn, and probably I would have had to pay them after she brought the $75 she was worth.

    The only thing I can be ok with, is knowing she didn't end up at one of the places I contacted, the one with over 50 head, and most of them with a scores of 1-3 when authorities stepped in.

  5. Goodjob!
    This brings back memories of my little old horse Naigen who was a BCS of 1. She was a complete sack of bones and it took almost a year to get her back to where the vitamin E deficiency was fixed and her stomach expanded, allowing her to eat more.

  6. Sorry to disagree Becky.

    I do agree we saw starved horses before, one or two, old ones usually.. maybe studs locked up in the stalls 24/7, maybe a large heard of horses in bad shape, about once every 5 years or so.

    We never saw them with 50 - 100 - 300 head - Every Month, Multiple times a Month -and never half of them being 'rescues'.

    That was one side to the whole slaughter debate I never saw coming.. enabling the hoarders to collect free horses till they reached critical and starve them all to near death till someone steps in. That is going on 3 or 4 times a month, all over the country now.

  7. Mugs, this may be of value

  8. I'm from El Paso! I had no idea you were there. I still miss the mountains.

    So sorry to hear about this. It sounds like that woman has alzheimers, that whole disconnection from present time.

    But I'm sure this horse will never forget. I hope Majestic survives her ordeal.

  9. Anonymous: I think part, if not the majority, of starvation cases would happen regardless of the slaughter debate. I say this because I have/had two starvation rescues both from large herds (1 from 100+ horses, 1 from 30+) and both predate the slaughter ban. I believe the increase in these cases stems from people who are now unable to 'get rid of the evidence' as it were. More horses get seized, hence more stories get published. I won't argue the that some rescues are hoarders in disguise. But will state that hoarding is a mental illness that would exist regardless of the legalities of slaughter.
    On a side note: I am fine (in the abstract sense) with the idea of horses being livestock and being used as food. So long as the breeding and raising is treated as such (including the medications given.) Basically that someone doesn't unpet her pet once she gets bored. (This includes dumping/abandoning).

  10. I use to live in Fountain. In the apartments by the elementary school.
    I have a horse who has had problems since I moved to Georgia. I would never sell him. I've seen how people in my area take care of their horses. It's very scary. I couldn't imagine dumping him. I love him. He's my baby. He's actually getting better now...after a year and a half. I don't care if he's every rideable again though. He'll always be my 1200 lb dog. :-) He's fun to take on walks in my neighborhood and he loves it when we walk downtown to get a pop at the gas station. He loves it when people stop to pet him. Especially kids.

  11. I agree that there is probably Alzheimers or other dementia going on here. The woman HAS hay and pasture, but probably doesn't know at any time whether she fed the horses or not. This would also explain the lack of a brush or saddle on her trip for a "trail ride."
    What can't be explained is the absence of her children--though she has probably not recognized her own need for help, and possibly pushed them (and neighbors) away with her erratic behavior. Still there is more neglect going on here than just to the horses.

  12. "... she wasn't worth the price in gas to even take her to the weekly sale barn..."

    What an awful, awful thing to say. She was a life. Not only was she worth more than that, she deserved more than that. Like it or not, she was stuck with you and that was very unfortunate for her. If you weren't willing to do anything else, you could have had her put down humanely instead of sending her out into the world with God knows what kind of people.

  13. Thanks Mugs for telling an awful story in a concise and informative way. You really do have the gift of the written word.

    With regards to the elderly lady: we had a neighbor in AZ who was elderly and starting to deteriorate mentally. She had a Jack Russel dog and some cats. The cats ending up going feral and the dog ended up drinking out of the swimming pool and scrounging for food. Apparently the house was a mess. She also had children but she had forbidden them to step on her property convinced that they were trying to take her away. Which in part was true, she needed full time care and supervision, which they gladly would have given her should she ever have agreed. Instead she would call the police whenever they showed up.

    In the end, after an incredible amount of red tape, they had to call the police and senior adult services to step in and have her forcibly removed from her home. The cats were never caught and the dog probably ended up at the shelter, for as reasonable as her daughter was she was NOT a dog person and didn't want to become one.

    The children may want to help but sometimes it is just a difficult walk no matter how good one's intentions are.

  14. Also, don't forget about media sensationalism. Just because you HEAR about more starvation cases now, rather than before outlawing slaughter, it doesn't mean that they didn't exist. Perhaps they just weren't being reported.

    There could be several things playing into the trend - more people willing to report, more people being educated about what neglect looks like, slaughter supporters using such stories as propaganda to fuel their argument, media sources realizing it's a hot topic to report on, etc.

  15. I think we have a cranky anon out there don't you guys?

    It IS true...the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak region will help, moniter, remove or educate, whatever they deem appropriate in an abuse situation.

    I am not a hoarder, neither are either of the two rescues I sponser.

    Both rescues are highly successful at adopting out rehabilitated horses.

    Front Range Equine Rescue also has an end of the trail program and a gelding program, offering financial assistance for euhanasia and gelding.

    Both rescues try to avoid taking over a problem someone has where they have a healthy horse they don't want, even if it's been "dumped on them."

    Becky- thank you. I'm also glad you picked up my point. People are having a harder time dumping unwanted horses. It used to be you just ran them to "the sale" and didn't think about it any more.
    I guess that's what Craig's List is for now.

    I think heavily about this issue. I think about over breeding, the practice the TB's QH breeders have of culling large numbers to create a few good ones, I worry about mustangs.

    Ahh, I'll just go to a post...

  16. Mugs

    every monday I take a friend to lunch. she will be 88 in November and is /was the finest horsewoman I have ever known. I learned so much from her and she agreed that she learned some from me. now she can't remember that we had a nice lunch but she does remember some of the crazy things we did when out riding. Her family has control of her horses and since some income depends on the boarders her horses are in good shape. My point...if she was able to handle their physical needs they might not be in good shape and if she was physically able to take her favorite mare for a ride she might be just like the lady you had to deal malice intended but just working from some small retained memories without the judgement to back up her decisions.

    Anyone of us could end up like htis if we do not make suitable arrangements while we still can

  17. foxxyfjord- I agree 100%. Which is why I'm following up with the sheriffs office to see if we need to contact social services.
    It's also why I didn't identify her.
    I know who she is, but at this point I feel we can protect her and save the horses at the same time.

  18. ooh, that was a sad story, for horses and humans involved...
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

  19. "The only thing I can be ok with, is knowing she didn't end up at one of the places I contacted, the one with over 50 head, and most of them with a scores of 1-3 when authorities stepped in."

    But here's the thing Anon, you have no idea that she didn't end up like that.

  20. What Becky, Aymes, and Cassandra said...100%.