As the grasses dwindled and winter grew nearer the community that surrounded the herd began to take notice. Realizing these horses had been abandoned, they came together, bringing in fresh water and hay to keep them alive long enough for county authorities to get the “rescue” process underway. Together the community, authorities and volunteers worked to bring the herd to Rainbow Meadows.
We need your help to reach the needed goal of $10,000 to provide the care for these Fortunate Five!
As the sun stretched out on the prairie, deep in the grasslands across Chautauqua County, a herd of abandoned horses resigned to scratch out whatever sustenance they could in order to survive another day. Day after day, the group wandered around their enclosure - no bigger than a ten-acre lot. There trapped behind wire with no food or water, they struggled, exposed to the elements with no one to look after them.
Made up of an older mare, a stallion, two juveniles and an expectant mother with a baby due any time, herd knew no other life than pain and isolation. The future was dark and held nothing more than a slow, painful death.
“They were left to primarily fend for themselves for months,” said Rainbow Meadows Executive Director Karen Everhart. “The pasture had been grazed to the ground before the end of the growing season. There was no nutritional forage remaining.”
The situation had grown more than dire for the horses. Their situation was cruel and tortuous.
“All but one of the horses had [severe] parasite issues; three had large volumes of adult worms in every manure pile. To survive, the horses had been consuming any manure available so they were ingesting live worms and eggs on a daily basis,” Everhart said. “Blood tests revealed anemia and other malnutrition related concerns. These horses were slowly dying.”
But that was before some concerned local residents came forward and worked to save them.
“Fortunately for them, concerned individuals took note and began delivery of hay while answers were sought regarding the ownership and subsequent abandonment of the horses,” Everhart said. “The Chautauqua County Sheriff was alerted numerous times about the situation and when it was clear that there was no one providing care, the horses were seized. The owner relinquished the horses to the County.”
Thankfully, someone thought to contact Rainbow Meadows. Dedicated to the rescue of abused, neglected and unwanted horses, Rainbow Meadows is an IRS-designated 501(c)(3) public charity located in Sedan. On any day of the week, the rescue currently houses more than 40 abandoned, abused or unwanted horses, all of which are available for adoption through a process designed to ensure that each goes to a safe and caring ‘forever’ home.
Rainbow Meadows also actively works to educate current and potential horse owners on how to provide quality care for their horses, hosts outreach events and provides low-cost clinics throughout the area.
Rainbow Meadows was asked to catch, load, transport and provide custodial care on January 27, 2017.
Upon arrival, the full extent of the malnutrition was discovered with the aging mare (now named Faye) and the pregnant mare (named Fallon). [Each] was assessed with a body condition score (BCS) of a 1 on the scale of 1-9 (per the Henneke Body Condition Scoring system used to grade the medical condition of horses) and were in imminent danger of death, Everhart said. The baby (a colt we have named Finn) was a BCS of 3 simply because he had continued nursing [from his mother]. The stallion (now called Foster) was a BCS of 2 and the young filly (named Fawn) was also a BCS of 2-3.
And while the issue was quietly dealt with in the county as a routine surrender of unwanted property, the struggle for these horses-and those desperately trying to save them, was only beginning.
“Rainbow Meadows knew that if we did not step up to admit Faye, Fallon, Foster, Finn and Fawn, as well as the unborn foal, they would likely be hauled to the nearest auction where they would likely be sold to slaughter,” said Everhart. “It was unacceptable to Rainbow Meadows that these innocent creatures could be faced with continued mistreatment and a horrific death. We simply could not stand by and watch that happen so we accepted they horses into our care.”
Now, mornings begin with nourishing meals and safe pastures to roam. The herd has met new people and received medical care. Each finally has a promising future. The elders have found peace security. The little ones are receiving training to become the companion animals they were born to be. And best of all, their little ‘plus one’ will be born into a world of hope instead of a world of hunger.
“The horses are nearly rehabilitated, nutritionally and have reached BCS of 4-5. The stallions have been castrated. All have been vaccinated and de-wormed. They are now friendly and trusting despite having been abandoned by their previous owner,” Everhart said.
Everhart shares credit with the residents of Chautauqua County who cared enough to take care of these gentle creatures.
“It was clear that the only reason the horses survived was because of the generous acts of kindness from those who took hay without expectation of payment. They are true heroes for the horses during brutally cold weather in December and January,” said Everhart.
The herd, dubbed the ‘Fortunate Five, plus one’, could never have hoped for this happy ending but volunteers at Rainbow Meadows say the horses need so much more. They and the other horses at the rescue require the care and generosity that only the heartland can provide. These horses needs volunteers, they need foster families, and they need people to care.
And to Everhart, there is the most important thing:
“Now we need your help us continue their care and to find them forever homes,” Everhart said.