Horse Rescue, North Carolina Style

Daisy Mae came into my life in late fall of 2011. My husband and I were in Southwestern North Carolina working on a log home we were building in Hayesville, near Murphy. The development sits back off Hwy 64 and we would drive up and down this road several times a day. It is truly God’s country with a beauty of mountains, forests, fresh springs and streams, where families have lived for many generations, with a history of moonshine and clannishness.

One day, I came around a curve and hit the brakes in surprise, pulling off the road and gaping at three pitiful looking horses looking wistfully over a fence on the side of the road.

This was the first time I had seen them and I can only assume they had been spending time up in the tree line looking for any bit of green to be found this time of year. Unfortunately, the pasture they were in was filled with weeds, burrs and trees almost bereft of their colorful fall foliage. The horses appeared to have given up their search and had placed their hopes on someone driving by. They were very thin, although not yet emaciated, but it was clear that they had not been attended to in a while: their coats were dusty, their manes and tails filled with burrs and their halters were imbedded into their faces. The worst of the lot was a ginger colored mare, whose ribs were very much defined.

"Maddie Lock", horse
Maddie Lock with her rescue horse Daisy Mae.

It so happened that I knew the man who lived across the street from this pasture and I headed for his front door. Oh yes, he told me, he knew about the horses and who they belonged to. The owner had fallen on hard times, both emotional and financial, and was unable to care for them. The pasture they were in belonged to one of the neighbors; it was “borrowed” because there was still some grass, whereas their own pasture was now bare. No, he did not know when the last time was that they had been cared for, had grain or hay. He did have some hay he could spare and would take a roll over on his tractor. In the meantime, I contacted the local Animal Control, which was part of the Sheriff’s Office; the lone investigator was on vacation and they would have him come out when he returned in a week.

We fed the horses some left-over cattle sweet feed and dumped a roll of hay into that pasture. I cut off the halters. For the next five days, when I would drive by, or stop, they would barely lift their heads out of the hay. But I did notice that the two geldings-an appaloosa and a paint-would try to strong arm the mare away from the food, especially the sweet feed. (This probably was what accounted for her more deteriorated condition.) By the time the investigator showed up five days later, he said that the horses did not look bad enough to demand that the owner turn them over. I had not thought to take “before” pictures, so all we could do was describe their previous state. The owner made excuses and promises, the investigator left, and I came back to Florida. The horses stayed where they were.

By an interesting turn of events, my fellow rescuer was writing a book of tales about life in the beautiful and scandal-filled Tusquittee Valley, the part of the Appalachians we were in. It turned out he needed an editor. I loved his stories and offered to this for him, taking his manuscript back to Florida with me. He, in turn, promised me he would keep the horses in hay through the winter. I asked him to find out, if he could, what plans the horses’ owner had for them. I told him that the mare, especially, needed a new home.

I continued editing through the winter and continued asking about the horses whenever we talked. Then, one day in the Spring I got a phone call from him: “You are now the proud owner of Daisy the mare!” I almost dropped the phone. Although I had wanted her to have a new home, it was not my home I had in mind. But Daisy was now temporarily in my friend’s pasture, awaiting her new home in Florida, had her own barn filled with hay and had lots of fresh green grass to graze on. I thanked him and planned a trip up.

It turns out she is a mix of Arabian, Morgan and Mustang. Her owner used to ride her quite a bit, but had not done so in about a year. Oh, and my fellow rescuer had traded a couple of rolls of hay for her; that way the other horses had food through the winter and I had Daisy. A good deal all around!

A few weeks later, I was up in North Carolina with the vet and Ferrier lined up, and was spending money on grooming materials, a halter and lead rope, as well as lots of horsey treats at the local feed store. I picked burrs out of her mane and tail for days; I curried lots of old dusty winter hair and washed and brushed her until her beautiful ginger coat was almost glowing. I lost the battle with the hundreds of burrs and ended up cutting a chunk of her tail and most of her mane. As it grew back, she morphed in front of my eyes from a scrawny, sad-eyed girl into a lovely, bright-eyed mare, actually a bit of a Diva, tossing her new mane and swishing her tail.

I did not get any papers on her, either vet reports or those showing ownership. I started from scratch and had the vet do all her shots, worming, blood tests for Coggins, as well as check her over completely. It took a couple of Ferrier visits before her hooves looked normal. They were curled and/or cracked pitifully. Fortunately, she seemed fairly healthy and her teeth said she was about nine years old. Due to circumstances, she stayed in NC through the summer and into late fall, when I was finally able to bring her to Florida. During that time, no one rode her and she was essentially a pasture pet. I needed to learn to ride and I started taking lessons before I brought her down.

Now we are happily learning together, and have made great progress. She is a Diva and demands that I show her confidence and a quiet perseverance when I ask her to do new things. I do not plan to use her for anything but pleasure riding, although with her bloodlines and strength she could easily be a candidate for endurance trials. I did hear that the other two horses received care and are now with a new owner up in Michigan.

There are many horses in North Carolina that are basically turned out to fend for themselves. People seem to think it is OK. It’s not. I was fortunate enough to see a happy outcome for all three horses, and I do know Daisy is loved and cared for. She responds in kind.

This is a guest post by Maddie Lock who is fond of all animals and has a soft spot in her heart for horses.