I could never imagine after having a horse for 24+ years, to send her away because she was not serving a purpose anymore. How could you justify giving her away, sending her to a university for study or any other fate she may have encountered? Well Niki was all of the above. She was owned by a family for the majority of her life, and for whatever reason in 2002 they decided to give her to the University of Florida for research. She would have been only 14 years old. Then, somehow they got her back, and from my understanding, was kept for many more years and then given away on Facebook. I remember seeing a picture of this gorgeous mare when she was being given away. Needless to say she ended up in the wrong hands from day 1 after that. She was given to a young girl who lets just say has a bad reputation in our area for starving horses. She decided that this 24+ year old mare would make a great "barrel horse". What? At this time in her life Niki was arthritic and should have been retired many years ago. But thank heavens a friend of mine told her that she should just dig a hole now, so that when she kills her she has somewhere to put her. So being the wonderful person she isn't, she was basically thrown away and forgotten, starving out in her field. Somehow, she was then given to a couple in a close city that adored her. She was about 500 pounds underweight at this point and they started putting weight on her. Soon after though, they then bought an appaloosa gelding who was extremely mean to her and once again, Niki was sent away.
This time she went back to someone who had owned her for a short time in between her travels. He then gave her to another family who had NO IDEA how to care for a geriatric, skinny, and extremely arthritic horse. They were raised that if it couldn't survive on pasture, then there must be something wrong with it. "She's old, shes just gonna die," was what I was told. I knew many months before I acquired this mare that I would end up with her. I just had to sit back and wait it out. Little did I know, this would end up being one of the worst cases I had ever seen by the time I was able to get her. I received a phone call from her owners, saying please come now, Niki is down and cannot get up. I assumed I would see a horse injured, or just too old to fight anymore. What I saw floored me when I got there. It was the end of Winter 2014 at this point and still fairly cold. In addition, it had been raining all day. She was standing when I got there but only by the pure grace of God. She was about 400 pounds, and I am not exaggerating. She was barely standing, shivering from head to toe, and had apparently been down for numerous hours while they left her to go get a tractor. She was probably down most of the night. My mouth hit the floor when I saw her and immediate tears streamed down my face. All I could say was, "How in the world did you let her get like this?" I was told she could not be on hay, so they had her in a small field, and were not feeding her much grain if any at this time. She was literally starving to death and using every last calorie she was getting to stay warm. I told them exactly what they needed to do as they were still not willing to give her up, why, I do not know. She started feeding her slow and free choice chafe hay, since she was a choker, right? The horse actually slowly was to me regaining her sparkle in her eye, but still could barely walk and wobbled with every step.
Finally, I got a phone call asking if I could please take her. I of course said yes, and we made arrangements to get her to me the following week. She spent a few days with someone who literally almost killed her with grain...he said to me, well I figured she was either gonna die or founder! I though to myself, "probably both!" When he pulled her off the trailer, she could still barely stand and almost fell when he made her unload backwards instead of letting this poor girl turn around and get off. She was bleeding from her coronary bands in about 6 places, and was just miserable looking. He showed me what he was feeding her, A FULL FLAT BACK WATER BUCKET FULL of grain 2 TIMES A DAY! I immediately knew why she was bleeding, she was either going to founder or she was abscessing horribly. I decided to back her off all her grain, give tons of hay and just wait and see.
Well remember that choking I spoke of? Yeah.. she has never choked here, EVER. Unfortunately, she did blow out the entire bottom of her feet to the worst abscesses I have ever seen. She was no longer able to walk without substantial wraps or boots. Pure meat was exposed in the bottom of both front feet, so bad I would sit with her and cry, not knowing what to do. Was this it, did I need to end her suffering? I was not able to afford to do a ton of xrays and vet visits on her, so I called my farrier to see what he thought. He was very optimistic and thought it best to do shoes and see if we could relieve some weight on her soles, give her time to heal, and grow a new foot and just see what happens. As soon as we put her shoes on, it was immediate relief, and she was again able to walk somewhat comfortably without boots or wraps. I was even able to give pain meds once a day instead of twice. I was extremely relieved. And after several months of healing, her feet are almost healed and we were able to pull her shoes last week. She has only gained about 200 pounds, as I backed off again to let her feet heal, but Niki is on the mend.
This horse has more heart than I have ever seen, and I always told her that I would fight this fight with her until she told me she was done. She is such a sweet soul and is coming along slowly but surely. She will spend her days out here with me, because I could not imagine her ever ending up like this again. It would without a doubt be the end of her.
So if you ever decide to give your horse up, even if its not one you have had all their life, make sure you do your homework. How would you feel if your baby went through a horrible ordeal all because you didn't check on them or care enough to look into her new home? I know if it was me, I would never forgive myself. Every day I wake up and check on that sweet girl, and will continue to do so for the rest of her life! Here is a link to Niki's Facebook album and her registered name is Dun in Moonshine (AQHA).
Thanks for reading!
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