By Mary Rose Sawicki
On the top of an abandoned strip mine on March 7, 2017, a herd of 30 horses graze peacefully. At the request of local authorities, a few local volunteers and Kentucky Humane Society Equine CARE are called in to search for a thin horse with a debilitating limp and a nasty wound. She is one of the horses abandoned on top of the mountain and is believed to be in danger because of her serious injury.
At first glance, the mare is not present with the rest of the herd. After a 45-minute search, the mare and one of her babies are spotted on the top of a hill. She was not putting any weight on one of her front legs and was in intense pain. She was also incredibly thin and weak. The path to the hill was too steep to take the truck and trailer up so she had to make the grueling half-mile walk down the hill on three legs. She tried to stop after every few steps…. it was clear her pain was excruciating, but in a show of her gentle nature, she continued to do what was asked of her. Stumbling and struggling the whole way, she finally made it to the trailer.
Once she was loaded onto the trailer, her baby and two other young horses came running up. It quickly became obvious that all three of these horses were her offspring, as they looked just like her and seemed psychologically attached to her. Clearly, one mare turned loose on this mountain had brought at least three more mouths to feed into a world of limited resources. She did not seem concerned about leaving them. She was too sick and too tired.... plus they were all of the age to be weaned and were capable of fending for themselves. They ran to join the rest of their herd as their mother left to receive medical attention.
After a long 3-hour drive back to Simpsonville KY, this nameless, forgotten mare arrived at Equine Services Hospital. She struggled to get off the trailer and used the last of her strength to walk into the clinic. The veterinary team sprang into action cleaning hair and debris away from the wound in her shoulder. She winced and shifted her weight back and forth on her good legs as they tried to find out what was wrong. She stood still stoically as they x-rayed her shoulder. The x-ray screen displayed tiny flecks of something dispersed throughout her shoulder. The vet confirmed that these flecks were bullet fragments. Someone had deliberately shot this sweet mare and left her to die a slow, painful death.
Her scapula was shattered from the bullets, rendering her front left leg completely useless. Watching her stand painfully as her future was discussed, it was difficult not to notice the weary look in her eyes. She was tired of fighting. She had spent weeks in hellish pain just trying to stay alive. The decision was made to humanely euthanize her as she had sustained irreparable damage from the gunshot wound. We could not save her. All we could do was to help end her immense suffering. The county judge executive agreed this was the only humane outcome for her. Thanks to the compassionate staff at Equine Services Hospital, her last moments on earth were peaceful.
Once a Companion
This nameless horse was once a foal. She was once an energetic young filly. She was once someone's companion, as she had clearly been handled before... once someone's responsibility. And now at the age of 16, she is dead because of someone’s cruelty. Some argue that these horses are better off roaming free rather than being confined to a pasture in a region where grassland is scarce. But I can tell you from first-hand experience it was not better for her. She deserved more.
As upset as we are that this gentle mare met such a tragic ending, we are honored that we got to show her human kindness. Now she is free: No more cruelty. No more hunger. No more endless babies. No more neglect. Just the gentle wind coming off the mountains.
HOW TO HELP
Want to help Kentucky’s forgotten horses? The Kentucky Humane Society is a private nonprofit and relies on donations to fund our lifesaving work. Donate online at www.kyhumane.org/equine-donate