The first time I saw a starving horse, I thought I’d lose my lunch.
Although I’ve seen a few over the years, nothing prepared me for the pictures of a once-proud Arabian rescued June 1 near Gainesville, FL.
The weak gelding, officially named RC El-Dinero, was quickly dubbed “Nick” by the staff at Beauty’s Haven Farm and Equine Rescue, Inc. Rescuers soon discovered that poor Nick was actually 27 years old and had a pedigree about half mile long.
According to Beauty’s Haven president Theresa Batchelor, the horse’s life was initially saved as the result of a new volunteer spotting him in a field and by the outpouring of support of the Fans of Barbaro (FOBs), the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner who broke down in the Preakness the same year . Barbaro was euthanized January 29, 2007 due to laminitis in all four hooves. Also known respectfully in the racing world as the Barbaro Nation, they mobilized immediately to help save Nick.
The day after she first worked at Beauty’s Haven, the volunteer stopped at a boarding facility she passed to ask about its fees and facilities. When she spotted the starving Arabian in the pasture, she immediately contacted the rescue to alert them of his condition. She and her husband returned later to take pictures of Nick, which they emailed to the rescue group.
Conversations with the woman who owned the boarding facility as well as with Nick’s owner, who lived out of state, were initially nonproductive. Both insisted he was fine and didn’t need rescuing. The owner explained if he looked bad, it was because he had Cushing’s disease. However, it appeared none of a standard Cushing’s medication or any supplements had been purchased for him recently.
Eventually, the owner agreed to transfer Nick to Beauty’s Haven. When he was transported to the rescue farm in Morrison, FL, he fell over three times due to weakness. The horse, who weighed only 600 pounds, was 400 pounds underweight and probably would have died within a few days without intervention.
Word quickly got out about Nick’s plight on the discussion board of the Tim Woolley Racing web site, http://www.timwoolleyracing.com. FOBs from around the country dug deep to help the horse, who in places was literally bones covered by a shaggy coat in the hot Florida sun. In addition to contributing money for an emergency vet visit, medicine, a special diet, and a farrier visit, about 20 of them agreed to be Nick’s “Angels” and sponsor him monthly. The estimated cost for his basic maintenance is $400 a month. Contributions continue to pour in daily via checks, PayPal, and credit card payments to help the friendly, gentle horse. The thread describing his plight and work to rehabilitate him already has more than 800 posts.
At this writing, the once-noble Arabian has been visited by an equine vet who has drawn two sets of blood work. His initial assessment was that Nick could recover if he continued to receive the level of care he’s experiencing at Beauty’s Haven. Test results eventually showed he has an extremely severe case of Cushing’s disease. A holistic vet, shocked when she first saw the gelding, initially treated him for more than two hours, including giving him therapeutic massage. When she returned the next week, she found his condition improved.
The horse also has what appear to be rope burns, as if his legs had been tied together. He arrived at the rescue a very frightened animal. According to Theresa Bachelor, while he is still very unsteady, his eyes are brighter now, and he’s had a much-overdue haircut and a pedicure of sorts. Once her request for a sling to help support Nick went out on the Tim Woolley Racing discussion board, FOBs raised the funds within hours.
Each year, between 50,000 and 90,000 horses are slaughtered in this country because they’re no longer needed or wanted. Until a Federal law is passed outlawing slaughter or export for slaughter for human consumption, many will end up as delicacies on the dinner plates of European and Japanese diners. The emaciated Arabian affectionately dubbed Nick was exceptionally fortunate to avoid this fate.
The gelding is nearing the end of a normal lifespan. Will he survive? He has a history of laminitis, which killed Barbaro, so his feet must be carefully and regularly checked. Theresa Bachelor says that it will take a considerable amount of time to rehabilitate him. While he shows some signs of the regal Arabian he once was, she summarized his plight by saying, “Trying to get weight on him is going to be a slow process.”
Why did the FOBs scramble hard and fast to help a horse that’s the most starved animal most have ever seen? Because for many of them, the decision to try to save Barbaro after his leg shattered and the horse’s unwillingness to give up for eight months proved that everyone deserves a chance.
The rescue is home to other horses, among them a stallion named Magic, who was beaten with a 2 X 4 and is terrified of humans. Nick has started to keep company with a mare, Granny Jewels. And already, the filthy, bug-infested gelding is holding his head higher than when he arrived.
Beauty’s Haven is open to visits by the public if arranged in advance. Their web site is located at http://www.beautysequinerescue.org. Although relatively new in the rescue community, it gained 501(c)(3) status earlier this year.
People do care. Nick is proof of that.