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Why do we do what we do…?

I know this question has been posed before, but not by us, specifically.  So, with everything that has been happening over the last few months, I feel as though it is time to broach the subject with you all. But…where to begin…?

There are so many reasons that come to mind. First and foremost, as always, is my Kirby. But, while he set this all into motion, in the end, it really isn’t JUST because of him. I have been a horse lover since the day I was born. Ask anyone. In fact, as soon as Nate and I even talked about moving out here, my first thought was that I would be able to once again have horses. That was in 2009 and we got our first horses in 2010. Kirby did not come along until 2013. So, the love and respect and appreciation I had for horses, and all animals really (shout out to the dogs and the cats and the goats and the chickens) was already there. But, because of him, my eyes were opened. Because of him, I entered a world I didn’t even know existed. Because of him, I am where I am today. But….

It wasn’t just him. While he holds, and forever will hold, an enormous part of my heart, it was the thought of all the others out there in need. I’ve mentioned how when I saw him needing a home that my first thought was “who is going to take in a 2yo, one-eyed arabian?” and the answer, of course, was “ME!” At the time, I did not care if he could ever be ridden. I did not care if I would be able to “use” him. All I cared about was giving him the best life I could…he deserved it. And in the end, I wish I could have done more. I wish with every fiber of my being that his life would have been longer. That there was SOMETHING I could have done to make it where he was still with me today. But, life had other plans….

What I do know, is that I did give him a good life. He was loved and adored and I was able to ride him once he grew. And I bought him a fancy saddle and I bought him a fancy bridle and he had the best care and everyone at the barn loved him and spoiled him and gave him attention when I couldn’t be there. And my heart shattered into a million pieces when he left me. And honestly, I cannot even believe I’m able to even talk about this now. But, I have come to realize, that him leaving me…was as important as him coming into my life to begin with. It opened my eyes to yet another world that most everybody tries to avoid…the world where they leave you…and you have to let them go. The world where they are suffering, but your gut reaction is to do everything within your power to keep them with you.  The world where people believe that the pain they themselves will suffer if they let the horse go, somehow outweighs the pain and suffering that the horse is experiencing. It’s an ugly world. Possibly uglier than the “horse world” itself. But, it exists. It is real. And it hurts…

So, why do we do what we do? We can’t save them all. We can’t help them all. No matter how much we want to. But, we can save and help the ones we can. Many times though, in order to help them, we have to enter that world where we let them go. We have to enter the ugliest world out there, over and over. And we hate it. But, it’s what is right…for them. We kick. And we scream. And we cry. And we struggle within ourselves. Maybe we should do this. Or let’s try this. Or what if this happens. And we have an internal battle within ourselves even though the entire time, we know the answer…let them go…

While that increases our pain, our suffering, our tears, our sleepless nights…it decreases theirs. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but we suck it up and we carry on…for them. We are an open door, full circle of life shelter. We do not have to be, rather we choose to be. If I had known how everything would end with Kirby…I would still do it all again. As painful as it is for me to even talk about him still to this day, over 2 years since he left me, his life, and ultimately his death, gave me the strength that I now need. I falter. I question myself constantly. I wonder, if only we do this with this horse or that with this horse, can we “keep them alive”. And 9 times out of 10, we can. But…why? For who? For the horse? Or for us….?

Horses live in the now. They do not go to bed at night and dream of tomorrow or think about the past. This is one reason you can see how grateful they are when they are saved. They are in a terrible place and suddenly no longer are. And they know it. And they show it. And they appreciate it. But, they are not dwelling on the past. They are thinking about their current situation. Once out of a bad situation, they are happy, but if they are still in pain, they are thinking about that also. They want to walk to the water tank, but it’s so far away. They’re so thirsty or hungry, and you can actually see them psych themselves up to make the journey…just for a little food or water…they suffer. So…we do what is right for them…we let them go…and end their suffering.

 

That is why we do what we do. Their suffering must end. No matter if it’s just getting them out of a bad situation and into a loving home or if it requires us making that call…that nobody else would make…for them. “Saving” a horse, or any animal for that matter, does not always mean that they are kept alive at all costs…no matter how much we want it to… Sometimes, the only way to “save” them is to end their pain. And we will still struggle within ourselves, and we will cry, and we will battle our emotions, and we will lose sleep, but in the end…if their suffering has ended…they have been saved.

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How would you respond?

I used to be in a horse group on social media.  I can’t recall the name of it right now and I am not sure if it is even still around.  But, what I do remember is that it was a group with a name making it sound like you could ask others for advice, information, guidance, etc. in regards to horses.  I know there is another group that I am currently in that is similar, but it was not the same group.  Anyhow, one day someone posted a picture of their horse.  And the horse was quite thin.  Oddly enough, the poster was asking advice on how to get weight on her horse.  I thought I would respond and give her some helpful pointers, products, etc. that may help (besides the obvious “talk to your vet”).  However, as I began reading the comments and “advice” from all of the others that had responded before me, I was dumbfounded.  Not ONE was helpful.  Not ONE offered advice.  Not ONE offered help in any way.  EVERY comment was bashing her.  Telling her she shouldn’t even own a horse.  Telling her that the horse’s condition was clearly her fault.  Telling her what an awful person she was and that this horse should be taken away from her.  When, like so many other people need to do, she recognized she needed help and made the ultimate “mistake” of actually asking for it.

My planned response went from helpful advice to calling out all of those before me.  It went something like this: “You people should be ashamed of yourselves.  She is asking for help.  Yet is met with nothing but ridicule and vigilantism.  THIS is why horses are left starving and dying in backyards.  Because if someone asks for help, they are vilified.  You all should pray that you never find yourself in the position of needing help and if you do, I hope to God that you are met with the same backlash that you are giving her.”  At that point I felt as though I should leave the group.  It was not a group I wanted to be involved with.  It was titled and advertised as a group that would offer people help when they asked, but far too many of the members had no desire to offer help at all.  They just wanted to start a feeding frenzy over this poor girl and her struggles with getting weight on her horse.  I said as much and the admins asked me to please stay.  But, like I said, I don’t think I’m still in there or that the group is still even around.  But, that’s not the point.

The point is that everyone and their brother is out there saying oh if only people would just ask for help there wouldn’t be so many horses in bad condition.  Yet, when they do ask for help, far too often they are met with the response that this girl received.  No one knew (or bothered to ask) any history on the horse.  No one had any firsthand knowledge about this horse.  No one had any firsthand knowledge about the owner.  Not one person knew anything more than what they saw in the picture: a skinny horse.  And therefore, by God, it is abuse, neglect, bad ownership, the authorities must be called, the horse must be seized, etc.  Because clearly there cannot be any other explanation for the horse’s condition, right?!  I myself do not have any of that information, but what I saw, beyond a skinny horse, was an owner seeking help.  An owner who needed help, but made the ultimate “mistake” of actually asking for it.

In rescue, there is a bit of a tight rope that we must walk.  If we fall off, on one side we enter a pit where we put fear into the owners who know they need help, but are now afraid to ask for it.  We risk alienating them and their willingness to come to us for help without having to worry about being vilified.  And on the other side, we have the horses out there that need help, but we can’t get to unless the authorities can make it happen.  For the sake of the horses, we must stay on this rope.  We must be there for them all.  We must stay on that tightrope and help the horses that come from both sides.  The wire wobbles at times and we struggle to keep our balance, but we must stay on.  The horses from both sides are depending on it.  So, while some may not like our stance during particular situations, there is a reason for it.  In order to keep our balance, we must keep looking straight ahead…at the future…and recognizing the long-term effects of our current actions in any given situation.  Because if we fall, we fail the horses.  And THAT is unacceptable.  We are a rescue and we are to be here to help those that we can.  Be it the owners who need help and allow us to give it, or the horses seized because the owner would not accept help.  That is our job.  And that is what we will continue to do.

If you support our mission and our goal to help horses, not vilify owners, then please consider a donation to help us help those that are currently awaiting us.  An owner is allowing us to help, but we need more funds to do so.  Every little bit adds up.  So, please Give now.

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My name is Elsa.

My name is Elsa.  My name is Elsa because my ears were “frozen” when I was born.  You see, I was born in the middle of winter this past year during the polar vortex.  There was no place warm for me to go.  So, my ears froze.  And the tips died.  And they fell off.  I hear I am lucky to have survived at all.  And I imagine that is true.  It was so cold that day.  And for days after.  But, my momma helped me.  She kept me as warm as she could and I’ve now grown big and I’ve grown strong, but…I am so scared….

I was in a scary place.  I was lucky to have survived.  And now I am lucky to be safe.  Others like me were not so lucky.  And I am scared for those that I left behind and those that will be born this coming winter.  Will they be as lucky as me?  I was close to going to the auction.  I’ve never been there, but I am told it is an even scarier place and that horses like me are rarely ever heard from again once they go there.  I hear they are chased into a ring surrounded by strange people and loud noises and then chased back out and onto a large trailer filled with dozens of other horses just as scared.  And some of them fight, while others are too weak or tired to fight any longer.  Some of them fall down and get trampled by the others.  The smaller ones (like me) get pushed around and squished and bit and kicked and as they huddle to the back, they get pushed off and fall down when the door opens to run others on.  Only to then be yelled at and beat by people to get up and get back on the trailer.  And then the trailer leaves and they are never seen or heard from again.

But, I am safe, thanks to all of you who donated to the kind people here at this new place (I hear it’s called Pony Tales).  I don’t know what that means, but I know that they give me food and water and that they’ve let me stay with my friends who were also saved, so I don’t feel so alone.  They tickle my nose and they slowly remove all the burrs from my mane and they give me scratches that make my lips get all funny (I can’t help it. It feels SO good!) and they tell me that everything is going to be ok now.  And I believe them.  I believe that everything will be ok for me and my friends that are here with me, but…what about the rest of my friends…?

They are still there.  And there are people who are yelling at my old owner so much that all of my friends are SO close to getting sent to the auction if they don’t stop.  If they will leave him alone, all of my friends have a chance to be safe…just like me.  But, they won’t stop.  They keep yelling.  And the yelling gets louder and louder.  I am so scared for my friends.  I want them here with me.  I want them to meet the kind, gentle hands that I now know.  I want them to feel so good that their lips get all funny too.  The people here tell me that if you will help them, they will bring as many of my friends here as they can.  And my old owner says that he will let them bring my friends here.  He will let them be safe.  He will let them avoid the auction.  But, it has to happen soon as the yelling gets worse and worse with no signs of stopping.  And he can only bear to listen to it for so long.  My friends need you, just like I did.  The others who will be born this winter need you before they face the same fate I did on that cold, subzero morning.  And they might not be as lucky as I was with only losing the tips of my ears.  But, with your help, the people here at Pony Tales can prevent that from happening to any more.  With your help, all of my friends (and those to come) can be safe.  Safe from the auction.  Safe from the yelling.  And safe from the cold.  But, time is running out.  Please help them.  I am so scared for my friends….