Helping One Horse at a Time
Mandy got a new lease on life in January when she was placed with a foster caretaker. The little chestnut mare was close to starvation. Her body fat assessment was a two on a scale of one to nine, with one being an emaciated animal and nine being an obese animal.
"Mandy is in a self-preservation mode," says Tammy Lyne, who answered the call to provide a foster home for Mandy. "She will come for a treat or feed but she doesn't want us to catch her."
Equine Welfare Crisis
Unfortunately, for every horse like Mandy that is rescued and put in a foster home, there are three to six more behind her needing homes. There has been a significant increase in equine welfare cases over the past year.
According to Jackie Adams, who is the regional director of the Sandhills area, "The Sandhills Rescue League took in 198 horses in 2007 as compared to an intake of 100 horses in 2006."
The Sandhills region of the North Carolina Equine Rescue League includes 10 counties: Chatham, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Richmond, Robeson and Scotland.
Lyne took in Mandy after North Carolina Equine Rescue League (NCERL) foster home coordinator Libby Schmittdiel sent out a plea for a foster home for the mare who was turned over to the local chapter of the rescue league by Moore County Animal Control New Year's Eve.
Lyne, who is a friend of Schmittdiel, answered the call and the mare was placed with Lyne two days later.
Mandy is one of the lucky ones.
Mandy is now in a paddock of her own with a turn-out shed, but she is still wary of entering the shed unless there is feed in it. And even with feed inside the shed, Mandy won't enter the shed if someone is standing behind her.
"Mandy is timid but very sweet," Lyne said. "I think she will come around pretty quickly."
Since most horses rescued are emaciated, the foster caretaker follows a veterinarian's recommendations for feeding. Horses that are extremely underweight require a gradual increase in food.
"We gradually started her on some hay and worked up to three flakes of hay along with some beet pulp and grain," said Lyne, whose 22-year-old daughter, Kristian Kirk, takes care of the horse. Mandy has put on 50 pounds since arriving at her foster home.
"We feed Mandy the same grain our horses get," Lyne said. "It will be interesting to see what she looks like when she is a healthy weight."
Lyne placed Mandy in a paddock that is well away from Lyne's three horses as a health and safety precaution.
"She hasn't neighed to the other horses across the field. It breaks my heart," Lyne said. "It's as if she doesn't want anyone to know she's here."
Plea for Help
Lyne hopes that other people will agree to provide a foster home for a horse in need of rescue.
"This is a plea to people I know," Lyne said. "We all have a little corner somewhere that we can spare for awhile."
Schmittdiel is spending five to six hours a day on the phone trying to find foster homes for other horses whose owners can no longer afford to keep them.
"Today, I've been in tears all day," Schmittdiel said. "I'm feeling overwhelmed. We are in desperate need of help."
Drought a Factor
There are many factors that contribute to horse owners' finding themselves in a position where they can no longer afford to care for horses. Incomes are not keeping up with the cost of living, so feeding a horse becomes an economic hardship for people struggling to make ends meet.
The recent drought in the South has also had an impact. A lot of horse owners feed coastal Bermuda hay, which is unavailable because of the dry conditions over the summer of 2007. The price of other hays has gone up due to the drought and rising fuel costs to transport hay to North Carolina.
The cost of plain timothy hay locally ranges anywhere from $7.25 to $11 for a 45-pound bale of hay, which is about a two-day supply for one horse. Orchard grass hay goes for $15 per bale. In the winter, when no grass is available to graze on, horse owners need to buy hundreds of bales of hay to support a horse.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) has launched several initiatives to assist equine owners in locating and transporting hay to their farms to cope with the ongoing drought. But many people don't know that the initiative exists or are stymied by the forms that need to be filled out to benefit from the program.
Horses are starving because owners can't afford to feed them. The lucky horses end up in rescue organizations.
Need for Volunteers
Schmittdiel, who took on the role of volunteer foster home coordinator for the NCERL in June 2007, is also looking for volunteers.
"I need help doing facility checks," Schmittdiel said. Before horses can be placed in a foster home, a NCERL volunteer must go to the foster site to inspect the facility.
The NCERL will not let a horse go to a foster home if it has barbed wire fencing, and there must be a three-sided shed provided for the horse. Schmittdiel likes ideally to find a situation where there is a field separate from other horses so the rescue horse can be quarantined until it is determined to be healthy. A veterinarian is called to give the rescue horse a physical exam upon arrival at a foster home. The appropriate blood tests are also done.
Keep It Local
Lyne plans to have her daughter Kristian start working with Mandy to train her to be caught and haltered. Lyne wants to gain Mandy's trust and hopefully give her a job so she is more attractive to a prospective adopter.
"I would take in another rescue once Mandy leaves," Lyne said. "I feel like I'm doing my good deed."
Mandy is the first horse that Schmittdiel has placed in Moore County because until now the only other available foster home was full, so horses had to go to other counties where foster homes were available.
"I was so excited when Mandy was placed locally so I'm able to keep up with her progress," Schmittdiel said. "Mandy is a reminder of why I am doing this. The hardest thing is remembering you can help only one at a time."
For more information, go to the North Carolina Equine Rescue League Web site www.ncerl.com or call Schmittdiel at (919) 639-2482.
More like this story