Rescue Heals Hearts: 'They Know They've Been Saved'
As Healing Hearts Equine Rescue in Carthage celebrates its third anniversary this month, rescue President Libby Schmittdiel is reflecting proudly on the past several years and looking ahead excitedly to the future.
The rescue, which recently became verified by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, has so far seen 11 horses rescued and adopted through the program. One recent success story is Sam I Am, now a 6-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding who came to Schmittdiel in late 2010, literally “just skin and bones.”
After a year-and-a-half of rehab, Sam was adopted by Karen McCollom and left Healing Hearts for his new home a few months ago.
“He was such a good, quiet ride,” Schmittdiel remembered. “Everyone at Healing Hearts, including me and all my students, had ridden him.”
Eventing has become his newfound hobby. Sam competed at beginner novice at several shows in the area earlier this year and is now in Vermont, preparing for the USEA level.
“That horse is jumping the moon,” Schmittdiel said.
Healing Hearts has welcomed two new arrivals over the past couple of months.
“I’ve never gotten along with mares, and now I’ve somehow ended up with a pair of them!” Schmittdiel said, laughing.
The more “special needs” rescue of the two is Maggie, a 3-year-old quarter horse who has been on the farm since February. Healing Hearts is already the young bay filly’s fourth rescue in three different states.
Schmittdiel knew right away that Maggie would need some extra TLC.
“When she got off the truck, she was dead lame,” she said.
She hoped farrier treatment of Maggie’s overgrown toes would solve the problem, but the lameness persisted. A radiograph taken in April revealed a small hole in her right front coffin bone. Schmittdiel decided to nerve her — cutting the nerve supply to that leg to alleviate the pain — as the surgery to repair the hole would have required eight months of stall rest.
“She couldn’t have gone through that,” Schmittdiel said. “She always needs a job, something to keep her brain busy.”
Maggie is now on stall rest and is being hand-grazed as she continues her rehab treatment. Schmittdiel is confident that the filly will be ridable once she has recovered.
Lolly, 19, was sent to Schmittdiel six weeks ago by the U.S. Equine Rescue League. When the chestnut Thoroughbred mare first arrived from Durham County, she was several hundred pounds underweight, and her skin was infested with lice. Scars on her back legs made Schmittdiel believe she had been tethered regularly by her hind feet.
Lolly has already put on 100 pounds and looks remarkably healthier. Once she gains enough weight and muscle, Schmittdiel plans to throw a saddle on her.
“She’s unflappable. She’s definitely seen a great deal,” she said. “I’m confident she’s got plenty of miles left in her.”
Brownie and Banjo
Two others on the farm have completed rehab and are ready for adoption.
Brownie, a 36-year-old Standardbred mare who Schmittdiel rescued in fall of last year, had previously been locked in a 10-by-10 enclosure of mud.
After a life including almost two dozen pregnancies, Brownie needs a quiet, loving home where she can enjoy the rest of her days. Schmittdiel said the mare is a fantastic baby sitter and would make a good pasture mate for any lonely soul.
The 19-year-old Banjo has spent more than a year-and-a-half on the farm. Navicular prevents the former barrel racer from strenuous galloping or jumping, although he is sound in low-impact work and is an easy keeper.
The gelding no longer enjoys being ridden in the ring.
“It’s the confinement,” Schmittdiel said. “But he’s the perfect gentleman. He’d make the ideal walk/trot trail horse.”
Each new arrival at the rescue goes through a three-week quarantine period, where they’re kept separate from the others on the farm. Then they’re allowed to be turned out in one of the main paddocks. Each rescue gets their own paddock.
“After a week or so of turnout, they get to the grass, they’re released, and they suddenly take off. It’s the most rewarding feeling,” Schmittdiel said.
Local farrier Stephanie Jackson and Southern Pines Equine Associates vet Dr. Tom Daniel provide their services at minimal cost to the organization.
Takes a Different Approach
While some rescues limit which horses they’ll take, Daniel stressed that Healing Hearts takes a different approach.
“If a horse is in need, Libby takes the horse and makes it a priority to ensure it has the best quality of life possible,” Daniel noted. “This rescue takes broken horses who have little reason to expect any better, and heals their bodies, their minds and their hearts.”
Schmittdiel said she hopes to expand in the next few years, clearing out seven or eight acres of her land to provide a sanctuary of sorts for older rescue horses and leaving the front paddocks open for new rehabs.
But she emphasized that she can only do so much. She’s had to turn away rescues recently because she doesn’t have the space or the time.
“Everybody has to get individual attention every day, and I’m doing it all by myself,” she said.
She cites the need for more volunteers to help her at the farm and to promote the rescue at local horse events.
“It’ll grow,” she said in reference to the rescue. “But it all takes manpower, and I can’t do it alone.”
“This kind of endeavor takes time, money and lots of tender loving care to bring them (the horses) back,” he said. “But the effort is worthwhile and needed.”
Anyone able to offer some time and labor to volunteer is more than welcome, Schmittdiel said. An open meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on June 25 at Cup of Flow Coffee Shop in downtown Southern Pines. Schmittdiel plans to talk about what Healing Hearts is doing and give people more information about getting involved.
Anyone with questions can call her at (910) 639-2482.
Healing Hearts’ next tack sale, a rescue fundraiser, will be on Aug. 4.
Her experience running the rescue hasn’t been easy in the least, but Schmittdiel said the rewards have been enormous.
“Horses know when they’ve been rescued. They know they’ve been saved.”
Contact Sarah Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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