On October 20th, I woke up and got started with my day like any other day. During that month of October, I usually woke up, ate breakfast, checked my emails and would head over to Leilani Mae Horse Rescue to help out with feeding the rescue horses. When I was 15, I had to sell my horse due to a military move to Okinawa Japan and it left a huge hole in my heart. Once I moved back to Fayetteville North Carolina, I found the horse rescue and it filled my deep need to be around horses again. I became a board member at Leilani Mae and was excited to use my marketing and website skills to help horses, and found myself out there just about every day. But this day was not like any other before it. Little did I know as I pulled on my Wranglers and boots that my life was about to change that day.
As Deb (the founder and CEO of LMHR) and I were finishing up feeding, we got a call about a horse in the local area. We were told it was a gelding and that it had been left in a pasture alone for two years. His owner had gotten sick and had passed away about a year ago, and the owner’s siblings who knew nothing of horses tried to take care of the horse as best they could, but often it was left abandoned and alone in the pasture. The siblings had had enough and wanted to surrender the gelding to LMHR. At the time we had no extra funds to bring another horse to the rescue, but we agreed to facilitate an adoption for the gelding. So Deb worked her magic and held interviews over the phone and started networking this horse for a possible adoption. She found one adopter, so they went out to check out the horse and passed on it. She found another within the hour and they went out to look at the horse and passed on it. We had been notified the horse had no feed, water or hay so we loaded up and headed over to see this gelding.
We pulled up and standing at the barbed wire fence was a stunning copper colored paint. My heart instantly skipped a beat.
This horse was GORGEOUS, and hesitantly came up to me as I reached out to pet it. After a few pats, I crawled through the spikey wire without doing much thinking. He seemed a little nervous, but started to warm up as I gave him love. Deb already had another adopter coming out to pick him up the next day, and I couldn’t help but feel a twing of jealousy at the thought of him going home with anyone else but me. I had done the one thing I was so careful not to do at the rescue; I got attached. I feel in love with a horse that was never going to be mine. I kicked myself for it, knowing that it would just lead to heartbreak in the near future, but I just couldn’t help it. So we gave him some grain, which he guarded with his life as he ate. I scrubbed out his algae encrusted water trough and gave him some water, and threw some hay down. We said our goodbyes, and I thought that would be the last I would see this copper colored paint.
The next day I received a call from Deb, saying the adoption fell through again. For whatever reason, the adopter came out, saw the horse and left with an empty trailer. I dropped my plans for the day and agreed to go back out to the copper colored gelding to give it some food and water until we could figure out what to do next with him.
We gave him his grain, which he got a little ansty around so we back off him and let him eat. It was then that we really saw the conditions this poor gelding had been in.
There was a ran down shelter that looked like it could come down with the wrong gust of wind. It had massive holes in the roof, and the gelding had no protection from the elements. It made me shutter to think that he had somehow survived the bad ice storm we had that past February with no way to get out of the elements.
There was downed barbed wire strung throughout the pasture along with tires, parts of vehicles, and random boards with nails sticking up. I started to pick up the hazardous stuff I could move, and was shocked at what I found.
The west side of the pasture was covered with horse skeletons. We later found out that the horse’s pasture mate had died and no one moved the body out, so it was left to decompose with the paint in the same pasture. This broke my heart. The paint had been left alone for two years and had to live with the remnants of it’s buddy in the pasture.
She had grazed the pasture down to weeds and dirt, and there was a three foot radius outside the pasture where he stuck his head through the wire to graze. I finished picking up the garbage I could and went to give the paint some love. He needed it. As I walked up, I saw his feet and noticed how afraid he was of people.
I was talking to him and telling Deb what I had found, and we agreed that we had to move him out as quickly as possible. Then Deb asked me something that made my head spin. “Well, if you want you can take him.”. My heart stopped. I had been waiting for this moment for 7 years. I told her as long as my husband was ok with it, then yes, I would love to have him! I quickly called him, but already knew the answer. You see, when we started dating and right before we got engaged, I told him that I didn’t want a fancy diamond ring, I just wanted my horse again. To me, my own horse was so much more precious than a diamond and it was something that I longed to have back in my life. He enthusiastically said yes, and I was about in tears. This handsome paint was going to be mine!! So we agreed to come back out the next day to trailer him over to the rescue for vetting, where I would sponsor him until he could be moved from the rescue.
The next day we came over with a few more volunteers and a trailer. Today was the day! We were finally getting him out of that dump! So we began to try to catch him and came across the craziest discovery!
As Poseidon (that is what I decided to name him) was trotting away from us, I noticed his butt looked weird. So I started to follow, exclaiming that I thought he was injured because something just looked off. I finally got a good look and realized it was a vagina! WHAT?!
We were told he was a gelding and never thought to question it. I mean, that is something pretty big to get confused on right? So we looked under to see if he had his manhood and nope. HE was a SHE. I about fell out.
As soon as *she* realized we were trying to catch her, she would run from the 6 volunteers in the pasture. We tried to corral her onto the trailer, and whenever we would put pressure on her she would get aggressive and come after people or kick. After two hours of trying various techniques, we gave up for the day. I was so disappointed, but drove back to the rescue and picked her up some feed and hay and fed her that evening.
We tried so many different things the next day, but agreed that she was too afraid of the other people and was more relaxed if I just worked with her. So for the next two days we worked on getting a halter on my mare. I tried everything under the sun, but FINALLY got success by putting the halter over her fed bucket so she would have to put her head through the halter to eat. After many failed attempts of getting the halter over her ears (for her to fling it across the pasture) I finally got a halter on her!
She was NOT happy about it! Hahaha! So the next day I came back out and she had somehow busted off the halter! AGH! It felt like I was never going to be able to move her out of that dangerous situation. So that night I purchased a solid halter and got it back on her the next day. Finally!
We had tried trailering her with the rescue’s trailer, but agreed it was too dark and little and couldn’t get her on it. So I worked with her the next few days on leading and some basic groundwork, and Wayne Younts from the Cape Fear Trail Riders offered to bring his huge stock trailer over and help me load her up on Halloween. The end was in sight!
Here is our first picture together!
I decided to name her Athena, Goddess of War. She was a fighter, a survivor. She was strong, but regal and elegant. In Greek mythology, Athena was the goddess who invented the halter/bridle to tame the horse, so I thought it was fitting since we had such a hard time getting a halter on her! Hahaha
Over those 11 days, I would drive 40 minutes in one direction to feed, water, and give Athena hay. I would spend time with her, talk to her, lead her to fresh green grass outside her pasture. She and I became closer and I gained her trust.
On October 31st, Wayne Younts came over and helped me get Athena on the trailer. It took us about 10 minutes, but we did it! We moved her over to the rescue. FINALLY!
We put her in the round pen because she was hard to catch, and I was going to start basic groundwork with her. She was stunning and looked so happy to be out of that pen!
She was so excited to see other horses! Here was her first contact with another horse. <3
It had only been ten days, but we overcame so many obstacles together. I was on cloud nine to have my Athena and I thought the worst was behind us. I felt we were both in greener pastures and was about to begin our journey with her training. Little did I know that I was very wrong, and that tomorrow would bring one of the worst days of my life.
Stay tuned for next week to read about our story and journey together over the coming weeks!
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