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Like so many days, April 8 started just the same: checking my email, checking my phone messages, checking the Facebook websites. That’s when I saw her, only known as hip tag # 7602, a 17-year-old American Saddlebred mare at risk of being lost forever to the horse slaughter industry. I saw her pictures and a video and what stood out was her kind eyes and her quiet demeanor. It all began with a message to PA Kill Pen and who responded was Pam White, one of the volunteers of Life Horse, Inc. that helps to network the horses that find themselves lost and forgotten in a kill pen. There was no guarantee of health and I have to say I was more than hesitant. However, there was some unknown force that would not allow me to stop thinking about #7602 so the arrangements were made and I started out the next morning. Off on an adventure that I never knew was going to change my life in so many ways.
When we arrived at the kill pen the silence was eerie. The kill pen worker brought #7602 out and she was dirty, underweight and defeated. Yet she carried her head high and she still had a spring in her step that was the unmistakable Saddlebred grace and courage. That night after the 6-hour journey back home to N.Y., #7602 went into her own stall, knee deep full of bedding, and plenty of fresh water, grain, and hay. She was free of her hip tag and she went to sleep that night as “Piper”. As the months went on, she steadily gained weight, recovered from horrible thrush, and stole our hearts right from the beginning!
In June of this year, I came home to find Piper down, flat on her side, not moving. Dr. Matt Zeh arrived at 9:30 pm that night and after an examination and the verification of a temperature of 105 degrees, Piper was diagnosed with Potomac Horse Fever. I was devastated, to say the least as I knew that Potomac usually ended in death. Dr. Zeh informed us that with her fever, he could not be sure that she would survive. Piper had a catheter inserted into her neck and my husband Josh was instructed on how to administer the IV medications. Piper was barely able to stumble back to her stall, but she did. I told her that I was not ready to be without her and that we would get her through this, but her eyes were tired and dull and she immediately laid down. I asked for prayers and good thoughts and I got them! Many friends and family let me know that they were praying for Piper to pull through. It was very encouraging to have people that have never met my horse, send good thoughts to pass along to my mare as she was fighting for her life. But she did fight…hard. And she won J After a full recovery, I took Piper to her first local show this summer, where she was shown in Adult walk/trot classes. Although we didn’t win the blue, we still won. I won when my horse who had no idea what she was doing, trusted me enough to guide her through the obstacles of barrels and poles, and she never faltered.
In July of this year, we participated in a local parade that displayed Piper as being a rescue. She carried herself with grace and beauty, even thru the chaos and noise of a busy parade scene. Piper was then selected to be featured in a Christian based video titled, “Belles on Our Horses”, which was completed on August 5. On August 14, Piper participated in the Delaware County Horse Show as a lead line mount for my daughter, 5-year-old Corrine. The chairwoman of the fair had us step out of the lineup so she could read Piper’s rescue story. It was my crowning moment as I proudly displayed my once slaughter bound mare who was by far, the most amazing horse in the show ring that day. Piper has also proven herself to be a reliable and most enjoyable trail partner. She conquered the rickety snowmobile bridge and puddles that must have looked like a lake! Making me even prouder of her that she has the steady brain needed to take a long stroll on an unfamiliar trail. To add to Pipers accomplishments, in September the local newspaper, The Press and Sun Bulletin, will be coming out to my farm to do a story about Piper. This is SO encouraging as she is such an exceptional example of what a rescue can become, if only given the opportunity. I would love for her story to inspire others to give a rescue horse a second chance at life and be amazed at the outcome, as we have! Piper’s biggest accomplishment has been winning the trust of my 14-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, who had lost all interest and confidence in riding. It was Piper’s gentleness and kindness that inspired Elizabeth to ride again. There isn’t anything that can rattle Piper, and that is what Elizabeth needed to boost her self-esteem. Even through all the riding errors that Elizabeth sometimes displays, Piper is very forgiving and simply moves forward, being the reliable mare that every equestrian needs at some point in their life. Now, the two have that bond that makes my heart sing with joy! Most recently, Elizabeth has encouraged Piper to let go of her “road trot” and pick up a canter! Yay!! Due to her kindness, gentleness, her willingness to please, and the overwhelming love we have for Piper, not only was her life saved, but another life was saved as well. On August 6, my family took in #493, now known as Bentley, a 15ish American Saddlebred gelding. His bail was paid through the donations of unknown Saddlebred angels but had no home to go to. It was having Piper that inspired me to open up my heart as she has opened her heart to us, and we went to Pennsylvania to pick up the big chestnut gelding that was underweight, withdrawn, and his spirit had been broken. However, we are seeing, little by little, the change in Bentley. He is very shy so I spend a little more time each night with him, give him one more hug before going in for the night, and I’m giving him time to regain his confidence and learn to love again.
Through this journey, my own heart has been healed in more ways than I can explain. When we as humans, find ourselves lost, we will continue to feel broken until that one thing comes along that heals our souls. Piper did this for both me and my daughter Elizabeth. This horse, even after she breathes her last breath, will be forever in our heart as being that one heart horse that changed us to be better people. It has been being witness to the amazing transformation from a discarded buggy horse to the amazing horse that we see today, that has proven how made all the difference to this horse. She is unbelievable, in so many ways.
This is what I have been looking for, the connection that I only ever heard about, but never experienced; the mutual love, respect, and understanding that makes the human-equine relationship so unique and healing. I found this the day that I rescued Piper.
To say that I rescued her is untrue. It is she who rescued me … -Madonna Hine
Arizona American Saddlebred Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to educate, rescue, rehabilitate, retrain and rehome Saddlebreds in need. We provide a safe haven for the abused and neglected while recovering both mentally and physically. Our commitment extends to slaughter bound horses, owner surrenders and show horses that have retired due to injuries, age or have just simply lost their competitive edge. Adoptable horses participate in a training program that emphasizes on the well being of each individual equine. For our unridable horses, they live the life of leisure as a sanctuary resident or are adopted as a companion horse only. By promoting our breeds personality, big hearts and versatility we can help preserve the legacy of the American Saddlebred, the horse America made.
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