“I met Eddie, Rain, Lulu and Frosty as they unloaded in our driveway. We got them settled in and fed them a gruel sort of mix. One that is usually safe to give to horses who are in such dire straits. The four ate ravenously and gratefully. Sweet souls each one. As it turns out the person who had called and then delivered these near-death individuals was only a Good Samaritan in the sense that she did not want horses to die on her property. There were more. In fact, there were fifteen more. Not all as badly off as the first load. The veterinarian who helped us acquire the rest of this sad lot said she had never seen as many horses with a 1 or 1.5 body score in her life. She told me to expect that some of the group might not make it. A score of 1 is considered poor or emaciated with no body fat. A 9 is extremely fat or obese. Horse veterinarians consider a body score of between 4 and 7 as acceptable. A 5 is considered ideal.
I was not okay with expecting some might not make it. For horses to go through what they had endured I could not let any of this herd die… not on my watch. I felt it was now my responsibility to ensure that my new four legged friends did indeed get to have their own version of happily ever after. I was determined to do all I could to see them through to the other side of their distress. Our staff, our facility, and our resources were all stretched to their collective limits, as we mixed wheelbarrows full of edible mush, monitored intake, and separated the bullies from the meek so all could eat. We devised a way to pick little Eddie and Rain back up when they were too weak to get to their feet. We cried, we prayed, we worked and finally we smiled. Social media wept with us, added their prayers to ours, donated and sent supplies as they followed along with us around the world. The herd was quickly and lovingly dubbed as “The Bone Yard” and the nickname stuck.
Two weeks passed and none of the herd succumbed. Thoughts of worming, vaccinations and the care of horses who might actually recover began to take shape. I began to breathe easier and started sleeping again at night. As The Bone Yard horses continued to progress, their characters started to emerge. Eddie was a charmer, Trooper was… just that. Soldier, well him too. A true Soldier stuck in a war for survival. Lulu formed an endearing attachment to her caretaker, Mike.
Lulu is a quarter horse mare in her early 20’s.
Rain started to stand up by herself and then for herself. Small precious victories defined our days. I started recording a morning update on Facebook and thousands checked our Horses Without Humans page to see how their favorites were faring. A few moments kept haunting me. When we went to pick up the remaining horses after receiving confirmation that all 19 would be surrendered, we learned a few things. As Dr. Latcher and I studied the forlorn souls we would inherit, we noticed one had a noticeable gait abnormality. We both suspected neurological problems and questioned their now questionable owner. She replied. “Oh no he is fine; he was just accidentally dragged by a truck.” Who says that? Fine, and accidentally dragged by a truck, do not belong in the same sentence as far as I am concerned. I also realized I did not belong anywhere near the sort of people who could feed themselves day after day, knowing that they were systematically torturing some of the kindest horses I have met in a very long time.
The other sad reality was that even though these horses all lived together on the same property, she had chosen to feed only four of them. They were her favorites, and ones that she initially wanted to keep. I talked to the officer there and said if she let any horse, much less 15, get into the shape these were in, she should not be allowed to keep even one of them. I was willing to bring the news media onto the property and have them document and publicize this story if she did not legally surrender all of the horses she was supposed to have been caring for. The horses who had been fed were still in poor shape but they were not terrible. They earned their nickname of “The Chosen Ones”.
I will end this piece with good news. As my initial agreement to take in these horses sank in, I was worried that we couldn’t handle the financial strain ‘The Bone Yard’ horses would put on our fairly new rescue. I am a horse trainer and not independently wealthy. These horses needed a lot of things. I take my responsibilities seriously and I knew I would find a way. Sure enough, a way through emerged as folks who had read or heard of our situation started stepping forward. Donations, volunteers, Amazon gifts of shampoo, fungus medicine, wound treatment and wormer started to show up at the farm. Every day began to feel like Christmas for these horses. The group that had been denied so much was now basking in the kindness of a nation.
I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to get to know these horses and be part of their journey back towards health. I have learned much from them. I will say that seeing this herd rise from the ashes of their despair and nicker as I show up to feed them in the mornings are now some of my most precious memories. I thank all of the new friends and old who stepped up to help lighten my load. Life truly is about what we can do for those with no voice of their own and I am lucky to have met ‘The Bone Yard’ when I did.”
Yvonne Barteau, founder of Horses Without Humans