This little filly had me hooking up my trailer in the heat of an intensely sun drenched, hot afternoon in response to an online ad that showed a photo of a cute little palomino walking in what looked like a large grassy paddock - with the words, “come pick it up because I’d rather give it away than kill it.’ I called the phone number revealed in the ad, with the kind of shielded participation with which I approach disturbing movies. And a man answered, and very matter-of-factly revealed that yes, he was supposed to have already ended this horse’s life.
He told me that “it” was dropped off by a breeder who said she had something wrong with it that couldn’t be fixed. He couldn’t see anything obviously wrong – like sometimes, he said, animals had a wide open gash or something - he thought it was maybe a leg cut because there was a bit of blood on a back ankle. And I was trying to ascertain if he was ‘for real’ or just a disturbed individual trying to cause distress to horse people when he told me that people would bring him animals that they did not want – ones that were injured and they didn’t want to call a vet about - and that he would get rid of them.
And he went on to further reveal that he was reluctant to follow through this time, because he was dealing with a horse – it wasn’t very old, he thought, although he readily admitted he knew very little about horses. And he was going to go through with it – if someone didn’t get there in 2 hours. He had to get to town to pick something up, he said, and the place closed at 5 pm., and was adamant that he get there before then.
Thankfully, the address led me to a place that was in a subdivision, with some closely neighbouring homes – so the thought of my own demise at meeting this man dissipated when I reached it – it wasn’t in the middle of no where. And this filly proved to be the beautiful leggy palomino. And she gave off this energy of defiance and fear at the same time; she was trying to display some confidence as she avoided my approach, but she also revealed that baby like innocence, and a need for reassurance. She quietly avoided this man, taking off in a quick walk if he moved at her, and keeping a good 20’feet between them; and I was very puzzled by what he meant by saying he had sat on her while she was lying down. She clearly did not trust him; or anyone.
And she proved very challenging to load, as there was no way to direct her to my open trailer from within what proved to be a huge fenced area. And after we had tried to her her out with little success, this man –who looked thirty-ish, and as regular as any guy in a jeans and a t-shirt could, turned to me and said, “you aren’t going to be upset if it runs through the fence and I have to shoot it, are you?”
And as we had traversed the large pen, I’d had confirmation that some animals had perished right there – there were some actual bones revealed where the otherwise lush grass was pressed down, and shorter in places. And as much as that made it impossible to deny that I just wanted to flee the place myself, all I could think of was getting that filly out of there. And I surprised myself with the calm assertiveness I heard in my own voice in saying, “no - because that is not going to happen.”
2 hours later, after he’d recruited a room mate to help us press the filly into the open door of a little building, where I’d backed up my trailer to face her, she still would not get on; she would not be chased, pushed, or provoked by noise to make the small step up onto the trailer. And the heat was as intense as my need to somehow get her on. And then I spotted a wood pallet and thought that it might give her the step up she needed – and as I dropped it to the ground beside her, finally she was startled by something, and bolted on board. And that, I thought, as I cranked up the AC in my truck, and took the corner to turn away from that experience, was going to be the most difficult part of saving this little girl. And given how things had somehow lined up so that her life’s journey continued beyond that day, I called her Analee- which means ‘grace.’
But the struggle to save her did not cease once she was home. Although she looked ‘okay’ upon arriving here, a bit of time revealed that she was not eating properly - picking at her hay and not even really interested in eating pasture, and refusing to try feed completely. And she lost weight. And she became very weak. Annalee reached a point where once she lay down, she could not get up on her own; the first time that happened I noticed her laying close to the mesh fence in the pen where I was trying to feed her separately. I was able to hoist her up with a sling like strap I tied on to the tractor bucket. But this inability to stand without help persisted.
And her vet exam - including blood work, fecal test, ultrasound, mouth and teeth exam - led to no dramatic conclusions. And and her vet ultimately diagnosed her with ulcers - suspecting that they presented even in her upper digestive system. So, she was put on meds for them. Several people donated the high alfalfa content hay that I wanted to get Annalee eating. And she began to eat.
A group of people following her on the Adorado page did not only suggest, but outright demanded that she be euthanized; while others cheered her on; One person even drove hours to give her reiki. And me, well, I listened to Annalee. And I literally helped her up once she was down by using an electric winch bolted to the barn ceiling - and my back - to get her standing. I did that for 41 days - and nights As once a horse is down, muscle damage and other issues arise if they stay down for longer than a few hours; so I kept track of her from the house every minute through the barn cam. And if Annalee decided to lie down at midnight, I set my alarm for 2:00 am.
Although I devised a type of sling for her out of a horse blanket and ropes, it was always a little different helping her up - and a few times, I could not get her positioned in a way that she could get her legs under her and I did not think I could get it done. And even then, when I asked a farmer I knew to help me one time when I was particularly tired, and had sat down beside Annalee in her stall, he told me to just put her down. And to find a better sling for ‘next time.’
But Annalee’s chance was ‘then.’ And somehow, between this girl’s spirit and my refusal to keep fighting for her as long as she did - and the prayers, and support of many who watched her fight - she made it through. And although my back will never be the same, neither will my heart.
Oh - and her one back ankle is toed in - I guess that was the ‘defect’ that led her breeder to toss her away. But she has no achilles heel, because she is defined by her perfect soul.