Willow left CERA’s farm on November 14, 2011. Although we miss her dearly, Jackie continues to document her story and keeps us posted to this day. The photos need no words. Willow's return to freedom proved to be one of the best decisions we've ever made. To read more about how Willow is doing, please visit Cimarron Sky-Dog Reserve's website.
Willow's story is so unusual, I decided to try to track her background after we rescued her from dire circumstances on a hot day in July of 2011. It started with BLM, Bureau of Land Management. I took pictures of her tattoo and they were able to identify her.
I decided to give all the information and leads I had to Animal Control hoping that they would be interested in charging the person that did these horrible things to her. They told me that I needed to move her back to the county where she was found, with no explanation why. Willow is too fragile to move her to another facility and not knowing if she would receive the human contact that she was getting at the CERA farm was not guaranteed. I decided to contact an attorney for advice. The attorney told me that Animal Control did make a call to the last known owner and left a message, they never returned the call to Animal Control so they did not attempt to call again. The attorney told me to drop it, due to money and politics.
Willow blossomed at the farm, showed a wonderful appetite, drank plenty of water and was given all the hay she could eat. There were only a few volunteers, my husband and I, who she trusted. She would not allow us to touch her anywhere on her face or head. This response, called head shyness, usually results from a bad experience such as a blow to the head. The only place we were able to touch her without sedation was on her back. We were able to go into her stall to clean, fill her water, give her food and hay. She was gaining weight nicely.
At first, she was very reluctant to come out of her stall, the only place she considered safe. It took us 30 minutes to get her to walk out about 6 feet. She was very cautious and wary of anyone approaching her out in the open.
Willow had been through a lot at such a young age. Watching her every day and looking into her beautiful eyes, I could tell she was not happy. She couldn't talk to me, but I could read her body language and be able to tell she was not very happy. Staying in a stall is not a good life for such a young magnificent creature, but we were afraid to turn her out in the round pen where we may have never been able to catch her again or she could jump the rails and take off. After much consideration, we decided that she needed to be a wild mustang again.
I got in touch with Jackie Fleming of Cimarron Sky-Dog Reserve in Cerrillos, New Mexico. Willow’s story touched her heart, and she agreed to give Willow a forever home on 1,000 acres of open range that is part of her fenced-in property. Willow would finally be happy again and be able run and play with the other mustangs in the sanctuary. I knew that she would never go hungry again, nor would any human ever beat her or hurt her for the rest of her life.
A few weeks later, Star was acting very strange. Not like she was in colic, but pushing Jules away. We gave her banamine, walked her and contacted our vet. We put them back in their stall and Star began to lunge at Jules, even tried to severely bite her. We had no other choice than to separate them. Jules screamed for her mom, but Star wanted nothing to do with her. It appeared that Star was having a reaction to something. Our vet was very puzzled, as nothing was adding up to a firm diagnosis. None of Star's feed, water or daily routine had been changed. We were up all night, keeping an eye on Star and trying to comfort Jules.
Early the next morning, Star laid down. We though she was finally going to rest. Another volunteer and I were in the stall with her when Star took her last breath. We were all in shock that we lost her so suddenly. Jules was only 5 weeks old. Our vet recommended a necropsy to find out the cause of Star's death. The preliminary necropsy report didn't give us much information. Everything was normal, except for her liver being enlarged to the size of a person having cirrhosis of the liver. But why? The lab sent tissue samples to Raleigh for a more detailed report. A specific diagnosis could not be made. Conclusion, Star apparently was starved several times in her life. She may have eaten something poisenous from being hungry years ago, which caused her liver to enlarge slowly over time.
Our hearts were breaking for Jules who at 5 weeks of age had lost her mom, her protector, her mentor. At that time, we had no other horses that could take Jules under her wing. The volunteers, John and I were now her adopted parents. We all spent a great deal of time with her, trying to comfort her and keep her company, but Jules needed to be with other horses in a herd. I contacted Terri Stemper of Dream Equine Therapy Center. It was spring and that is usually when Terri takes in the nurse mare foals. Terri was planning to take a trip to Kentucky to pick up a few babies and we asked if she would help us find a filly, approximately 5 weeks of age to be Jules' companion. While on the trip, Terri called and told me that there were so many babies that needed a home and if we could possibly take two. That is how Jada and Kenzie came to our farm. They all became best friends and we were happy to see Jules happy again.
It was feeding time. Merimba was milked. Pelear was given a mixture of mom’s milk, foal-lac and goat’s milk. The techs kept a small amount of milk in a pan and the remainder went into the feeding tube. Pelear had to learn how to suck the milk, with a little work he started slurping the milk from the pan. It was tiring for him but he did it; his first step toward recovery. Merimba was really stressing now and not drinking water. She was given IV fluids.
They were both in the hospital for 5 days. The bill was over $3,000.00. Friends were called, email's were sent everywhere from New York to Florida. Donations started coming into the hospital. In less than 3 days over $3,000.00 was donated toward the care of Merimba and Pelear. It was amazing I just couldn't believe it. There were so many folks that wanted to help by donating and praying. John and I are so blessed by what the horse community has done for CERA. Without their donations, support and prayers we just could not have done it on our own.
It was time for Merimba and Pelear to come home. Again, Donnie offered to drive to Raleigh and bring them home. Pelear still would have a long recovery ahead of him. Merimba was still not drinking. I know this mare and she needed to come home to start her recovery. We made the trip home safely, Merimba and Pelear were stalled together and she was starting to relax more, but still not drinking. I gave her a mash of grain and I continued to milk her for Pelear, giving him mom’s milk through his feeding tube with foal-lac and goat’s milk. Pelear was doing much better not banging into the walls.
The next morning we were able to turn them both out for a short time. Merimba was so happy, started running and flagging her tail. Pelear was also taking little runs. Merimba went to the water troft and drank herself full. She was home, feeling better and recovering nicely.
Every day Pelear made progress, drinking more and more on this own, walking straighter and not banging the walls. The feeding tube was removed; he hated it hanging out of his nose. He started munching on hay and we started him on pelleted foal-lac. Today he is a beautiful, grown up gelding and was adopted to a wonderful home. I questioned myself for a long time whether we made the right decision to give him a chance at life, but I no longer think that way. He is a magnificent animal, in perfect health and excels in the competition arena thanks to his owner, Brooke who trained Pelear to be an oustanding eventing horse.
In October 2015, I received a picture of this horribly emaciated mare. The description said she was between 3 & 5 years old and would be sent to auction the beginning of November. When I saw this picture I immediately was drawn to the look in her eyes, all she wanted to do was die. I contacted the animal control shelter that had her and offered to pay any costs incurred if they would just let me have her and not send her to auction. The thoughts that ran through my brain were horrible, what if a kill buyer got her, or even worse someone who didn't know how to safely put weight on a horse. It was the shelter's procedure to send all livestock to auction, there was nothing I could do. Plus she was on a 30 day stray hold. She was picked up by animal control roaming the streets and the needed to wait 30 days to allow the owner to take possession of her. What a mess, this baby could be dead in days.
Unfortunately, things didn't turn out so happily for Merimba. When Pelear was nearly 5 months old, we were bringing horses in after night turnout. None of the horses were at the gate, which was not normal. They had all surrounded Merimba underneath a tree. Merimba had deep cuts on both hind legs and was toe touching her left. She would not walk. We did manage to get her in the wash bay; cold hosed her and called the vet. At first we thought she was attacked by a predator, but she was kicked by another mare. This herd gets along very well together. It was dark and apparently one was spooked, kicked out and Merimba was in the way. Merimba had a fractured splint bone with deep lacerations. Merimba was bandaged, given penicillin, bute, ulcer guard and gentimyicin.
The following Monday I placed calls to find out the cost of surgery for her. Her splint bone had shattered at the top. I had to consider her age, quality of life, her son and the cost of surgery. Monday evening I gave Merimba her penicillin injection. Almost immediately she started having a seizure. She was thrashing in her stall, we did manage to get Pelear out safely. When Merimba did calm down, her leg was hanging, bloody and very painful. She had an open compound fracture. We had no choice but to put our precious Mom, Merimba to sleep.
She was so special to John and me. Our hearts were breaking and the tears were pouring. She will always have a special place in our hearts and she will be so missed. She has crossed the rainbow bridge but has given John and I a part of herself to raise and love, a beautiful healthy baby colt, Pelear. Approximately three weeks after Pelear lost his mom, I noticed that he was acting different in the pasture. He was not playing, running; he was just standing and eating all day like the other horses. We have mostly aged or blind horses that have no interest in playing with a young colt. I contacted my vet and talked to other veteran horse people. Pelear was depressed and they agreed with my thought. OK, what are we going to do?
Star & Jules
It was time to have the vet sedate Hope and get a good look in her mouth. What a mess! Hope had 4 abscessed teeth and has already lost some of them. She also had wolf teeth. Due to her age and the pain she was in our vet filed them down as best she could. Hope was back on antibiotics for another week.
Two years have passed and Hope beat all the odds, she is happy and healthy today and never lost her will to live. Would you look at her now. Wings Of Eagles Ranch has given her a wonderful forever home. She now has a job giving rides to disabled children. We are so pleased that Hope is doing well and has found a new purpose to live.
At the age of 5 months a little filly came to CERA to be a companion for Pelear also 5 months of age. John named her Farrah, after Farrah Fawcett. CERA would be her 4th home. She was a nurse mare foal taken from her mom at one day old, shipped to a holding area then to Terri Stemper of Dream Equestrian Therapy Center where Terri would care for her until an appropriate home could be found. She was full of life and horribly afraid of people. She was very difficult to catch we literally picked her up and loaded her to come to CERA. We turned her out with Pelear and they immediately hit it off. Running, playing and jumping in the pasture. But one problem, Farrah was so scared of people, she trusted no one. I spent hours standing in the pasture trying to gain her trust, in the rain and cold. Finally I gained her trust, but only with me. Eventually she realized that people would not hurt her. She became the social butterfly. Farrah loved to be groomed, hugged and given all the attention by any person that came to the farm.
In October of 2011, Farrah started stumbling. I thought she may have a bruise or a minor injury. My farrier and vet found nothing wrong. A month passed and Farrah was knuckling over so bad in one leg she was nearly walking on her ankle. We tried several different techniques and shoes to help her bear weight on her heel. The decision was then made that she needed surgery to release a deep flexor tendor. We raised the funds through your donations and prayers. Her surgery was scheduled in December; she was nearly straight and putting weight on her heel. John and I would change her dressing and apply her brace daily. She was such a wonderful patient. She knew we were trying to help her and she was very receptive. The brace that was made was no longer working. We decided to rent a Dynasplint to help give her more support. This worked fine for about a month. Farrah's other ankle was beginning to knuckle forward, the Dynasplint was no longer fitting properly. The only chance for Farrah was to take her to Virginia Tech Large Animal Hospital.
We loaded Farrah on a trailer with a ramp, as she was unable to step up into a trailer. We made the long 3 1/2 hour trip to VT and miraculously, Farrah stood the entire time. By the time we got to VT she immediately laid down in a stall, she was exhausted. She was examined and x-rays were taken. Within 10 minutes all of the staff fell in love with her. Her outgoing personality was very hard to resist.
Tuesday morning we had a meeting with the vet. I am going to try to explain this as best as I can without getting too medical. There are 3 main tendons in a horse’s leg. The deep flexor tendon was cut in Farrah's first surgery and the surgery was not successful. Farrah's only chance was to do another surgery, possible cut the deep flexor again and/or another tendon to give her the flexibility she needed to stand nearly straight. This procedure would need to be done to both front legs.
We weighed the pros and cons, this little girl obviously had the will to live, traveled for over 3 hours, never showed signs of pain and is only 2 years old. Believe me if she was 20 years old my decision would not have been a hard one to make. But my gut told me we needed to give her a chance at life. Surgery was scheduled for Thursday morning.
Half way through the surgery the vet called me. She had cut two of the main tendons with no difference in her flexibility, the third tendon was cut and still no change. When the vet pulled on her leg her blood pressure would drop and her heart beat would raise, which indicates pain even under anesthesia. Her prognosis was poor and she had a slim chance of recovery. The decision was made to let our precious little Fare Bare go peacefully asleep.
Farrah's leg problem was genetic. It is nothing that we did wrong in raising her. Her body was growing too fast for her tendons to keep up with her. Farrah knows what love and a full tummy feels like, I have never had another horse that had so much love to give people.
Final thought: If they want to continue to breed for mom's milk they need to be aware of what horse they are breeding. Farrah's mom may still be a nurse mare and there could be other foal's that have or will have the same genetic problem. I did not know about nurse mare foals until a few years ago. They have been doing this for over 30 years. A few years ago, Horses For Life Publications compiled a video in collaboration with our staff photographer, Dwain Snyder of Equestrian Images in an effort to bring awareness to the nurse mare industry. It is worth watching!
I contacted Terri Stemper of Dream Equine Therapy Center. Her organization helps PMU and nurse mare foals. We explained our situation with Pelear, sent several e-mails back and forth, educated ourselves on nurse mare foals and decided to try and adopt one of the babies. Terri did have a little filly that needed a home and was very scared and cautious of people. She would barely let us touch her. She was so scared and did not trust people at all. We brought the filly to the farm, turned Pelear and her out in the pasture together. They immediately started running, playing and whinnying for each other. Pelear was so happy. John named her Farrah. Her color looked very much like Pelear's and she was born three days before Pelear. She helped Pelear tremendously and Pelear has helped her. They were best buddies. We took walks with them, would watch them play in the pasture together and let them know that they are both loved. I truly believe that God had a plan for John and I, and this plan has fallen into place. I thank God every day for allowing me to have the ability to help the neglected, abused and unwanted horses.
Merimba, a flea bitten grey 19-year-old Arabian mare, came into the Carolina Equine Rescue Assistance program in July of 2008. She was a surrender through Animal Control. The owners named her Merimba, Spanish for Xylophone, her ribs showing reminded them of a Xylophone. As I was walking her off the trailer, my gut told me she was pregnant. I asked my vet to palpate her and sure enough, she was 5 months pregnant and very emaciated.
On March 19, 2009, Merimba went into labor. She had a very hard delivery, was thrashing about, and in a lot of pain. The vet was called and had to help Merimba with the delivery. A very large colt was delivered. The colt would not stand on his own. We also tried to get him to nurse, he would not suck. The vet told us he had “Dummy Foal Syndrome”. He was trying to stand but kept banging into the wall and falling down; he was walking sideways with his tongue hanging out. We did manage to milk Merimba and tube fed the colt her colostrum. It was horrible, we never heard of “Dummy Foal Syndrome”. My husband, John, stayed with the colt and I immediately went to the Internet to find out everything I could about the condition. Two of the major symptoms were difficulty breathing and convulsions, which he did not have, everything else pointed toward his condition. A few hours past, we called the vet again to come and tube him for a feeding. We had to make a decision to either euthanize him or take the baby and Merimba to NC State Veterinary Hospital in Raleigh, NC. Raleigh was 3 hours away and we were not sure he would survive the trip. He did not have the two major symptoms of the condition; we had to give this little guy a chance to live.
Our friend Donnie offered to trailer us to Raleigh. We had to move quickly for fear of dehydration with both Merimba and baby. The vet called the hospital and informed them that we were on our way and filled them in with both of their conditions. I wanted to name him before we arrived at the hospital. Merimba is Spanish so I thought it would be appropriate for her son to have a Spanish name also. A friend gave us the name “Pelear” which means “ A Fighter” in Spanish.
We pulled into the parking lot of the hospital; Donnie and I were amazed how quickly the vets, techs and students moved to the trailer. I walked Merimba off the trailer, Donnie tried to walk Pelear off, but he collapsed. Donnie picked him up and carried him into the hospital. There was a staff of 13 working on them. The hospital staff was so organized, professional and caring. Donnie and I were able to be right there with both of them. Merimba was placed in a shoot right in front of Pelear, she could see him at all times. IV’s were hooked up, vitals were taken, blood was drawn, a permanent feeding tube was inserted into Pelear. They were then taken to their stalls which were separate but Merimba was able to see her baby. The staff at the hospital took every precaution to prevent the baby from getting hurt again in the stall; they padded the walls and actually had a helmet for Pelear if needed. Merimba was not doing well; she would not take her eyes off him. She was starting to stress slightly, they gave her some banamine and I was able to brush her. We were still not out of the woods. Merimba was severely bruised internally and had not expelled the placenta, Pelear needed to start sucking and drinking on his own.
In January of 2011, a gorgeous 10-year-old quarter horse mare came to CERA from a local Animal Control facility. As soon as she got off the trailer, I knew she was pregnant, which was soon confirmed during her vet check. She also had a noticeable heart murmur which could put Star and her baby in distress. I contacted Animal Control and was told that the only stallion that was possibly with her was a grey pony. Knowing that the sire was a small horse, I was slightly relieved at the possibility that her baby would be small. We immediately took her off fescue to insure that she would produce milk for the little one.
As weeks passed, my concern regarding her delivery grew. With the heart condition, both Star and her baby could be in danger. Someone told me about Mare Stare, a service that would monitor Star around the clock. We mounted the live video camera, hooked it up to my computer and also purchased a baby monitor, so we could hear sound. The public was also able to watch Star "live" on their computers.
Merimba & Pelear
A Mustang's Return to Freedom
Stories from the Heart
Jules blossomed into a gorgeous filly and became somewhat of a celebrity during our "photo days." She's always loved people and remains very outgoing and social to this day. At 16 months of age, Jules was adopted to a wonderful home. Jada and Kenzie have also been adopted.
Early morning on April 11, 2011 we received a call from Mare Stare that Star was in labor. She delivered a beautiful dark filly, all legs. Daddy was definitely not a grey pony! We have had several babies at CERA and while each of them was beautiful, this filly was exceptionally attractive and very feminine looking. Both, mom and baby were absolutely fine and Star's heart murmur never caused a problem. We named her baby Jules, Star's Hope for Jules.
November 2007: The mustang was part of a round up at White Mountain HMA in Wyoming. A little filly, probably a yearling, was forced from her mom and away from the herd as she was herded into another smaller pen where she could not move at all. Scared and confused, she was stuck with needles, and a hot freeze brand was burned into the side of her neck. They were also cutting her feet, trimming her hooves.
The little filly remained in captivity for nearly 1 ½ years. Still not knowing why she was taken off the range, she was among new horses, all colors and ages, but she had very little human contact.
April 2009: Humans loaded her into a trailer, another enclosed area. She did not know why. As a wild mustang, she only knew open ranges and being among a herd, which made her feel safe. She had never been in a trailer, and the feeling of a moving trailer was very scary. She traveled across country to Ashville, N.C., where she was auctioned off.
After having a BLM horse for one year the adopter has the option of receiving a title for the horse. The mare was titled in June 2010 which means she is now owned by the adopter. Since she is a titled horse BLM can not longer help with the mare.
Summer 2009: The mare was boarded for approximately a year. Neighbors were feeding her hay through the winter. She was wild in the pasture, never received farrier or vet care and was not halter broke. The owner at that time had moved and was not checking on the horse regularly.
September 2010: The mare was moved to a boarding facility.
March 2011: The mare was confined to a small round pen in the pasture. She had to be sedated to get a halter on and receive vaccinations and blood drawn for coggins. The owner at that time did care about the mare but was frustrated with the lack of help she was not getting to help with the mare.
May 2011: The owner was trying to find another home for the mare or have her euthanized. Instead the mare was given to one of the workers at the boarding barn. The mare then left the boarding barn.
June 2011: The mustang filly was found abandoned in a one-horse beat up old trailer that was left on the side of the road in 90-plus degree heat with no water. The vehicle identification number and plates were removed so there was no way to track the owner. She was near death and the weather conditions were not helping her situation. Animal Control was called. There were several spectators that had also stopped. Animal Control allowed one of the spectators to take the horse, but told him he needed to keep her for 30 days incase someone claimed her. Animal Control did not know the person that took her, he had very little horse knowledge and Animal Control did not file a report. All they had was his name and address. Later that afternoon the trailer was gone, and not by law enforcement.
He took her to his farm where she was put in very small paneled enclosure in direct sunlight. The temperatures remained in the 90’s. Her ribs were very prominent as well as the bones in her hind end. She had rain rot, a type of fungus all over her body. Her skin and hair were exposed to open sores. All four of her ankles had open wounds and scars, as if someone tied her legs together. There were also other old scars on her body. He had no idea how to care for an emaciated horse with open wounds on her legs and back. He fed her, gave her hay and water but had no intention of keeping her after the 30 days, and did not care what would happen to her. He did not treat any of her wounds. CERA received calls from individuals who were concerned about the mare. Animal Control insisted that she stay where she was for 30 days. They told the person who had her, they could do whatever they wanted with her after 30 days. If CERA did not step in, she would have been shot. During that time, she did break through the panels; they had a very difficult time catching her. Again there were threats of shooting her if she was not able to be caught.
July 2011: After 27 days, Animal Control agreed to let her come to CERA, 3 days short of the 30 day hold. CERA, took her into its program. She was severely emaciated, nothing but skin and bones. She was staring into space as if wanting to die. She still had severe untreated rain rot all over her body. Kindness was as foreign to her as this new life away from the range. A human had never offered her a gentle touch or a soft caring voice; all she has known is that humans have hurt her. She was so frightened that she would not look at or approach anyone, but she was not aggressive. The vet examined her a few days after CERA took her in. She had to be sedated in order for the vet to exam her. Amazingly, she was in fairly good condition, but needed to gain a good deal of weight. The vet examined her teeth and determined her to be around 4 years of age.
As a volunteer for CERA, I decided she needed a name that was appropriate for a mustang mare that had had such a traumatic life. We choose Willow, as in the tree. They can bend, but rarely break.
In November 2015, I went to the auction very nervous that someone was going to outbid me. We had our trailer and we were ready to bring her home. I was the only one at the auction to bid on this gorgeous girl. I didn't care what she looked like, she could have been purple with yellow polka dots, I didn't care. All I knew was that she needed to come with me to the farm. The bidding closed and I got the mare. We were escorted by law enforcement to the foster farm to pick her up. Keep in mind they have had her 30 days already. She was in a stall and being fed, but the look in her eyes was still saying "I want to die." Her mane was still tangled in dread locks and she appeared not to be even brushed. We loaded her on the trailer and headed home.
We arrived at CERA farm and she immediately went into a stall. She had good quality hay and clean water, as much as she wanted. We gave her a bit of time to get use to her surroundings before we started messing with her. She is a very sweet lady and loved all the attention we gave her, but still very lethargic, confused and not much will to live. For the next few days I was skeptical that she would make it. Her skin was so thin that we could not brush her, only rub on her. I did manage to get her mane combed out. She also had this horrible smell of infection coming from her mouth along with a runny nose. It was literally touch and go. I needed a name for her, I was not about to let her die without a name, and if she was going to cross the rainbow bridge I made sure she felt a gentle touch, soft voice and knew a human cared. One of the ladies at the shelter named her Hope and Promised to give her a better life. Hope's Promise that was the name chosen for her. After about 4 days she seemed to perk up a bit, she actually whinnied at us, as to say hello and I'm ready to eat. The feeling in my heart was overwhelming, but I knew she had a long road ahead of her.
As the days went by Hope was feeling better, amazing what good food and love will do. We had a warm sunny day so we decided to pamper her. We gave her a nice warm bath, got the crud off of her, washed her tail and mane and got the rest of the tangles out. She really enjoyed the attention and stood very still without fussing. We then let her graze with the warm sun drying her off.
Hope continued to gain weight slowly and feel much better. It was time for her feet to be trimmed by the farrier. She stood perfectly still. I thought to myself this girl has manners and the bath and feet being trimmed was no stranger to her.
By January of 2016, Hope has gained weight nicely and she no longer has the look of "I want to die" in her eyes. And she is still as sweet as the day we brought her to the farm. It was time to have the vet pay a visit. Since Hope was so emaciated we decided to pull blood to see what her levels were. We also started her on antibiotics to help the smell of the infection whether it was sinus or a bad tooth. She was still too thin and weak to sedate her and get a good look in her mouth. Our vet also got a quick look at her teeth, this mare was not 3-5 years old she is actually around 18 years old, which explains why she has such good manners. It doesn't matter how old she was, she needed help and we do our best to give them all the medical care we can along with nutrition. A week went by and her labs were back. Hope basically had no immune system. We put her on a type of vitamin and continued the good quality food hoping that would boost her immune system back up. That also means that no other animals could come to the farm or go out until we pulled blood on her again. She was in a small pasture with our Nigerian goat George.
A month had passed and we pulled blood again, her levels were near normal so her immune system was nearly normal. Hope fell in love with George our goat. They were inseparable and would scream if they weren't close to each other. George actually slept in Hope's stall with her.