Monday, December 24, 2012

There's One In Every Crowd....

Well, I did it!  I got my very first hate-comment on a blog!  I guess this finally makes me a real blogger, huh?  Not exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up, but hey, I'll take it.  Anyway, this unfortunate dipshit made the bad decision to ignore my warning on the comments section which appears on EVERY blog I write that reads as follows: 
I ABSOLUTELY welcome comments, as long as they're not rude or disrespectful (that's my job). I write this blog for my own benefit and the benefit of my fans, so please don't come in here and try and start a fight. I don't knock on your door and bitch at you, please don't do it here.

You see, to me, that's a fair warning.  That's actually what I'd consider a very GOOD warning.  You'd think that, as someone who writes the way I do (with blatant disregard to whom I could potentially offend with my words), my warnings would be heeded.  But no.  This gem of a human being decided to go ahead and gift my creative juices with this little tidbit of writing material,  which I've copied and pasted directly from the blog about Jackson, the foal with the shattered fetlock on which she also posted as "Anonymous".  Great idea!  As my roommate said "Oooh boy, they poked the bear!"  Poked the bear, indeed.

"And this is exactly why horse slaughter should not have been banned. Because you have people lile this that cant take care of horses, and they should be put out of there misery. Although, you dont take in consoderation and just rant and bitch.about everyone and there brother that may have a skinny/lame horse. Did you ever think that times are hard? I have 17 horses on my farm. Half boarders. I show year round. I invest alot of money in it. But its hard to do so. And did you ever think that fences break? Studs get out, mares tease. Shit happens! For you of all people, a horse person should know that! But yet you bitch about everyone else? Ive been following and.observing along with a handful of people and the way you attack people. It isnt to help other people, its to make your self and your farm look better. I agree this horse should have had more vet care. But like she said SHE COULDNT AFFORD IT!!she obviously advertised to get rid of, its not like she was keeping it ans starving it. She actually trying to find it a better home. And alot of vets wont do further treatment without money. So your going by hear say, of people sayig she takes skinny horses and runs them YOU DONT KNOW THAT. andjus like you and any body else, someone pissed you off then you dwell on it and try to shut them down. Jus like the tom timm thing. He pissed ya off, i agree they were nasty horses he sold you. But why didnt you take action sooner? You are a monster as well
Your only taken action now when you had to put the horse down. And you feel ur screwed over so your gunna make his life hell. Times are hard! Your a horse person you should fuxking understand. Vets were out to, if theu were that concerned somethin would be done
Some looled like shit, i agree, some need.maintenance i agree! But you wonder why animal control doesnt do shit anymore because they have.bitches like you that thrive on shutting other people down to get ut name out there, and call on every goddam thing they see! Horses go lame, horses.lose weight, someimes you pump feed into a horse and they still dont gain. And you go by hearsay. He may have screwed people over. Every horse person has. Jus like in any other buisness/profession. If you saw a skinny cow in a pasture, would you call on those people too? Hell no. And you get mad bc this lady is.un educated or seems to be atleast and humiliate them? You dont care about the horses
You care about shuttin everyone else down. I do not know tom tim. I do not know this other lady
I do KNOW YOU. what have you done to help? You may try to collect.donations but are u buying and.saving horses? No
Only if they.benefit you. You may say you do but i know you dont."

You, sir or ma'am, have made a VERY poor life choice, and consequently, you have allowed me some DELICIOUS writing material with which to mock you for both my own amusement and the amusement of my fans.  Poked the bear, indeed!  I'd call it the best Christmas present I've gotten this year, but Pat bought me all new mats for my trailer.  Mats beat stupidity, any day.  But anyway, thank you.

Now I read this comment, and yes, it took me several attempts to try and understand exactly what point this author was trying to make.  By the time I thought I had a good grasp of their attempt at an argument that was CLEARLY meant to insult me and to justify the abuse that Jackson, Oliver and the other Durand babies had suffered, I was a little bit pissed.  Pissing me off is not the best decision, especially when I'm feeling creative and need to write.  And when I have a working blog just craving another entry.

So I fired off a reply:

Dear Person Who Didn't Have The Balls To Post Their Real Name,
While your lengthy argument was cute, you need to do a little more homework before you try and attack me. I appreciate your attempt at an intelligently-written argument, but I have a few words of advice for you:

1) Go back to school. Your grammar and writing abilities make you look like an illiterate fool.

2) I don't collect donations, nor do I ask for them. I am not a non-profit rescue and to collect donations under false pretenses would not only be wrong, but also against the law. I DO however, support Day Dreams Farm Equine Rescue & Rehabilitation. They ARE a non-profit.

3) I absolutely DO support slaughter in the U.S.A. I also support that the kill process be done quickly and humanely, which is why I'm not a fan of the Canadian or Mexican slaughter-process.

4) I have bought $20 horses at auction solely to bring them home and euthanize them. I don't go out of my way to purchase only "profitable" horses, although that is generally my goal. If I have cash left over, and space on the trailer, I'll bring a few charity cases home to give them an alternative to the one-way trip to Canada.

5) You apparently DON'T "know me" as you say, or you'd know that I haven't sold a horse in 6 months, and I have only two horses of my own right now. Oh, and I've filled out paperwork to formally adopt a rescue horse, but that was just last night.

6) By the way, you asked what I have done to help? Well I spent ten hours on the road yesterday using my truck & trailer to move rescue horses across the state as a volunteer. Yes, volunteer. As in, ON MY OWN DIME. And I missed a family Christmas party to do so. So please, tell me again how I don't do anything to help, because honey, that's how I spend most of my weekends every month while you're at horse shows.

SOOOO, in summary, I'm going to leave your sad little attempt at a bitch-fest posted, mainly so we can all have a good laugh at your expense. Now, kindly bend over and fuck yourself.

Merry Christmas!

Now granted, I felt a lot better after shooting back a reply and pointing out this jackass's many shortcomings as an author, observer, horse owner and human being.  What I didn't expect, however, was the massive outpouring of support from my friends and colleagues.  They jumped up and ripped a new asshole into this broad like a pack of hungry wolves.  They attacked a few different points that I overlooked in my original counter-assault.  Apparently, I didn't fully address the depth of the ignorance of this writer, and I'd like to take that opportunity to do so now.  

So, dear Anonymous, what was your point by saying "And this is exactly why horse slaughter should not have been banned. Because you have people lile this that cant take care of horses, and they should be put out of there misery."?  Were you inadvertently saying that the owner of baby Jackson should have sent him to slaughter?  Really?  You'd slaughter a foal?  And you have SEVENTEEN horses in your care?  Do your boarders know how fucked up your theories on equine-management are?  

You go on to rant about studs breaking out and breeding mares and "accidents happen".  Yes, you're right there, but allow me to point out that EVERY SITUATION I TEAR INTO HAPPENED INTENTIONALLY.  Each baby I write about occurred as a result of a DELIBERATE decision by a human being.  These weren't accidents, you dumb piece of dog shit.  I do bitch about and attack individuals on my blog, and the beauty of this whole thing is that it's MY blog.  I never forced you to read it, and quite frankly I'm impressed that you even got through some of the entries, since I do use big words on occasion.  

I only take action now that they had to be put down?  No, my friend, I took action back then as well.  I paid for those Durand babies and I brought them home and I fixed them as best as they could be fixed, and then I found them homes, and you know what?  I didn't make five goddamn dollars on the whole deal.  I lost a lot of money, but I don't do rescues for the money.  I couldn't save Jackson, but I sure didn't see your dumbass step up and make an effort or contribution towards the effort.  But then again, as you say "times are hard".   Once again, you're right about that, but I'd happily bet you ANY amount of money that a TRUE GOOD horse owner will make every sacrifice needed to make sure their horses receive all of the adequate care needed to keep them healthy and happy.  As one of my supporters commented "you do what you have to do or you get the fuck out of the horse business".  If times are so hard for you, perhaps you should seriously consider cutting back on your showing "year round" and make a few donations to some rescues with some of that money.  But if you're not going to put your money where your mouth is, then do us all a favor: crawl back in your hole and shut the fuck up.  

MOST horse people DO NOT screw others over.  I'm not sure why you seem to think that, but then again, I don't know what kind of people you run around with.  However, if they're as classy as you are, I'd be willing to bet you can all get a good rate on some basic grammar and composition classes at the local community college.   

I worry about the condition of your horses and any other living creature you have in your care, oh Anonymous poster.  And I sincerely hope for you, on this Christmas eve, that you can get your head out of your ass before you publicly embarrass yourself again.  

Oh, and if you don't like what I have to say, stay the hell of off my blog.  

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Oliver's Story

I think any horse person that's been in the game for any extended amount of time has that horse.  That horse that, as hard as they tried, they couldn't fix.  Whether it was a training issue you just couldn't conquer that ultimately ended your relationship and shook your confidence to the core, or the old timer that you just couldn't find the fountain of youth for, it effects you.  Hard.  Sometimes you wonder why you even bother trying.  Things could have been so much easier if you had just gotten into jazzercise or watercolor painting instead. 

To this day, when I think about Oliver, I get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I couldn't save him.  I understand failure as much as the next person, hell I probably experience it more than most (I'm particularly good at screwing up), and when you move as many horses as we did out of the auction scene, into your pasture temporarily, and then out to what you hope will be their "forever" home, the odds are not in your favor that every one will end in a Disney-style ending.

For those of you who are just reading my blog for the first time, in the interest of not repeating myself, here's the background story on how I came to acquire Oliver (it helps to read this first to fully understand the life this little horse came from): KJ Farms: Breeding Torture.

Of the group of four that came from Tom Timms, Oliver worried me the most.  Shortly after I left Tom's place in Durand, I stopped to get gas and check on the babies in the trailer.  I looked at those legs and feet and the reality of how bad Oliver's situation was hit me.

I took this picture through the slats on my trailer and sent it in a picture message to my farrier, Koren  with the message: Can you save him?  

She replied that she'd be waiting at my place when I got home.  

Looking back at that those four words, Can you save him? I didn't realize then that Oliver's entire life would revolve around that simple question.  

Koren is truly a godsend of a woman.  She's as patient as she is talented, and when we got home and unloaded, she started where she could with Oliver.  Considering he looked like this, I don't know how he managed to stay standing upright during the ordeal, but he made it happen.  That alone should be a testament to the will to live and determination that kept this little horse alive for 4 years.  

Oliver's hind legs were so severely deformed that he was virtually walking on his tiptoes.  This caused his heels to grow continuously, which caused most of the tendons in his legs to contract.  As imagined, any forceful stretching of these tendons was extremely painful, and in order to make any real progress, only millimeters at a time could be shaved off of his heels.  Ever tried walking in 6" spike heels?  That painfully stiff, upright feeling that shoots up the front and back of your legs, through your hips, and up into your lower back?  That's what this horse dealt with on a daily basis.  

On the other end of the spectrum, Oliver's front feet had grown into "elf shoes", and his heels had grown so far forward, we actually found them 2" in FRONT of where his toe SHOULD have ended, had he been trimmed properly.  There was something about Oliver's front right fetlock that deeply troubled me, though I wasn't sure what it was yet.  The vet was called. 

Oliver's damage went far beyond his feet.  He'd never seen any dewormer, vaccines, or dental care at all, and was still an intact stallion living with two mares.  The torture of being forced to live side-by-side with those mares as they came into season monthly would have driven him crazy, had he not been in too much pain to mount them.  His back legs would not have supported him, had he tried.  

Oliver and the others got a bath the following day to try and wash off some of the urine and manure that caked their coats.  He certainly wasn't the thinnest horse I'd ever brought home, that's for sure.  However, in my book, throwing hay at a horse every now and then and keeping them locked in a pole barn doesn't constitute good horse ownership and I don't care how much advocating one wants to do, there's not a damn thing in this world you can tell me that will convince me that Tom Timms is a good horse owner.  It would have been kinder to put a bullet in each one of their foreheads.  

In this photo, please keep in mind, this ISN'T mud.  They weren't outside, ever.  This is the caked on manure and urine that Oliver slept on every night.  

This picture is after Oliver's first hoof trimming, you can see how much was able to be taken off of the fronts after only one trim.  The hinds are a different story.  

The vet came out later that day after baths were given and looked at them, looked at me and said "What the hell did you bring home this time?"  Doc knows I have a problem leaving a horse behind, and he also knows that when I can't fix one, I'm the first one to be man (or woman) enough to call him and tell him he needs to come help one cross to the other side.  I needed his opinion on Oliver.  That right front bothered me, and I sure as hell didn't want to force a horse to suffer when there was no visible light at the end of the tunnel.  Doc did an evaluation of Oliver's legs and (this is a very important part): Found no heat or signs of permanent damage except what was in that front fetlock.  We did not pull x-rays at that time, deciding to wait until later to make sure he'd make it being able to be adopted out.  Oliver's prognosis was "That fetlock is ugly, but he's moving around alright on it, all things considered.  He will probably make someone a nice walk, MAYBE trot, trail horse one day."  Without x-rays, there's not much else he could have determined, but at that point, he had enough faith in Oliver that I felt a little better about my decision to put off euthanization a few more weeks as long as he kept improving.  

That was what I needed.  Faith.  That was what Oliver needed, too.

Now I know when I'm in over my head, and trust me, these four babies were more than I'd ever undertaken in my life with horses.  I also know when to ask for help.  I knew that there was no way I'd be able to find someone to take Oliver and give him the kind of home he needed, and I didn't trust just anyone with their word to promise me that he'd never end up in an auction or on a truck bound for Canada.  I don't trust people, and people like Tom who will charm you to death while starving his horses out back are part of the reason why.  I bought horses and ponies at auction almost every weekend from liars and I've seen the things people will do and justify it in their minds, but Tom is by FAR the worst offender I've ever met.  I called Lisa at Day Dreams Farm and asked if she'd take possession of Oliver as an owner surrender.  That decision is one I stand behind to this day, I have no regrets.  She agreed to accept Oliver and put out a call for help amongst her supporters for donations of hay, dewormer and other supplies to help with the needs of the babies.  I agreed to keep Oliver as a foster as long as was needed until he was stable and had enough basic handling to be able to continue rehabilitation at another home. 

Oliver and the others got started on our basic "fix what someone else screwed up" deworming and nutrition program, and along with visits from Koren every 2 weeks for a little more filing on the hinds and some trimming and re-shaping on the fronts, he slowly made progress.  

Three weeks after arrival, Oliver looked like this: 

While still much thinner than he should have been, he spent his days grazing and wandering the yard learning about everything he missed out on in life up until this point.  He got dirty, he rolled in the grass, he ate, and he did all the "horse things" he'd spent the last 4 years denied of.  He was still receiving regular visits from Koren and seemed to be making progress.  His ground manners were developing and he was starting to become the star citizen I hope he'd be.  At this point, we'd decided it was time to start searching for a foster that could give him more attention and work toward making him a productive member of society.  I wrote an add for Oliver, and used his APHA registered name "Bettin On Boston" (remember, Oliver was the only one of the four with registration papers) and started spreading the word.

Shortly after his ads went up, Lisa received an email from a woman who provided us with some interesting information about Oliver.  She was Oliver's original breeder, and had sold him with his mother, "Black Shadow's Bet" while he was still a nursing foal to Tom Timms.  Tom had promised her they'd both have a great life at his farm, and that the mare, Joanie, would be added to his broodmare band.  Tom lied.  Joanie was up for sale all over the internet and is still on the KJ Farms website today.  No one knows where she currently is, but all we can hope is that she isn't still suffering at Tom's hands the way her son did.  This information means that Oliver DID at some point know what freedom felt like, before Tom shut him away in that dark, disgusting barn for years.

Not long after Oliver's ads went out, a woman on Craigslist was looking for a pasture pal/project horse in need.  Through fate, she connected with Lisa and would later become one of the most important people in the little grey horse's life, ultimately giving Oliver his name.  These are her words:

  Oliver came into my life while on the hunt for a pasture pal for my gelding.  My ad from Craigslist was answered within a couple days of posting it by Lisa from Day Dreams Farm. She had asked if I would consider adopting or fostering a horse that was located about 15 minutes away from where my facility was. After hearing the story of this horse, I contacted Jackie and told her I’d be interested in taking a look at the horse. Upon arrival to her facility, my first impression of the little grey horse was shock. I have never seen a horse in such horrible condition. To see a horse’s legs and ankles contorted the way they were due to lack of farrier care was something that made me realize there’s a whole ‘nother side to the horse world that I was unfamiliar with. I doubted my ability to take on this horse and looked at the other babies that had been rescued. Frankly, they all scared me. I looked at the little grey horse again and agreed to give him a foster home. 

     He came to my place a couple days later. Our time together started off rough. The newly named Oliver had not been handled for four years prior to being rescued. He needed corrective trimming every 3 weeks due to not receiving any farrier care his entire life. He was difficult to trim not only because he was not used to standing for the farrier, but because of the pain that trimming caused him. He had virtually no manners and got increasingly difficult to work with as he gained muscle from walking around his hilly pasture and energy from a proper diet of grass, good hay, and grain. He was resistant at first to listening to me. He preferred to just run me over and strike out at me. I had worked with “problem” horses before, but never one that seemed so disconnected and distant from working and bonding with a human. He always looked through me. He wouldn’t even eat a treat out of my hand. I can only imagine this stems from the four years of isolation from humans he experienced growing up. 

     As the days and weeks went on, we began to trust each other more and more. I was able to do new things with him such as putting a saddle on, bridling him, walking him over tarps, and lunging. He wore a blanket for the first time when it started to get cold and stood in the cross ties patiently. His manners improved and he actually seemed to like the attention he was getting. I started saddling him and putting weight on him towards the end of my time with him, but our training didn’t go any further. Due to my gelding repeatedly attacking Oliver, I decided he needed to find a permanent home elsewhere. I had posted an ad on Horseclicks for Oliver in an effort to help Day Dreams find an adopter and got a response from Carie. She came out to see him, along with her husband and children, and they all fell in love with him. He was to be their daughter Ashley’s show pony. I was so grateful that this family had made the long drive to come see him and, within weeks, they became his life-long home. At that time, I had no idea that his life would only last one more year. I got to say goodbye to Oliver before he was put to sleep. It was amazing to see how much he grew and how beautiful he turned out to be. I thanked him for teaching me new things and connecting me with good people. I will never forget Oliver and can only wish that his life had lasted much longer than it did. I am so grateful that he got to experience the “good life” and felt the love of a little girl, as every horse deserves.

                                                                              - Katie H. 

After Oliver found himself a permanent home, I personally hauled him down to Carie and her family.  Carie is truly a blessing in this world, and with her wonderful husband have raised four beautiful, respectful, well-mannered children.  And you all know how I feel about kids.  I actually like theirs!  I delivered Oliver to their home on October 26, 2011, almost three months from bailing him out of his hell in Tom's barn. Little did I know that less than one year later, I'd be saying my final goodbyes to the little grey horse before laying him to rest and setting him free from a life full of pain.

Oliver spent his days with Carie's family romping in her huge, green pastures, and hanging out with his best friend, a standard donkey named Noah.  Noah and Oliver adopted each other and were side-by-side every day.  Oliver also got himself a little girl, Ashley.  Ashley was nine years old when Oliver came to her and would be taken from her just two week after her tenth birthday.  Thank you for that, Tom.  I'm sure you really thought about the heart you'd be shattering when you tortured this little grey horse.

After Oliver's passing, I gave Carie and her family a few weeks to deal with their loss, and asked her to write her thoughts down for this blog.  I knew it'd be a tough subject to address, and I wanted to be able to include the people who spent the most time with Oliver when sharing his story...

Oliver was so cooperative and was becoming very attached to us.  The first time we lunged him, we were amazed at how responsive he was to our voice commands.  November 2011, my daughter and I got a bit brave.  She wanted to get on him and see if he would let her ride.  He did, and without a flinch.  It was almost as if his dream came true of having a child on his back that he could give rides to.   A few rides later and my then 27 month old child was begging to ride him.  Oliver treated him like a piece of glass for the moments he was up there.   Never did I have to worry that this horse was going to hurt my children. 

Spring came and my children would groom him and get him tacked up to ride.  They would take turns walking and trotting him all over our property.  They all loved it, even Oliver.  The bond was built and my children finally had a horse to call their own.  Almost every morning Oliver would be lying down with his donkey friend that he took under his wing.   My children would go running outside so they could lay with him and pet his soft face and legs. They would even grab a hoof pick so they could pick his feet and make him clean for the day.  

There was one thing that really bothered me, and it was something that I really did not want to face.  Oliver was beautiful, his dapples shown, but there was one thing about him that was just awful.  He was sore on his front right leg.  We had to give him Dormosedan Gel  in order to get his hooves trimmed.  He just couldn’t stand to bare the weight on that hoof.  We were told the joints were probably just fusing and that over some time he should be better.   Well, he wasn’t.  Late summer 2012, my five year old was trotting him in the pasture with me next to her.  I thank God for His grace, because suddenly Oliver’s legs gave way falling face forward into the ground.  He struggled and flipped his body as if he knew he could not let this little 30 pound girl fly off.  He made it back up with my baby girl still in the saddle.  She told me she would walk for a second, but that Oliver needs a rest.  I just wanted to scream and cry.

My farrier told me he would talk to his vet and see if she would come out and do some x-rays of his legs.  From the moment he told me that, pain set in my heart.  I put off telling the kids and let them enjoy the rest of summer with the horse they could call their own.  I made some phone calls behind closed doors and tried various things to make Oliver feel better.  Deep down in my heart though, I knew his time was coming to an end.  His four years of pain and neglect had a stronghold on him. He had grown almost a whole hand taller and filled out a lot causing more pain on his bones and joints.  I decided I had to be the responsible owner and get the x-rays taken.

September 26, 2012, exactly eleven months after we had promised him he would have the best life from here on out, we received some of the worst news.  The x-rays proved there was irreversible damage to every leg.  The worst part, the front leg he had so much pain in, had been fractured years ago and now had severe arthritis all throughout the bone. I asked for the veterinarian’s opinion, she kindly told me it would be best to put him down.   I hid from my children and cried till it hurt every muscle in my body.  I cried because I knew how devastated all of my children would be to lose their horse.

I had to tell my children, but how?!  They had already lost a sibling, an aunt, multiple close friends/grandparents, two rabbits, and two cats in 2012.  Their favorite grandpa was days away from having surgery to remove cancer that was progressing quickly, and I was supposed to tell them that they would be losing the horse they love so dearly.  When I told them, the one request I had was to not put him down the week of my daughters tenth birthday.   The veterinarian agreed and we did all we could to make him happy and comfortable.  

I wish the ending to this was a happy one, but it is not. Oliver lived a very sad and painful life, but I feel very blessed that we were chosen to be the ones to give him the best year of his entire life.  
October 21, 2012, will play in my heart forever.  I put my children to bed, all with tears in their eyes.  There was one though that was hurting deep down in her heart.  As my ten year old daughter lay in her bed weeping and thrashing around, I asked her if she wanted to bundle up and go out to the barn, for one last goodnight kiss.  We spent a good couple of hours out there.   She braided his mane, one last time. She fed him some grassy hay, one last time. She leaned on him and stroked his beautiful soft dapple grey coat, one last time.  And finally, she gave him his last goodnight kiss he would ever have.   

Lisa and I drove to Carie's home the next day to meet the vet and say our goodbyes to Oliver.  Honestly, I'd seen the pictures and knew he'd changed and grown into a beautiful little horse, and to see him in person was truly a sight.  He was a magnificent horse, from the knees up.  He'd blossomed into a horse that I never expected could have come out of such a horrific situation and looked happy. but that growth and development was what led to his ultimate demise.  

I was fortunate enough to get a copy of the veterinarian's evaluation of Oliver after the x-rays had been taken.  (INSERT LINK TO VET REPORT).  Her findings included MULTIPLE fractures, severe joint space narrowing, and severe arthritis of the right front fetlock, deformed right rear pastern joint, upper and lower ringbone on several legs, and multiple locations of subchondral bone cysts on both hinds, and calcification of the sesamoid ligaments on the hind legs.  There's no realistic reason Oliver should have ever been sound enough to walk a straight line, let alone carry a rider, except as a testament to the incredible will to live in this little grey horse.  The worst part in all of this is that we never felt any heat or swelling in those legs initially, the damage was SO OLD that any indications were gone and he'd suffered in silence in that pen in Tom's barn.  Only once he matured physically did the problems arise.  As sick as it sounds, his poor nutrition and health kept the physical problems in his legs at bay.  He got better, his legs got worse.  

....The prognosis is poor for recovery from these long standing changes.  I feel strongly it was environment more than genetics that caused these crippling changes.  No horse should have been forced to live on a deep, sinking, uneven surface to walk, stand, eat and lay.  Or to be mismanaged with overgrown hooves multiplying the hyper-extensive forces on all the joints.  And imprisoned as a young, growing horse not allowed to strengthen his joints, tendons, ligaments or muscle with exercise required for normal development.  This horse endured years of torture, being forced to exist in pain as these changes took place.  

I truly feel it is a blessing we have been given to be stewards over our pets.  We have the ability to end suffering, something we are not allowed to do for our own loved ones.  I believe Oliver is in pain that will not and cannot be made to improve or end with any amount of pain medication or surgery.  My personal opinion is to end his suffering through humane euthanasia....I know Oliver's last year with your family has been heaven for him.  I hope this letter will help you make an informed decision....

Oliver's increased size had caused his fragile legs to give out frequently.  He'd be trotting across the field with his donkey friend, his legs would give out, and he'd fall flat on his face.  Soon, he didn't move around the pasture more than at a walk, as if he were afraid he'd fall at any faster speed.   The quality of his life was quickly diminishing and I thank Carie and her family for having the strength and selflessness to let Oliver go before he suffered any more than he had in the years before he found them.

I'm not a crier, by any means.  I like to play it tough and "man up" in emotional situations.  I don't cry, I hit things.  I thought I was going to be okay when Lisa led Oliver out of the gate and over to the waiting truck that would remove his body.  I scratched his forehead one last time and told him I was sorry I couldn't save him, that I knew I'd let him down, and I stepped back out of the way and off to the side and let him and Lisa pass.

Lisa always apologizes to the horses she has to euthanize.  She takes their head in her hands, kisses their nose, and she tells them she's sorry.  She apologizes for humanity, she apologizes that she couldn't fix them, she apologizes for being too late to make the difference that could have saved their lives.  She is the last kind face they see when their eyes go dark and they take their last breath.  Oliver was the same.  I've seen dozens of horses make that transition to wherever it is they go when their time here is done, and usually I can deal with it.  We're doing right by them and that's a little bit of comfort for me.  I held it together pretty well until Oliver went down and I saw the back door of Carie's house open and Carie jog out across the driveway to where Oliver lay.  She had taken the kids inside to do something else, anything else to avoid having to witness their horse go this way.  She came over to Oliver, threw herself on his head and neck and sobbed "I'm sorry buddy, oh God, I'm so sorry".  

I lost it.  

Oliver should have never had to die.  He was born a healthy, happy colt and had everything in the world going for him until the day Tom Timms purchased him.  After that, he lived for four YEARS in a hell hole prison he should have never had to experience.  No horse deserves that.  Ever.  Now a ten year old little girl is devastated, a family has to put their hearts back together and try and forgive the man that did this to their horse for no reason other than his own monetary gain.  

Tom Timms is in Metamora these days, "training" Saddlebred horses out of a farm on Sutton Road for a doctor couple.  Ironically, this farm was just featured on the front page of the Detroit Free Press 

He's got a beautiful facility to run his house of horrors out of now, and I'm not even sure the doctor owners know enough to know what's really going on.  He has 14 of his own horses there, and as far as I know, they're in no better shape than the babies were the day I pulled them out of his Durand facility.  Animal Control says they're "not skinny enough" to get a warrant, and since he has hay they sometimes get, there's not much they can do.  

Here's a picture of Doc's Gotta Be Gold, the ten year old sire of the palomino filly that came with Oliver, this was taken December 1, 2012 (yesterday).  It's rather apparent that nothing much has changed in the way Tom Timms cares for his horses, but I guess this just isn't "skinny enough".  

Oliver, I wish we could have saved you in time, I wish you never had to experience the things you did, and I wish you had known a lifetime full of love and affection instead of pain and suffering at the hands of the humans that are supposed to appreciate you as a gift from above.  

I'm so sorry buddy, may you finally rest in peace.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

KJ Farms: Breeding Torture

I've been putting off writing this blog for a week now, mainly because I know it's going to bring up a lot of anger and emotions that I think I've done a darn good job of ignoring for the past fourteen months.  I don't deal with my emotions well, and I've pretty much accepted the fact that I have only two real recognizable emotions as a human being: happy, and "stab-you-in-the-eye-socket-just-to-watch-you-bleed-to-death" angry.  But, since Oliver's story has finally come to an end, leaving behind a lot of angry, hurt people and one devastated little girl, I think it's high-time the truth comes out and people find out who the monster behind all of this pain and suffering really is.  Oliver's story will be told as soon as I finish writing it, but the story of all four Durand babies needs to be told first for background information.

I met Tom Timms when I responded to an ad of his on Craigslist looking to sell hay.  At the time, he charmed me into believing he knew all there was to know about hay, proper feeding for optimal performance, and that he could save me more money than anyone else when it came to feeding my program (20+ horses at the time, mostly rescues).  Music to any barn owner's ears, for sure.  I'd call Tom, tell him what I needed and what I wanted to pay, and he'd tell me when he'd have it delivered to my place. It was a beautiful thing, really.  Life was good.

I knew Tom had quite a few show horses of his own, but had never been to his place in Durand (Michigan, for my out-of-state readers).  He talked the talk, knew his pleasure-horse bloodlines backwards and forwards and knew all the dirty little secrets about the big names in the Michigan Quarter Horse world.  I was impressed.  As a fairly new seller (I'd sold a decent number of ponies back in high school, when I was still small enough to ride the snot out of them and make them into nice little youth mounts, but was just coming back into the rescue/rehabilitation/resale process after many years off), I looked to Tom as a sort of mentor.  He knew the finer points of writing a good sales contract, what to say to avoid getting sued, and how to make sure you'll win in court (without an attorney) if you DO get that far.  Common sense should have told me that anyone that affluent in courtroom-proceedings when it came to bad horse deals is NOT one that I should be idolizing, but again, I was star-struck.

My assistant, Amanda, and I had to travel north early in March of 2011 to pick up a horse, and were heading right past Tom's place (according to him) on Vernon Road in Durand.  He'd said he has a few really nice "project youngsters" that he wanted me to stop by and take a look at.  "They'll be cheap!  Right up your alley!" he said.  Never one to want to miss out on some quality-bred, "cheap" projects, we decided to detour over to Tom's and see what he had that I needed to call my own.

That day, walking through Tom's stall barn full of fantastically-bred, horribly-maintained horses changed the way Amanda and I looked at horse-dealers forever.  Those horses were in stalls 2' deep with shit, it didn't look like a farrier had seen that place in at LEAST six months, and Tom didn't seem to have the slightest bit of a problem with it.  The horses weren't skinny, by any means, but it was painfully apparent that they were not getting deworming, or proper nutrition.  The problem with this (since I'm sure many of you are wondering why I didn't call Animal Control) is that they WERE being fed hay and had water available to them in their stalls.  Animal Control won't touch a farm full of stalled, hay & water-fed horses.  It doesn't matter if they're atrophying away to nothing but rotting corpses with a heartbeat.  They're being fed and sheltered from the elements, that's all that's required under law.  Raiding a situation such as what was at Tom's barn (also known as KJ Farms) brings with it far too much legal liability and a very high chance that they'll lose the court case & have to return everything to the owner with no reimbursement.  I get it.  I know how the story goes, I've had this fight many times with other situations since then.  Sometimes (as much as I hate to say this), it's best to shut up, play along, and get what you can out of a situation like that without stirring up too much shit.  Stirred up shit has to fall somewhere, and chances are, you're going to wind up with a face full if you're not careful.  Additionally, I was much quieter, easily-bullied, and more soft-spoken then than I am now (hard to believe, I know, but people like him have made me the way I am today).

Here's the arial photo of the KJ Farms property, as provided (involuntarily, of course) from their website:

The great big barn furthest to the left is the stall barn, complete with fancy indoor arena (not new, but completely functional for its' purpose).  Now, as you're looking at this photo, please take note of all the obvious pasture space surrounding these barns.  This isn't any sort of rookie-maintained operation.  This is the real deal, with more than adequate turnout facilities.  The barn that's a shade lighter than the other barns (all the way on the right)?  That's the equipment barn.  Our focus now is on the middle barn, with the high roof.  This is where my "projects" were living.

This picture is rather deceiving, but it's all I've got, so it'll have to do.  What you don't see is that when you come off of Vernon Road, you pull into the dirt lot between the stall/arena barn and the road, but have to walk to the left to get to the falling-down, dilapidated "baby barn".  I'm not sure how old this photo is, but that barn sure didn't look that nice when we were there.  The roof was caving in, nothing had been maintained in years, and yet Tom felt it was an adequate place to house a bunch of babies and his stallions.  

Yes, I said stallions.  As in, more than one.  See, the KJ Farms website indicates that they used to stand two stallions, Doc's Gotta Be Gold, and Watch Sonny Shine.  Watch Sonny Shine is dead...and I invite anyone to ask Tom how he passed away.  You won't get a straight answer, I tried for months after our initial visit in March.  

Anyway, so walking into this shit hole barn, you're greeted by a very angry red Heeler male that will, if given the opportunity, rip your face off.  No joke, that's what he's there for, security, and yes, Tom said he's been to court to defend a dog-bite incident as well (imagine that).  Right inside the door, on the left, was a low-ceiling cattle-panel enclosure maybe 10'x25' in size.  This is where the babies were kept.  The conditions were dark, damp, the roof leaked, and the only sunlight came from the cracks in the wood siding unless you left the sliding door open.  This wasn't even suitable for death-row inmates, yet there were five wide-eyed youngsters crammed in there like it was a feed lot holding pen.  Just like the stalls, these babies were living in at LEAST 2' of shit & old hay, with a filled water tank full of green slime on its' sides, and weren't the typical skin-and-bones skeletal horses you'd expect, more like pot-bellied, wormy adolescents.  They were getting hay, but had never seen a vaccine or dewormer, and it was apparent that their farrier care was long overdue.  We were looking at two leggy bay roans, a tiny palomino, a black and white overo, and a grey.  Genders and ages were anyone's guess, none had halters on and there was certainly no catching them.  They'd sooner run you over than let you touch them.

Amanda and I were instantly drawn to the grey horse hiding in the back.  He was thicker than the others, had a quiet, kind eye, and I'm a sucker for a good looking grey, although his true shade of grey was unknown seeing as he, like the others, was caked in an inch of manure over his entire body.  He barely had a tail, and his feet were considerably worse than the others, but it looked like we might have been able to fix him and make him into a nice hunter pony prospect.  Then Tom says "You can have all but the black and white filly, I'm keeping her, the others are $500 a piece".  Yes, because I have $2000 to shell out for a bunch of project babies.  The price was not negotiable.  I had to leave them there.  

The ride home was much quieter than the ride up.  Amanda and I were both more than disturbed by what we'd seen, but $2000 was impossible.  I'm all for saving a project when I can but I cannot, in good conscience, justify paying someone that kind of money for what he'd presented us.  Too many horses needing an escape from certain death in Canada get dumped at auction for pennies on the dollar for me to shell out $500 for one soul.  Plus those babies were being fed and watered, though it was the absolute bare minimum of what they needed to survive.  I had to put them in the back of my mind and keep going with our efforts at home until the opportunity presented itself for me to act.  I stopped buying hay from Tom that day, although we still kept in touch regularly.  One of the hardest things for me to do, to this day, is to "play nice" with someone I want nothing more than to destroy in every way possible.  But those babies needed me.

They haunted me most of the summer, and when Tom called in August and offered them to me for $500 total for the group of four, his wife wanted a divorce and he needed to raise cash quickly, I hooked up and headed back to Durand.  For $125 a piece, I'll make it work.  I had no idea how old they were, what their genders were, nothing.  It didn't matter.  They needed to get out, I needed to get them out, we'd work out the logistics later.  August 3, 2011 was the youngling's day of freedom.  I backed the trailer up to that shit hole barn, swung open the door, and we built a cattle panel chute from their pen to my stock trailer since none were halter broke.  Unfortunately, this required a 2' drop down off of their shit platform pen, a few steps on level ground, then another 2' step up into my trailer.  Not exactly inviting for even the most seasoned loader, not to mention a bunch of babies with no muscle.  

After we got them loaded, and I'd paid Tom the hardest $500 I've ever handed to someone, he said (and I will never EVER forget this) "Ya know, that palomino is the only nice one of the group, you're really only paying for her.  It's like the other ones are free!".  It was at that time that I realized that Tom knew damn well what he did to those babies, and he didn't even care.  I asked him why he didn't just turn them out to let them grow (remember all of that pasture space?), he said "Well I wouldn't be able to do anything with them if they were out there."  Remember, these babies weren't even halter broke.  What did he need to do with them?  I asked him how long they'd been there, he said "They go in there when its time to wean them!  I've gotta put them somewhere!"  He handed me an envelope with the registration papers on the grey (the only one of the four that was actually registered), and I left with the babies in tow.  The black and white overo wasn't in that pen when I got there that day, I have no idea what happened to her.  

Now, I'm not much of a crier.  I prefer to get angry and hit something rather than shed tears.  But as I stopped to get gas just inside of the town of Durand, I peeked in the side of the trailer and I lost it.  Those four babies crammed themselves up in the front half of my trailer to lean against the walls and, heads hanging, were barely strong enough to hold each other up.  As I watched, occasionally one of their knees would buckle and they'd catch themselves before they went down.  We'd only been on the road for ten minutes.  The magnitude of what I'd just done, the overwhelming amount of responsibility and financial cost this was going to require of me (keep in mind, at the time I was 23 years old) and just how bad these babies really were hit me like a runaway freight train and I experienced what I can only describe as "rescuer's guilt".  I couldn't save them back in March, and they suffered for another four months because of me.  I finished pumping gas, got back in my truck and cried for at least another ten minutes.  

And then I got angry again.  I'm most effective when I'm angry, and I got on my phone and rallied my troops.  I'm incredibly blessed to have a wonderful group of supporters whom I'm proud to call my friends and they know that if I'm asking for help, it's because I truly NEED their help.  I called my farrier, Koren Knox, and told her what I had behind me in the trailer, she said she'd be waiting at my house when I arrived.  

Once home, I backed up to my round pen and made another chute to unload with.  Koren brought rope halters with her (because she's a heaven-sent angel that God outfitted with a rasp & nippers before he sent her to Earth), and we snuck halters onto the exhausted babies before they unloaded themselves.  There's nothing more depressing than watching four crippled babies stumble out of a trailer and stand huddled in the middle of a round pen too exhausted to be bewildered as to what's happened to them.  We photo-documented everything as soon as they were off the trailer:

The bay roan colt, (approximately 2 y/o), who later became known as "Houston", sired by Watch Sonny Shine, out of an unknown mare.

The bay roan filly (approximately 2 y/o), also sired by Watch Sonny Shine.  She aborted a 4-5 month old fetus 45 days after arrival, which means she was pregnant when these photos were taken.  The fetus was most likely sired by her half brother (above), as the only other stallion was too crippled to mount her.  Note the left hind fetlock, she has severe tendon damage from lack of muscle & exercise.  

The palomino yearling filly, sired by Doc's Gotta Be Gold, and youngest of the bunch.  

 This was the only registered one in the group, a FOUR YEAR OLD APHA breeding stock stallion named "Bettin On Boston".  He'd been kept in that pen since weaning.  Further research showed that Tom purchased the mare with this colt on her side from a breeder promising a "wonderful, forever home" for the pair.  The colt, who was later named Oliver, had never seen a farrier in the four years of his life until the day he arrived here.  We lost Oliver last week due to the physical damage caused by living in that enclosure, and he has his own story : Oliver's Story

We trimmed what we could of their feet while they were too exhausted to put up much of a fight, and let them rest & eat the rest of the evening.  
The next day, they all got baths and the magnitude of how bad they really were set in....

Now I ask you this:  What "breeder" raises a foal crop just to lock them up in a cage for their lives?  I've never met Tom Timms's wife (if she's even still his wife), but I hold her just as responsible for what happened to these babies as I do him.  She walked by that barn every day, just like Tom did.  She saw their faces, their living conditions, yet neither one of them made ANY effort to put an end to it.  That is something I cannot forgive.  Tom called me about a week after I picked these younglings up and left a voicemail telling me he got in some really nice hay and would sell it to me at a great price.  Never once asked about the babies.  He called every few days after that and left messages saying he didn't understand why I won't call him back, but that he misses me and would like to talk to me again.  Again, never asked about the babies.

Now a lot of people asked why I didn't go directly to Animal Control when I finally got possession of the babies.  Here's why: back then, I was afraid of things.  Afraid of getting sued, afraid of violent retaliation, afraid of the assholes I worked so hard to get horses away from.  Since then, I've lost a lot of my reasons for being afraid.  I no longer have a facility full of horses to protect, and I drive a different car every year because I get bored and buy something else so good luck trying to find my car in a parking lot to damage, and I'm a damn good shot with a handgun, so if you come after me, make sure you're bulletproof.  Also, go ahead and sue me, I dare you.  I'm a 24 year old college student who has two boarded horses and $400 in my checking account.  I'm uncollectible, asshole.  I have nothing left except my big mouth, which is why I'm taking it into my own hands to call out the sorry excuses for human beings who want to do things like this to horses and find a way to justify it in their minds.  

I don't know where Tom's ex-wife is, I know they lost the farm in Durand when they divorced, and I know Tom is currently in Metamora training Saddlebreds for the farm owner and peddling horses to whomever he can sucker into paying him for them.  I certainly invite anyone to call the phone numbers on their website or the MULTIPLE fliers he hangs up at MSU during horse shows advertising hay for sale or the local Metamora, Oxford & Lake Orion tack shops (cell phone: (989) 721-7105).  Maybe pick his brain a little, ask him about the babies he sold in the summer of 2011...see what he has to say.  I'd be quite curious if he even remembers them...

I know watching Oliver die last week made me damn sure I'd never forget them...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Horsechick's Guide To Men

I have horses.  I'm also in a long-term relationship with a man (yes, a real, live one that doesn't require double-a batteries, which I thoroughly consider to be a win!).  While most people find the latter fact miraculous in itself, I know deep down its really because I'm completely awesome.  And because Pat's hopefully too lazy to find someone better.  I'm kind of banking on that fact, really.

Anyway, for some reason, people seem to think I've got it all together, and they come to me with their relationship problems.  I don't mind this, in fact I kind of enjoy having free-counseling/advice sessions....somehow they make me feel like my relationship is a whole lot better than most others.  Although, as I write this, he's sitting next to me on the couch annoying the hell out of me, but I'm still better off than most of my friends, so I still win.  Right?

In my horse experience, I've realized that the way I treat horses and the way I treat men share a lot of common theories and training methods.  What doesn't work with one probably won't work with the other, and when all else fails, be prepared to take another angle to achieve your goals, or send them on their way.  The best part about horses and men is the fact that there's ALWAYS someone else around the corner that will happily take your leftovers when you've had enough of their crap.  Sometimes you'll even get paid for them.  The horses, too!

Men are fairly simple creatures, much like breeding stallions.  It takes three basic requirements to successfully maintain a healthy, happy stallion.  Feed them properly, give them time to go out and play on their own, and an opportunity to get off as frequently as possible.  That's all it takes to make them pretty easy to get along with.  I think the majority of relationship problems stem from women neglecting these three basic necessities of man-management.  It's not the men's's their handlers'.

Many problems arise when women want to keep these men locked up in a stall 23-hours a day, and then want to wonder why they can only come out and behave themselves in public with a stud chain around their noses.  They become hormone-charged raging dickheads ready to rape the first thing that spreads its' legs in front of them.  Then they get in trouble for it, and that's not fair.  Men are genetically programed to stick their manjunk in anything that will allow it.  You wouldn't need the chain/discipline if they were allowed to vent their frustrations properly in adequate turnout opportunities.  Send them to the garage to work on something, ship them off to the bar with an Accountabili-Buddy (a close friend that you've pulled aside and threatened to castrate if they let your man do something stupid that night), let men be men.  Just make it more lucrative for them if they behave themselves!

The second problem I've seen with relationships is that women shop for the wrong kind of man to suit their needs.  Form fits function.  You don't go out and buy a Tennesee Walker with plans to show the AAA hunters.  Consequently, if you met this great guy at a dive bar in the middle of nowhere, you paid the bar tab because he "forgot his wallet", and you always have to drive because he's still going to court to get his driver's license back (but it'll be real soon!), don't expect him to take you to the opera and all of the five-star restaurants in town!  You can put a Walker in the finest hunt tack money can buy, but at the end of the day, it's still going to gait its way around the ring.  Now, with that being said, there's absolutely nothing wrong with Walkers!  Some people love them and wouldn't ride anything else.  I've met quite a few Walkers that I've liked just fine!  Would I buy one for myself?  Probably not, because they just aren't my particular cup of tea.  Just like some women WANT to have a man that they have to raise like their own child.  Sure, they can be nice guys, but I have no desire whatsoever to deal with one on a regular basis.

And then we have the asshole-lovers.  I've been there.  I used to want a horse that would "challenge" my skills as a handler/trainer.  And I was convinced that a guy that "challenged" me would force me to be a better girlfriend in the end.  Let me tell ya, there's NO shortage of people that will give you their asshole horse.  Same with men.  It is NOT a "deal"!  If the guy has JUST gotten out of his third marriage or relationship (because of COURSE it was "that bitch's" fault), there's a reason no one else wanted to keep him.  You're taking on someone else's problem, be prepared for it.  Fix it, or shut up.  Nothing irritates me more than the girl who wants to bitch about how badly her horse/man treats her, yet takes NO steps to correct the behavior.  He bites?  Clobber him.  He hits you?  Shoot him.  He calls you names?  Have his ass beat in the parking lot of his work.  Seriously, I've got guy-friends that'll take care of it, cheap.  If you can't get through to him OR the horse, and other options haven't made any progress, be prepared to put a bullet in his head.  There's NO reason to send your problem-situation on to the next owner.  

Ground manners are also an often-overlooked aspect of horse ownership and man-management.  It took about two days of work before my colt learned not to walk in front of me...and it took about 20 minutes of wandering through Meijer before my man learned the same.  Constantly changing direction in a store causes them to pay attention, to watch where you're going, and to learn quickly that if they hit you with the shopping cart, there'll be hell to pay.  I'll randomly speed up and dive down an aisle, throw in a few u-turns, hell, I'll even stop and back up just to make sure he's on top of it.  Furthermore, if your horse has trouble standing still, he should stand tied for extended periods of time to learn patience.  Personally, I'm a huge fan of the time-out tree.  Likewise, if your man has problems going to the mall, take as much time as you need to pick out another white t-shirt.  He will learn patience.

There's no "forcing" a horse, or a man.  They're bigger than we are, and when they've finally had enough of your nagging, bitching & nit-picking, they retaliate.  It's usually not pretty.  There's an easy way to avoid all of this, let them think your goals were their idea to begin with.  This takes a certain amount of skill, and usually a lot of reward when they offer the right response.  Horses and men are both pressure-animals.  Need to get them out of the way?  A finger in their flank and a click or two should do it.  But remember, you won't teach a horse to pivot with the first poke, and you won't move a man from the fridge in the first try either.  As soon as you get that first small step away from your pressure, reward!  A pat on the neck, a quick fondling of the man-junk through the pants, maybe a quick peek down your shirt....its all the same.  Simple rewards that don't cost anything from you, but mean the world to them.  It won't take long and you'll have them yielding every way you ask them to if they think there'll be an enjoyable experience in it for them.  Soon, you'll have the overachieving ones doing showmanship patterns for you all over the kitchen floor!

I've always said that good stallions make great geldings.  With that being said, if your man seems to have a problem with wanting to mount everything in sight, and you find this particularly offensive (as most of us do), either geld him, or sell him.  Hormones are hormones.  Sometimes training just can't fix instinct.  He may be awfully darn talented "under saddle", but chances are that the next woman will probably agree.  You can fix the problem, get rid of the problem, or you can be prepared for an unplanned foal out of a different mare showing up at your doorstep asking for child support.  

I sincerely hope that my observations and words of advice help those in need.  If I help just one man or horse in this complicated world, I'll have met my goal in writing this.  For those of you with additional questions, please don't hesitate to ask and I'll do my best to help.  Just remember: if it takes you six shots of Cuervo before you're willing to get on top of him, he's probably not the right one for you!