Sunday, August 16, 2020

Back in the Saddle

This story would not be compete without a word about the girls who adore taking care of Scipion and Blanchette.  It started with Awen, 9 years old and passionate about horses. In September 2019  I met Awen walking with her parents, expressly to pass by and visit Blanchette and Scipion. We became friends  and Awen started coming to give me a hand with the various tasks of horse care. Later  Linsday,  also 9 years old and crazy about horses,  came on the scene.  Lindsay's family moved into the house next to the pasture,  so it was easy for her to come give a helping hand.  Often it was Awen and Lindsay together so the two girls soon became friends. 

But these girls aren't only interested in horse care , they are also very interesed in horses riding. Both of them have taken lessons and are serious horseback riding students. They were both anxious to mount Scipion who had already been saddle trained, and so this presented an opportunity for Scipion to keep current his saddle training,  and to keep in shape thanks to the exercise that would provide. I have little ridiing experience and not much desire to get in the saddle, so here was really an opportunity.

For this reason and for Scipion's well being I decided to make the expenditure for the association of buying a used inexpensive saddle and the other various related equipment. We had already put in place a round fenced training area for working/exercising the horses. This was during the Winter/Spring period when Scipion was in excellent form and Awen succeeded in having him trotting and galloping on command. Blanchette also was showing her potential with this kind of training.

Eventually Awen started slowly by mounting Scipion bareback,  and then with the saddle and we did small walks with safety foremost in mind. Lindsay wouldn't be left out and she also got in the saddle.  It was a success story in the making until Scipion had a laminitis attack in July from eating too much rich grass, and he started limping. So that is where we are at present, treating Scipion for laminitis and letting him take it easy to help the healing process. I am hoping that soon, when the summer grass makes the transition to become less rich,  that Scipion will get into good form again. Then we can continue with the work we started to keep up the saddle training, even with Blanchette given the time. In any case all the exercise and training work is excellent for their health, both physically and mentally.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Return of Scipion

With the arrival of Scipion the problem of finding a companion for Blanchette was resolved. But Scipion arrived in very bad health, hardly able to walk, lack of energy and  hoofs in terrible  condition. Furthermore he had horse shoes on the front feet and the farrier could only remove one of them because an abscess on one foot was so painful that the farrier couldn’t touch it.

I had a suspicion that he had one or more tick borne diseases because of a lack of proper care. A few years ago I visited him at his adoptive home and found him totally infested with ticks. I was horrified and asked the woman how this had happened. Her response was that she didn’t like touching ticks!  I was upset and worried but the woman said she would treat the ticks with a toxin called Botox here in France.  Better than nothing and probably too late but there was nothing I could do myself.

In any case at his recent arrival back into my care he had no ticks. But he did have signs of possible tick disease, so the veterinarian came and took blood samples to send to the lab. The result was a strong positive for 3 out of 4 tick borne diseases Lyme included.

The effective treatment for Lyme with horses is especially expensive and difficult. It requires a strong antibiotic to be injected into the vein every day for ten days. This is no easy task given a horse who is not willing to let this be done without resistance. For the cost I had the very good luck to get a donation of 1000 euros to cover the medical expenses. What a godsend for this horse because otherwise I could not pay for that myself without help.

The Lyme treatment was finished end of July 2019 and Scipion showed marked improvement afterward. We had a setback a few weeks later when he started limping because of a bout of laminitis, a problem he will always be prone to because of his past before he was rescued. He responded well to the laminitis treatment and after a few weeks he was able to walk without limping. As autumn came with cooler weather he started doing really well and throughout the winter he was trotting and galloping like a normal horse. Nevertheless the  maladies and negligence of his past have left physical damage and he will always be at risk for health problems, especially laminitis.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Mother and Son Reunion

Weeks passed and after several months Blanchette was still without a companion since the death of Negrette. It is the first time in her life being alone. She turned to me for the contact and friendship and I was obliged to go see her often. Luckily my  neighbor let me put her on some land behind his house so she knew I was nearby.

I thought a lot about options for ending her solitude. I couldn’t just put her with any horse because she could act aggressive towards other horses especially when she was upset or depressed. So I  hesitated and I waited for some clarity.

Then a miracle happened.   Middle of May I received a call from the woman who had adopted Scipion, the youngest of the three horses that I had rescued , and Blanchette’s son. She told me that Scipion wasn’t doing well, that he limped constantly and could not be ridden. She said that she didn’t want to keep him anymore. Without the slightest hesitation I said that I would come get 
him as soon as possible.

So just like that I did something that I never could have imagined having the courage to do.  I rented a horse transport vehicle in Lyon and I drove the 7 hour route to go get him. I couldn’t find anyone available to go with me so I did it alone. For the transport Scipion was given some very strong pain killers from the vet to help him make the trip comfortably. After a difficult time getting him to go into the van, the trip went well.

When we arrived and I put him into the pasture with Blanchette there was a heart warming reunion. They jumped and whinnied for joy and ran around together and instantly became inseparable.  As I wrote on the blog when Scipion  was around 5 years old, their separation when he was adopted was very difficult. They had been together and never separated since he was born ( and of course castrated). Blanchette had been so upset when he left, and she kept calling/neighing for him for three days afterwards.  She was so happy to see him again and they are as sweet and affectionate as two horses can be together.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

RIP Negrette

There is sad news, Negrette died. I got a call the morning February 12 to say that she was lying on the ground and couldn’t get up. I went right away to the pasture and called a veterinarian. He said Negrette had hyperthermia after  spending many hours on the frozen ground during the night. The farmer who lent the pasture brought  some straw to make a bed in the shelter and we put  Negrette there and treated her for hypothermia.  Next day she was back to normal temperature but she still didn’t have the strength to get up.

It is very difficult with horses in a situation like this to know what is the cause of their suffering, since unlike cats and dogs not so easy to take them in for x rays and tests. According to the vet when an aging horse
can’t get up from the ground it is usually the end.

The veterinarian said to wait 2 days and if she still can’t get up she should be euthanized. Horses are not made to lie flat on their side for very long and it starts to cause internal damage after several days.
I stayed with her giving her food and water and massages, hoping she would rebound. But I wasn’t alone, her friend and companion Blanchette was there by her side.   Negrette was totally conscious and she moved her legs as if she was running...was this a sign of pain?  So hard to know with animals. But to be sure she wasn’t suffering too much I gave her pain medication. After I called the vet to come euthanize her, I spent the next day giving her her favorite things to eat, the things she loved but normally wasn’t allowed much like carrots apples and bread. I brushed her and caressed her so that her passage would be full of love and tenderness.

That evening under a full moon Negrette found the strength to pull her head up enough so she could touch noses with Blanchette. I felt privileged to witness this  beautiful and touching moment saying farewell.

The next day the vet came and Negrette passed peacefully. Blanchette stayed next to her body for a long time. Suddenly she started to make a high pitched loud cry and she ran around the pasture in every direction in clear expression of distress. Poor Blanchette , it is the first time in her life she is alone. I cried with her...we had both lost a good friend.  But it really it was  Blanchette who was suffering the most now.  She would  be needing a lot of my attention and care now.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Latest News: Cushing's Disease and a Big Move

Hello supporters,
Since August 2015, in order to provide a small, quality refuge for Blanchette and Negrette,  I have been renting a house with 5 acres (2 hectares) of land.  It has been good to have them right there so that I could give them daily attention.  Blanchette is better trained now to give her feet for hoof maintenance and Negrette's skin allergy has been under control. Recently I saw changes that indicated Cushing's disease, a veterinarian confirmed it, and so we started treatment.  They are responding well to the medication and it is great to see them having energy and being in good spirits again. However the medication must be given daily and it is expensive in France (only one manufacturer) at over 100 euros a month for the two horses. I hope to find a way to get it in the USA for less cost, but for now donations are needed to help pay for the medication here.

Cost in also one of the reasons that the refuge and I are making a big move, leaving the south of France to live in the Burgundy region, an hour north of Lyon.  There I can rent a house for less, and  there are horse lovers to donate a place on their land for Blanchette and Negrette, thus reducing the cost of doing the refuge. There will however be an initial cost for their transport. A professional  transporter charges .90 per km (520km) plus gas, so around €550.  Our transport will be provided by Ervin of Association Cheval Affairs, who maintains a horse refuge with over 30 horses; so paying him for the transport helps to earn some money for his costs as well.  This doubles the value of donations,  helping two horse refuges at the same time!!
Ervin Van-der-Weele of Cheval Affaires in SW France
The necessity for a fundraising effort is strong now given both the medication and transport costs, even though the time required for fundraising makes it difficult.  I last raised funds for the non-profit Helping 3 Horses Association in July 2014.  Since then there have been €3037  of  basic costs for the refuge,  plus the previously existing deficit for a total of €3160 out of my pocket to date, really hard on my low single income.  Add to that the pending costs of transport €550, and 6 months of medication €700 and you can see why funding is needed.  If all my 100+ Facebook and other friends who didn't give last time gave just $/€ 10 or $/€ 20, that could be €2000 to help offset this projected € 4140 cost deficit.  So let's do it!!!  Let's not get dragged down by current affairs! Let's keep acting to make a difference for deeper values.  Please click on the DONATIONS WEBSITE  above to make a tax deductible donation by PayPal (or check)with the DONATE link, You can also get more info on the horse rescue/refuge story by exploring the other links on this blog page.

Merci Beaucoup,
Sherri Opiel from Portland who stayed with me in 2015 and made a generous donation for the horse refuge. Maybe there are others among you who would like to stay with me in France in exchange for a donation to the refuge !

Blanchette, Negrette and Jeannine

Sunday, May 8, 2016

H3H is now a Refuge

The Helping 3 Horses Association has evolved. What was once an effort to rescue three horses is now an effort to create a  refuge for two.  It has been over a year since my last post where I shared the story of Scipion's adoption.  During that year  I  moved (again!)  closer to Toulouse after finding  an old farmhouse to rent with land for the horses.  This house is less than ideal for me  (in bad condition, too expensive, and impossible to heat), but it is good for Blanchette and Negrette because there is 5 acres of flat pasture with a section of woods for shade.. So began a new chapter of creating  a small refuge for the two remaining horses.

There are several reasons why I decided it would be ideal for Blanchette and Negrette to live in a small refuge just the two of them rather than living at an existing refuge in a herd, if they could even get into the existing refuges which  have long waiting lists.  I  learned from boarding them where they were pastured with a group of 6 other horses,  that Negrette is badly treated by other horses when she is in a  group.  Negrette is small and totally non-aggressive, and so she gets kicked and bit a lot by other not-so-nice horses who want to show they are above her  in the herd hierarchy.  For Negrette stress is  factor that exacerbates the allergic dermatitis.   On the other hand, Blanchette  will act aggressively to defend herself when she is in a herd,  but she often seemed agitated by this need to defend her position since she is not a large horse either.  Another problem is that it can be difficult to give them individual attention in this kind of group situation. It was tricky for me to care for and work with them individually because other horses would get jealous and try to interfere, and the presence of the other horses made Blanchettte and Negrette nervous.  Because of Negrette's allergic dermatitis, she needs  ongoing treatment and special care. Not just to treat the lesions but also to provide protection from the insects that cause her allergic reaction.. For example this last Summer/Fall  I was able to place fly masks during the hours of highest insect activity and then to remove the masks for rain and at night...the fly masks can't just be left on day and night without any monitoring,   As for Blanchette, she  still needs individual attention when it comes to hoof maintenance and other training issues.   Finally these two mares have a strong bond and they  live so peacefully  together as a pair.  I wasn't keen to mess up a good thing.  Their bond with me,  is a factor as well. So began the chapter of the H3H Association horse refuge.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Scipion's Adoption

It has been awhile since the last update. I have had a lot going on in my own life, the search for a house to rent in a different area of France, moving and getting adjusted in a new place. I am just starting to turn the corner from all of that. But before I started relocating in December I took care of one very important thing, finding the right family to adopt Scipion. I also waited to post the news until enough time had gone by to be sure the adoption would work, having learned from past experience.

Foot X-rays were done in October and  we had good news that the damage to Scipion's  hooves was not excessively severe.. meaning I could move forward with his adoption to create an ad for posters and the internet. Then came the hard part,  filtering through all the calls and emails.  I tried to be clear that Scipion had special needs, that he had issues with his hoofs so that he could not be doing long difficult treks, and that he had been saddle trained only recently and needed continued training and experience. I had many calls from people of questionable intent. When I talked to Caroline after receiving her heartfelt email, I had a good feeling. They had already adopted a mare, Hestia,  rescued from the racetrack. They planned on waiting awhile before getting a second horse but when her 11 year old daughter saw Scipion's photo...well you can imagine the rest

Luckily, they live close enough so that I could easily make a pre-adoption visit. Everything seemed just what I had dreamed of for Scipion. Caroliine and her partner have renovated a  small stone house with a outbuildings in the country where there are lots of hiking and riding trails. Caroline is an experienced cavalier since childhood, and they have pasture available aound their house plus space for stable stalls. The area where they live is ideal for Scipion because it is on "La Causse" the limestone plateau where the grass is naturally sparser and not a rich,  which will help Scipion avoid more hoof problems from laminitis. But the best part of their place is how the horses live in constant contact with the family, right next to the house and always in view. Another positive was how welcoming they were to me, inviting me to come whenever I wanted spend time with them and Scipion.  They also assured me that they would continue his training, and  that eventually I could ride him as well.

So it was arranged and Caroline agreed to the terms of the adoption and signed a contract saying that she would give Helping3Horses Association the right to re-adopt Scipion if ever they couldn't keep him in the future.  I had learned that this is how horse rescue organizations avoid adopting horses to people who will turn around an resell tham for a profit.

It was love at first sight for Scipion and Hestia when he arrived; so much so that they refused to be separated at night and had to be put in the same stall. (They hadn't yet made a second stall) He was adorable and affectionate with all members of the family, but Caroline soon found how much Scipion needed more serious training before everyone in the family could ride him in total security....he still had a lot of adolescent attitude,  and was not always willing to do as asked, For example, he didn't want to take the bit and couldn't be trusted to give his back feet gently for maintenance every time. So she sent him to a professional for a month of intensive 24/7 training. I was really happy to see that they were willing to give him the education he needed to reach his full potential. During the month his food intake was monitored and he lost weight, another thing that will help him avoid hoof problems.

When I saw him afterwards it was amazing the difference. He was always good looking but now he absolutely stunning, sleek and muscular. During the month his food intake was monitored and he lost weight, another thing that will help him avoid hoof problems.

And now everyone in the family can ride him. I love the photo of the daughter, Marie, with Scipion in full gallop; truly inspiring also to see how gentle he is with Marie and how much he adores her.  Thanks to your support, this handsome intelligent young horse has been transformed, and now has the possibility of a life full of happiness and good health.

As for Blanchette and Negrette the story is still uncertain.They are still being boarded at the previous location which is an hour and a half drive from where I live now.  Last Summer I learned, when I had put up posters in the window of my gallery at St Antonin seeking homes for all three horses, that people were only interested in adopting sadlle-trained horses.  I have been told that Negrette and Blanchette are too old at 15 to be saddle trained. I am not sure if this is 100% true in all cases.  But even is it is possible to continue training them, where to find the resources to repeat the process for two more horses? The association's available funds are at zero and am paying the boarding cost  myself at this point, 120€/month, a considerable sacrifice in light of my small personal budget. But at this time I don't know if  I have the wherewithal to continue a lot more fundraising work; it takes so much of my time and it is difficult to repeatedly ask people for money.

Blanchette and Negrette seem happy enough where they are but it is not the best situation in terms of their health.  For Blanchette the problem is that she has gotten very fat!!! At their current location they have unlimited access to hay all year and unlimited access to rich pasture in Spring/Summer/ Fall.   It is much better to give  a horse a measured amount of hay daily and to limit access to pastures of rich grass by fencing alternating parcels. But in an inexpensive boarding situation with many horses together in the same immense pasture, it is easier to put out bales of hay available to all and to allow free access to pasture.

For Negrette her health issues are not being addressed either. As I have explained before, with her skin allergies, Negrette ideally needs some protection or shelter from insects during parts of the day in the insect season,  not possible tin his kind of boarding situation. Even  if I managed to find an existing horse refuge who would take them, the situation  would be the the same as where they are now, many horses together is a large pasture. Anyway, as far as the exsting refuges go, they are all overfull and there is a long waiting list for horses that are not in emergency conditions.

My dream now is to create a small refuge just for Blanchette and Negrette on land that is owned or rented by the H3H Association so that I can really meet their needs myself. If they were close by, where I could see them everyday and where I could control the situation, this would be possible, and I could continue their training gradually over time with the help of friends. I think in the end that if only I could find someone willing to offer some land for them as a donation or for a small rental fee, I could afford to keep them. At this time it is the boarding cost that is too much for me. If I could just find  some land for them close to home I think the rest, hay and hoof maintenance, would be within my means.

But currently I am far from this dream. When I moved to this new house and saw that there were pastures all around, I thought it would be easy to find a bit of pasture for the two ponies. But sadly I have found that this is very difficult because all the pasture land here is used by the agriculturers for beef cows. So far I have found no one willing to lend or rent just a small section of land  to me, even if I offer to pay the going price. I think this is partly because of the prejudice that the rural locals have toward foreigners.  I find this sad and unfair and I ask myself if I will stay here for the long term surrounded by so much of this mentality. Maybe I am wrong; but I admit I am feeling discouraged at the moment

So at present I am still researching and trying to get info. I plan on researching what is involved in creating an official horse refuge and if is is possible to get some aid from the government. And I continue to look for a place for Blanchette and Negrette close to where I am now, even a temporary one. The insect season is upon us soon and I need to be able to treat Negrette for her dermatitis on a regular basis. Right now I am working on making an attractive flyer to advertise seeking a place for 2 ponies in this area.

That's all the scoop for now. Happily Scipion no longer needs our financial support. But Negrette and Blanchette are needing help pay the boarding and hoof maintenance costs. I especially would like to see the participation of new donors. I know many people who have not yet offered even the affordable participation of $10, which adds up to a significant amount when enough people participate in this way. Many thanks to those who have already helped with donations both large and small. Remember the donations are tax deductible since H3H is an official non-profit organization.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

News, and a Matching Funds Challenge

There's lots of news about the horse rescue. The problems with Scipion's foot are still a concern. He improved after arriving at Marine and David's stable but he still continued to limp on and off and so an appointment with a veterinarian and the farrier was organized. The veterinarian diagnosed an abscess in the hoof,  related to the laminitis, and so it was drained and he was given a shot of antibiotics.
The vet also sedated Scipion so the farrier could do some major work to put horse shoes on the front feet, a sort of prosthesis to stabilize the bad hoof. It was still too early in Scipion’s training to ensure that this work could be done safely without sedation. He was quite a sleepy boy and didn't notice when my friend  Ellynne braided his mane. His hoof was looking pretty bad to me but afterwards he was clearly feeling less pain and was able to  walk without limping. This allowed him to start his training sessions with the horse trainer.

Scipion has proven himself to be as intelligent and eager to learn as I imagined.  He easily advanced at each stage of the training. Scipion seems happy and excited each time he is readied for a training session. I was amazed at how fast he progressed, first working on the training rope, then accepting the saddle blanket and belt without any negative reaction at all.

Next he was fine with the saddle and finally he showed no fear at being mounted. I had been trying to prepare him for this by putting my weight on his back and also by climbing up on a low rock wall and setting my leg on his back..he never showed any fear when I did these things and this fearlessness always impressed me and convinced me he could become a good saddle horse.

But we are very worried about his front right foot. He continues to limp a bit and so his training sessions are light. It has been decided that he must have an x-ray to see if the problems from his previous neglect have caused permanent damage so that he will be handicapped for life . This would mean he could never be ridden for more than very short promenades. It also means that the potential permanent owner who is interested in him would not be willing to take him if this is the case.

Now some news about Blanchette and Negrette.  In mid-May I was busy trying to figure out where they could go since the temporary boarding situation I had found for April and May was not a good one for several reasons. Firstly, it was simply not affordable and the facilities were not up to the price. The pasture was difficult for them because it was on a steep hill with no flat areas and an uneven surface to the land, making it hard to run.  Also there wasn't a smaller enclosure next to the pasture to take them for training. and care, making it impossible to provide either since there were other horses in the pasture as well who interfered. Moreover I could feel that Blanchette especially was not happy. She hadn't bonded with any of the other horses there and acted stressed when they approached her. Maybe she was having back painbecause of the steep slope; the veterinarian had said he thought she had some back problems.

At first I thought it would be good to try and separate Blanchette and Negrette since I thought maybe I would end up keeping Negrette, that no one would want to deal with her terrible skin allergies. It seemed possible maybe I could handle the cost of one horse without help, but definitely not two. So I decided to put Negrette in boarding situation recommended by Marine and I tried putting Blanchette elsewhere with a woman who offered to keep her for a few months at no cost. 

Well that didn't work.  Blanchette was very unhappy. Bad enough being separated from her son, Scipion, and then add the trauma of going in a trailer for the first time (it took two hours to get her to go in). 
But also to be separated, so soon after Scipion, from the last remaining member of her family, her good friend Negrette. Poor Blanchette was so upset, and acted out very aggressively towards the other horses owned by the woman.  In the end we decided to reunite her with Negrette. Another factor in my decision was that realized what a great  situation it is, the place is where we put Negrette. The owners are a very sweet older couple who do this more out of love for horses than love of money. They asked only 60 euros per horse per month. This is very inexpensive especially considering the high quality of the facilities. It is a paradise for horses, an enormous area of flat land with trails going into the woods, an open barn for shelter, and an area where one can easily take out the horses for training and care.(Blanchette still needs more training for hoof maintenance and Negrette needs health care on a regular basis.) Plus the owners give a lot of loving attention to the horses who are boarded with them.
So Marine and David kindly volunteered to transport Blanchette again. This time it  took just an hour and a half to get her into the trailer, but when she came out
it was like she had arrived in paradise. Negrette was there, and also everything a horse could want, including other friendly mares, one with a foal, and Blanchette quickly made friends with the other "moms".

It is nice to watch horses in a place where they can run. When Blanchette arrived she and Negrette ran for sheer joy. Negrette is in heaven too because she has always liked being in the woods and that's where one can usually find her now, being the independent soul that she sometimes is, or maybe it's just that in the shade of the woods she suffers a bit less from the heat, the insects and her allergies.

Marine and David think that Blanchette and Negrette are too old to do more than retire peacefully and that this is the ideal place for them to live out their life.  Sounds good..only problem is the ongoing cost to the Helping 3 Horses Association.  I had intended from the beginning to find new owners to take on the financial responsibilities for all three horses.  

Not only is there the boarding cost but also the ongoing cost of hoof maintenance.  It has been 4 months since the last time their hoofs were cared for and already Blanchette is really needing to see the farrier who is scheduled to come this week.  As I explained earlier, because of the years of past neglect they will need to have hoof maintenance more often than usual. That costs about 40 euros per horse depending on the fees of the farrier.

After some thought I have decided for the time being to let Blanchette and Negrette stay where they are since they are so happy there; I believe it is best for their well being at this time and my horsewise friends have said it would ideal for them to have a period of stability with minimal stress.  Hopefully I can raise enough money to cover the costs of supporting their happiness and well being in this horse paradise for a period of time. It's rare for horses to have it so good;  most people don't have as much land for the horses they own and so the horses are often  kept in small enclosures with only occasional outings to stretch their legs. It would be hard for me to feel good about passing them on to new owners if it meant they would have to live all the time in small enclosures like that. Personally I think that after all the years that they suffered from neglect as living lawn mowers of the previous owner's small fields,  it seems a nice bit of poetic justice that they can now live such a good life with lots of love and care as well.  Only thing missing to make it perfect would be a protective shelter for Negrette during the summer months.

A bit more about Negrette and her special needs. In an ideal world Negrette could spend parts of the day in the summer months in an enclosed shelter where she could be protected from insect bites, which are worse at dawn and dusk. Or during the summer, she would have an electric enclosure where she would able to wear a protective covering without destroying it by rubbing on barbed wire and wooden fence posts. This is what is recommended by all the equine experts for horses with this kind of skin allergy.  Clearly this ideal has not materialized and may never materialize for Negrette. I am doing the best I can with the available resources, to wash her with antiseptic scrub, and to apply products to help give her some relief.  But despite my efforts she is really suffering as we go into the worse of the insect season.

Now it is more difficult for me to give her the daily care she needs since she no longer is located so close by to where I live. Thankfully Natacha, my helper/volunteer, lives closer and so we are sharing the job of going to apply repellants that work for a bit, as well as healing and itch relieving lotions.  My pharmacist recently ordered a lotion for me called DermiteStop specifically for this kind of equine dermatitis. It does help but it is expensive, 27 euros a bottle.

Now you know where the Helping 3 Horses Association stands at this point.  The horses are  definitely being helped but we need more funds to continue at this time.  I am now trying to find the time and energy to do more fundraising. Happily a benefactor has recently come forward offering to match funds up to $1000. This means that now is an excellent time to make a donation,  since all donations will automatically be doubled.

Those of you who have already contributed can know that you have made a difference.
And don't forget that donations are tax deductible; Helping 3 Horses is an official French non-profit association.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Moving Ahead

I haven't  posted for awhile because of my trip to the US which occupied me for most of April. So now it's  time to fill you in on the big events since my last post. One event happened at the end of March, the date agreed upon with the previous owner when the horses would leave his property. I had found a place where they could be boarded that was close to their previous location. The cost of boarding them was high but it had it's advantages. It was close by, was within walking distance so no need to worry about transporting three horses all at once, and they would be with others in a large pasture, so a chance for serious socialization with other horses.

The moving day was a proud one because it was the first time that Scipion and Blanchette walked from one location to another each with halter and lead.  Before this they went from one pasture to another by following the haltered pony, since they had never been halter-trained before I came along.  I was a little nervous about how it would go. Would they stay with me, would they spook and try to run away from me when  cars or tractors passed us on the small country road? To make it even trickier I had only one helper,  the daughter of a friend, Stephanie , who led the pony Negrette, while I had to handle both Blanchette and Scipion solo. Happy to say all went well and I wasn't squished like a sandwich filling between the two horses as we walked to their new location. 
The socialization with the other horses didn't go as well as I imagined. Instead of helping them become less attached to each other it seemed to have the opposite effect...especially Blanchette who was stuck in mama mode, intent on protecting Scipion from contact with the other horses as if he were still a baby foal. I can only hope something good has come of the time they have spent there... to start to break them out of the limited experience of their past life, to prepare them for the changes to come. And it was clear that separating Scipion and Blanchette was the next big change, and a necessary one, for the further development of  them both.

The moment to make this separation came abruptly upon my return from the US because Scipion was doing badly, unable to walk on his right front foot,  hopping around on three legs trying to keep up with Blanchette and Negrette who were often moving around the large pasture to run after or to chase away the other horses. (not always clear which) Scipion had laminitis again, poor guy,  from over-eating of the rich grass that grows quickly in the pastures of this area in Spring and Autumn                    

The past condition of his hooves have handicapped him and made him susceptible to hoof disease. We had to get him into emergency care ASAP, and so the day was set last Monday, for Marine and David to come take him to their stable where he could be cared for and where his food intake could be strictly regulated. Because it would be 4 days of waiting before they could come to get him, I had to get anti-inflammatory medicine from the veterinarian and then construct an electric fence enclosure so that he could remain still and be medicated. I was feeling very guilty for not doing more to find a place for him to stay in April other than in a horse boarding situation where he would be put in a pasture full of rich grass. This episode of laminitis could have been avoided if he had been in a boarding stable that provided better care. And despite my efforts during the 4 days, he was no better when Marine and David came to get him.  At least it only took a half hour of training work to get him to go into the horse van.

Things are turning around for Scipion now! He is looking like a real upscale horse, being cared for like a thoroughbred at Marine and David's stable, where they work like crazy to provide the absolute best care for the horses that stay with them. They trained him to go for the first time into a stable stall where he could rest and where his food intake could b be regulated; then into one of the small pasture enclosures that they have constructed for the safety and tranquility of horses with special needs, without much barbed wire and reinforced with electric banding to ensure security, so that horses can't escape or injure themselves trying. After 3 days with such excellent care he is only limping a little.
Scipion is finally in a situation where his long term health can be addressed, meaning he is  on a diet to lose weight, which will help his hoof problems immensely.  He may not like being on a diet but there's not much he can do about it in such well-controlled conditions. Before he would escaped from the pasture to find more to eat when we tried to limit his intake. But it's not all least he has a sweet mare in the next enclosure to distract him and keep him company. This is all well planned; Marine and David think of everything for the well-being of the horses at their stable. In this photo it seems he is saying, "Jeannine check out my cute neighbor".  What a flirt he is!

Another happy thing for Scipion's development is that he will begin to get advanced professional training.  Scipion will probably always be handicapped so that he can't be ridden for serious competitions or long treks. But hopefully he can be saddle-trained for rides of limited duration and difficulty. I think when he is saddle trained, it won't be hard to find someone very happy to give this exceptionally handsome and personable boy a permanent home. Scipion  and the others are lucky to have the support of animal lovers like you to get him this far. All of this is costly, and even though Marine and David are giving the Helping 3 Horses Association a reduced price, there's still a ways to go to raise enough money to pay for everything.  More farrier services are needed to continue the long-term rehabilitation of the hooves of all three horses. Negrette and Blanchette each also have other issues to address. More about them in the next post.

Along with this post update, I have updated the Donors/donations page and the Expenses page of the fundraising website. The numbers are: € 2036  in donations, and € 2088  in expenses so far, meaning  things are going pretty well. We are more than 2/3rds to the final goal hence the fundraising needs to continue for awhile please share and spread the word to help complete this beautiful story.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Progress Report

I think it is time for a progress report. It has been almost 5 months since I officially started this project to train and rehabilitate these horses to increase their level of health and their chances for long-term adoption. I thought it would take at least a year to achieve this goal and a lot of progress has been made so far.

When I began the training,  Scipion and Blanchette had never worn a halter, never been led with a lead, and did not know anything about what is expected of them for hoof maintenance. Furthermore, they had terrible manners all around, no respect for the personal space required by humans, and no respect for our rules, such as no biting for example. Now they accept the halter easily and will come and follow with the lead. Scipion is now fine with being attached in place with the lead, and Blanchette is now coming to understand that it means to stay where she is without pulling or trying to get away. Scipion used to amuse himself by trying to bite us all the time, now he rarely tries.

Even the hardest part, getting them to give their hooves gently and patiently for cleaning and maintenance is coming along. Now they understand what is being asked of them and so the next goal is for them to understand that they must do it when asked every time and not just when they feel like it. Recently, the second session with the farrier went only a little better than the first, but considering that they were not sedated this time, I think it shows progress.

The owner finally agreed to sign over the ownership of the horses so that they could be micro-chipped and officially registered. The fundraising efforts worked to raise 1000 euros, And so thanks to your financial help, they are all vaccinated, micro-chipped.  And they have official registration/ownership papers now. Before they had no papers whatsoever. They have had veterinary exams with consultations and recommendations for their health issues. Also there is now in place a non-profit association for added support, with advantages for fundraising as well as discounts for services.

They have had  professional farrier services twice in 4 months. Ideally it would be more often but it is still a big difference considering how many years they suffered before without any hoof care. It is still uncertain if there will be permanent damage to the feet. Some professionals have said they will be handicapped for life in the sense that they will never be able to walk or run for long, especially with the added weight of a rider.  I hope this is not true.          

Negrette's dermatitis is now under control for the time being..finally! I believe that she didn't have lice after all. I think the person who advised me that she did was mistaken. And I made the mistake of not verifying this by taking a hair/skin sample for a microscopic exam before treating with harsh chemicals, which may have only irritated her already irritated skin. When the veterinarian finally came, he said she had a secondary bacterial infection and he gave me a treatment of antibiotics for her. With this treatment I also resumed application of my healing salves. And now her coat looks better than I have ever seen it. All the sores from the previous warm weather insect season are gone and the hair has grown back on all the bald spots, such as her tail, belly, forehead, and ears. Things are finally stabilized, just in time to start working on how to prevent the same problems from starting all over again when the warm/insect season starts again soon. This will be a very difficult challenge.
All in all I think this is a lot of progress in just 5 months. And fairly well in accordance with projections; in nearly half a year about half of the fundraising goal has been reached.  Now, it is time to rally again for another fundraising push. As explained in the mission statement there are still important  goals to reach, such as for advanced professional training in boarding stables for Scipion and Blanchette. Plus Negrette will need some serious help this summer, whether is be for expensive insect repellants, for shelter and/or for special coverings to protect her skin from the insects that cause such severe allergic reactions. Hence it is time for round two of Helping Three Horses. And for this round I have finally gotten the french version of the website finished and online. So please spread the word and share the website links. We are halfway there!

English version-

French version-

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Original Plan for Scipion

I thought of many titles for this blog post, "Live and Learn", "Fools Rush In", "The Cart before the Horse". The fact is that I got all excited about a possibility for Scipion's adoption before it was a sure thing, and now I feel rather silly to have to give you the news that is didn't work out.  Sorry folks, I am new at this, and even though an experienced person warned me, I didn't listen.

I think now is a good time to introduce the experienced person in question, Marine Charrel. I have been wanting to write a post about Marine and her partner David, without whom I could not have made a single step to help these the time has come to tell you about them.
Over four years ago when I was settling into my new life here I was looking for a way to volunteer my time to help animals, and to put to use my veterinary assistant training. Since there are no dog or cat refuges nearby here I contacted  the closest veterinary clinic who put me in touch with Marine and David, Chevaux du Causse, with the idea that I could help them with the 30 horses that they had at the time. I started going to help, but it soon became clear that since I had no prior experience with horses, I spent most of the time watching in wonder at
how capable they are.                      

Then I found Scipion, Blanchette and Negrette and  I started spending time with them. They became my volunteer work, and more convenient since they were right next door while Marine and David's place was a 20 minute drive. Quickly the tables turned and it was Marine and David who came to help me. They were the heroes who came and worked on the hooves at the beginning and refused any payment, even though they were both overworked with their jobs and their own horses' needs. It was Marine who has given me advice and who has called me regularly to see how things were going. She agreed to be the Secretary of the Helping 3 Horses Association; without this second member the association could not legally exist.  She has given me constant support for nearly 4 years now. And while I have found that many people in the horse world will give advice, often conflicting; Marine's 15 years experience in raising, training, and helping many many horses means her advice is quite reliablable.

Recently I haven't wanted to ask much of them because they have been even busier than usual achieving their dream of buying an existing equestrian center complete with a stable of 12 boxes, a large covered training area and extensive land/pastures. Between the work of making ready the unmaintained stables and moving themselves and the 17 horses that they currently own, plus the day jobs they both work to satisfy bank and mortgage requirements, it has been a titanesque achievement.  It will take time before they can make the stable pay for itself with boarding, training and
selling the horses they raise.

The original plan for Scipion, as stated in the Mission Statement, was to pay the cost for him to go to a professional boarding stable for training and socialization with other horses. In the back of my mind I was thinking that maybe it would be Marine's stable... but I hadn't asked her outright. So with the recent developments and a need to feel that I had something planned for Scipion's future, I asked, and the answer was yes.  This is what I thought from the beginning would be the most ideal possibility, even though it would be more costly than other options.  So at this point the current plan is the original plan; that he will go to Marine and David's stable in April.  Of course nothing is certain until after  the and learn.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Oh I mean Poux!! Negrette's Skin Care Continued

I am very frustrated at this time because my efforts to get Negrette"s skin malady under control are not working. In French, poux is the word for lice. And after getting her cleaned up to the point that one could actually see better what was going on it became obvious that she is infested with lice. So much for my hope that her problem was only allergy related and not something contagious to other horses; although it isn't clear if the other two horses have been infected since they are not showing the signs or symptoms. Thank goodness that for me and the dog it is not contagious because horse lice are a species of lice that live only on horses.

To get rid of the lice the moisturizing salve had to be abandoned, and the nasty chemicals had to be employed. So I went to the vet clinic and bought the recommended product, here called butox. Not to be confused with botox. (Negrette may  be showing signs of age but her wrinkles are not the issue.) And then about ten days ago I did the treatment as best I could figure according to instructions, adding a capful of butox to one liter of water and applying with a sponge. The instructions say that with the life cycle of of lice it would be necessary to do the treatment again in 10-14 days, to kill the lice that will have hatched from the remaining eggs.      
Either there were a lot of eggs or the treatment didn't work at all, because as of today the lice are as bad if not worse than before. Negrette is losing hair again and there are open sores. I am feeling discouraged. Tomorrow an experienced horse person is coming to have a look and to help me to do the treatment again. And plans are in the works to get a veterinarian to come.

It is more complicated with horses to get veterinary care since normally you can't take the horses to the clinic.  I am trying to coordinate the appointment for the vet to come along with the other veterinary needs, the vaccinations and micro-chipping. I have just enough funds now to pay for all of that for the three horses, but I am still waiting for the owner to make the papers to give the horses to the non-profit Helping 3 Horses Association that I  recently created. This transfer of official ownership has to be done before they are micro-chipped. But the owner seems to be is hedging again and this is making me nervous. We have an appointment to do it Monday. I will let you all know how it goes.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Skin Care for Negrette

As the season's changed this year my focus was on Negrette's skin problems. In October I had asked around for a place for Negrette in the event we had to separate the horses to find them new homes. I found that, even temporarily, people did not want to put Negrette with their horses because they were afraid her skin condition was contagious. Whether this was just an excuse or not, it clearly had to be dealt with, especially since Negrette was suffering with skin so itchy and irritated that she continuously rubbed it raw on tree trunks trying to get some relief.

Now we know the good news, that her condition is not contagious, it is allergy related. The bad news is that there is no permanent cure because it is an allergic reaction to environmental factors that come with warm weather, mostly reaction to flies and insects bites, but also to harsh sun, plus accompanied by secondary bacterial infections that arise when it is warm and humid. It is a well known condition that is genetic with ponies and older horses being more susceptible. In french it is called dermatite estival, meaning seasonal/summer skin disorder.
To manage it in summer, during the day when insects are most active, the best option is to  to keep the horse sheltered and protected from the elements: insects, harsh sun, or the humidity that promotes the secondary infections. For Negrette living full time in the fields as she has been, there's not much hope to ease her suffering. Without shelter there is only the possibility of expensive protective blankets/coverings along with constant use of insecticides and repellants on the skin, neither of which work completely.

For now, in winter, it is a matter of undoing the damage from the previous warm season by cleansing and applying healing salves. So, one sunny day in November, with my current helper volunteer, Natasha, we gave Negrette a bath/shower with betadine scrub.
It was my first experience giving a bath to a horse and it is no easy work. Also considering Negrette had layers of dirt and crusty skin built up over many years of neglect, this is a huge ongoing job.

But she is looking better! Hair has regrown on bald areas
such as the base of her tail and her ears, and the sores elsewhere are starting to heal. The quantity of crusty, flaky, scabby dead skin shedding off is unbelievable and makes for many hours spent brushing and combing,  cleaning and applying salve.

Many hours were also spent researching recipes for home-made equine moisturizing, healing salves and learning to make my own from ingredients such as baby oil, vaseline, zinc oxide,  coconut oil, generic antiseptic spray, witch hazel,glycerine, tea tree oil, lavender oil and rosemary oil. Considering the size of a horse and the cost of a small container of skin salve sold at veterinary clinics, it helps a lot to concoct your own medicines if possible when funds are limited.

I am glad to be helping Negrette, but I am also very worried. Who will want to take her with this obvious health issue that needs constant care? The other two horses both are younger and more attractive with no other apparent health problems aside from the hooves which are getting better with time and treatment. Finding homes for them shouldn't be impossible once they are trained and rehabilitated. However, it is the rare person who would take the less attractive, old horse with health problems that require time and energy to manage. I hope I am not the only bleeding heart in the region.

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Big Leap Forward!

So much has happened in the last two weeks. It began with a discouraging low point. Fall had arrived and Winter was coming;  we were having a weather pattern of rain followed by warm days that was causing the grass to grow just as quickly and richly as in Spring. Scipion and Blanchette were becoming even more overweight on the unlimited diet of rich pasture that the owner continued to offer to the horses. This was increasing the risk of another serious episode of laminitis, meaning more pain and damage to the hooves. The horses were showing signs of discomfort and inflammation.

I was still operating alone and feeling discouraged about finding the help that the horses needed. Virginie had come two times for training sessions with Blanchette. These training sessions helped Blanchette learn a lot about trusting the halter and lead, but it did not solve the bigger problems of the horses’ future. I continued my search for help by putting up signs at veterinary clinics and trying to make contact with horse lovers and equine centers.

Then one of my calls led to a very helpful contact. Her name is Tamara and her horse rescue association is called  L’Assocation Marie Douce. She operates on donations for the work she does. I had spoken with her already and she gave me some advice. But when I told her about the urgent situation, and my plans for raising the money to pay the expenses for these three horses, she agreed to help.

She had the advantage of being French and having experience with horse owners like this one. She contacted him, met with him and explained why these horses needed help. She convinced him it would be a good idea to turn the ownership of the horses over to a non-profit Association to facilitate the transition period. This would enable the horses to be micro-chipped in the Association's name. It is essential that they are micro-chipped because it is the law and legally they can't be adopted unless they are chipped.  This has been a sticky point since the owner will not spend the money to do it himself.

Yesterday, Tamara came with an equine veterinarian and a farrier to start immediate emergency care. The veterinarian gave them shots of  anti-inflammation and pain medication, and also sedated them so that the farrier could work on the hooves. It was very impressive to watch people who are experts on horses and how to manage them. The farrier, Bernard, along with Tamara, were fearless in the face of horses who were fighting them, trying to get away and rearing up, even with sedation. These horses have not yet been trained to give their hooves willingly.  That makes Bernard a real hero; it is rare to find a farrier who is willing or able to take on the daunting task of working on untrained horses.

It’s not just a question of using strength and confidence to control the horses...but of using the horse whisperer techniques as well, knowing how to calm them and gain their trust. I took photos, but I didn’t manage to take any when the biggest horse, Scipion, was rearing up and trying to get away while Tamara and Bernard refused to let go of the lead and managed to hold this 1000 pound animal in place. I was too frozen in fear and amazement to take pictures in those moments, fear for Tamara and Bernard, that they would get trampled or badly kicked, and amazement that they didn’t.

The hooves look much better now but don't be fooled by appearances...this is just the beginning of the rehabilitation process.  Because they have lived so many years with laminitis and overgrown hooves, they now have malformation in the bones, joints  and cartilage of the legs and feet. Partly because fo the pain and partly because of the overgrown shape/length, the horses are forced to put their weight  backwards, on the heel/talon of the hoof. This creates a vicious cycle where the front edge of the hoofs do not meet the ground in the normal way that helps them wear down naturally, so they grow long very quickly which starts the problem all over again.

To rehabilitate the hooves back to an optimum healthy norm it would be necessary for the farrier to trim the hooves more often than is usually required. Ideally, given the money to do so, this would be once every 6 weeks for about a year, total cost of one year for 3 horses, 954 euros  ($1288).

To see before and after photos of the hooves go to the "Hooves" page of the blog.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this story and please share with others who may be interested in helping or sharing.