June 21, 2017 will be a special day here at the new “Alysoun’s Rescue Ranch” in Thurmont, Maryland – it’s the third anniversary of the day Greg and I brought Henry and Caroline home to the farm we then owned outside Middleburg, Virginia.
It was a huge leap of faith for us to adopt this particular pair as our first companion horses, when this was practically our first interaction of any type with equines! And yet thanks to Greg’s determination, we powered through those first challenging months. These days, on my own, I am comfortably caring for Henry and Caroline – as well as their more recently arrived herd member Charlie.
Henry and Caroline were first spotted in April 2014 by a PETA fieldworker who was working in rural North Carolina on another case. The fieldworker learned that the horses’ owner had moved away months before and left the neighbor’s brother in charge of their care – but could see that both horses, particularly Henry (see photo), were severely malnourished and in poor health. PETA consulted an equine veterinarian, who recommended that the horses be removed because of chronic neglect – and given their close bond, that they be re-homed together. The fieldworkers then moved the two horses to a temporary foster home with Katie McCotter (who received PETA’s first annual Gregory J. Reiter Animal Rescue Award in June 2016).
Then Greg and I received this email from Ingrid Newkirk:
“Dear Alysoun and Greg, I hope you are all well …. You know that I will never hesitate to feel out the prospects for additions to your family, and I must ask you if two horse friends who we just rescued from starvation are a forever possibility. They are vegetarians of course, and birds and deer all love and feel safe around horses! Just a thought, in case you are up for this. Otherwise, forgive me. I have to try as finding good homes for horses is tough. With my best, as always, Ingrid.”
I initially feared this would be too steep a learning curve for us, but Greg was convinced it was the right thing for us to do – and so we said yes! – and took a trip to their Suffolk foster home to meet them for the first time.
Soon after we made this commitment, we learned that Henry was a former racehorse who had run over 50 races and earned over $100K during his career.
Greg and I knew we needed a couple months to prepare properly – and so Katie McCotter helped PETA to find a long-term foster setting for Henry and Caroline while we got ready.
We spent two months learning everything we could. Greg purchased a horse trailer and learned to drive our pickup with the trailer attached; he also purchased a tractor and learned all about pasture management. Together we read books and took online classes about horse care. We hired a consultant, and solicited advice from everyone we knew who did have horse experience.
And then came the big day, when Greg and I left our house before dawn to pick Henry and Caroline up from foster care in Suffolk VA, and to bring them home with us to Middleburg. Greg, ever eager for a new adventure in motor transport, drove our shiny new horse trailer empty all 200 miles to Suffolk, and then with horses on board all the way back to Middleburg.
Here is the blog story that PETA posted about Henry and Caroline shortly after we brought them home.
Naturally we experienced some challenges during our first months with Henry and Caroline. Henry suffered from a series of low-level ailments, including cellulitis in his leg and then a chronic sinus infection. And to complicate matters, he was highly suspicious of any form of veterinary or grooming care. (His racing career from 2001 to 2006 had included dozens of “claiming races,” in which horses can be purchased and taken away by a new owner immediately after the race – and we have no idea what kind of life he led between 2006 and the day PETA found him and Caroline in 2014.)
We were, however, fortunate to connect with compassionate and technically expert equine caregivers. Today, Henry and Caroline – along with their newest herd member Charlie – are healthy and happy horses, and they are very good friends to me.