After losing four companion animals to illness in the last year, I am celebrating the spring birthdays and adoption anniversaries of six who are still with me.
Today June 21 is Caroline’s day, the 9th anniversary of the day Greg and I brought her home.
PETA’s fieldworkers found and rescued this petite mare with her larger gelding companion in April 2014, after the pair was abandoned and clearly starving on a small lot in Enfield, North Carolina. The gelding was quickly identified by his lip tattoo as 16-year-old Root Beer Float, a Thoroughbred former racehorse – but the mare’s background was a mystery. A vet guesstimated her age as seven, and her body condition score as 3.5 (on a scale of 1=emaciated to 9=extremely fat). Root Beer Float scored just 2.
Soon after PETA took custody of the horses and placed them in foster care, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk reached out personally to Greg and me about adopting them. Greg immediately said yes, despite our very limited horse experience, knowing that the two horses had few options. We spent two months preparing our property, reading all the horse care information we could find, and consulting with everyone who knew who had horse experience. Greg bought a horse trailer and learned how to drive with it attached to our pickup. I chose the horses’ names, in memory of two 19th century animal rights pioneers Caroline Earle White and Henry Bergh – and so this unnamed mare became Caroline, while Root Beer Float became Henry.
Before dawn on June 21, 2014, with Greg behind the wheel of our pickup, we drove our brand new empty horse trailer from our then-home in Middleburg, Virginia; collected Caroline and Henry from their Suffolk foster home – and later that day, with the help of their foster people, began settling the horses into their new barn.
Their story was featured in a July 2014 PETA blog post Abused Horses Find Their Field of Dreams.
Although Henry was still underweight and prone to illness, Caroline was in robust health — and after two months in foster care, had already regained proper weight and body condition. For the rest of 2014 and into 2015, Greg and I continued learning everything we could about horse care and pasture management, successfully maintaining Caroline’s health while steadily improving Henry’s.
After Greg’s October 2015 death, Henry and Caroline brought me so much solace and pride that in September 2016 I adopted Charlie, another PETA rescue. For nearly six years, and through my moves from Virginia to Maryland to Pennsylvania, those three horses were a happy herd….
Caroline has been social and curious from the start — quick to approach visiting humans, and captivated by neighbor equines and bovines.
Caroline has also been a free spirit, having apparently grown up with minimal human handling. I have never considered riding or otherwise working my horses — but haltering for grooming and vet and farrier care is essential. While Henry and Charlie never challenged me on this, there were days when Caroline was clearly not in the mood, and did her best to exercise veto power. It took years of training for both Caroline and me, until she finally learned that refusing to take the halter was simply not an option.
Henry succumbed to liver disease at age 24 on June 14, 2022, just one week shy of his and Caroline’s 8th adoption anniversary. Caroline responded to the loss of her longtime companion with less distress than I had feared — thanks to help from a trusted trainer, and to Charlie’s presence.
Today, Charlie is Caroline’s constant companion — much as Henry once was. He’s a bossier partner, to be sure — and he will never allow her near his feed bucket, as Henry often did. But Charlie is always ready for a dash across the pasture with Caroline, ready to engage in mutual grooming or to stand guard if she wants to lie down for a nap….
Happy “Gotcha Day,” Caroline! I hope you enjoy many more years with Charlie and me!
Note: While I always use personal funds to cover living expenses for my horses, they have inspired the Greg Fund’s major support for campaigns to end cruelty toward equines.