Moses is a Paso Fino who joined us for retirement in the beginning of November and I think he deserves a special introduction. Moses’ mom has been a friend and a client for more than a decade. We first met her in 2007 when she chose us to host her beloved horse Faune in retirement. In his early years of retirement Faune was a seriously high maintenance horse, and this led to us getting to know his mom exceptionally well as we always seemed to have issues to talk about and decisions to be made. Thankfully Faune spent his last several years in retirement as a much healthier horse than he was during his first few years of retirement, and we were lucky enough to live with Faune for ten years. Sadly, we lost Faune last fall.
Faune’s mom didn’t have another horse so our relationship changed. We still stayed in touch but we had topics other than Faune to discuss. I was quite surprised when I received an email from Faune’s mom on April 15th. Since that was Faune’s birthday (I always remembered Faune’s birthday since it fell on tax day) I thought it might be a memory about him when I saw his mom’s name in my unread messages. Then I looked at the subject line which said, “I might have done something crazy.”
I will admit that for a few moments I didn’t click open the email to read it after seeing the subject line. You see, I’ve had an 11 year relationship with Faune’s mom at this point, and I know she is capable of some serious crazy. It is always kind hearted crazy, but still crazy. And I’m allowed to say that without offending her because we’re friends and we generally subscribe to the same brand of crazy, so it works and we get each other. Example number one of her kind hearted craziness would be the time she showed up to visit Faune with $300 of horse treats in a carryon suitcase!
Anyway, I spent a few moments frantically racking my brain for what crazy thing Faune’s mom could have done, and the possibilities were so huge that I finally just clicked on the email. One of her dearest friends had posted a video of a really old, sad, skinny horse at a slaughter auction. It was Faune’s birthday and she was feeling nostalgic, so she decided to rescue him. She said the look of terror in the eyes of the emaciated, old, lame horse as they rode him, claiming he still “rode good and had life left in him,” moved her to the point that she decided to do something.
She posted the “bail money” and bought this sad horse who was located almost 1,000 miles away from her sight unseen. Because she’s such a kind person she then immediately contacted us and asked if we could take him. I’ll clarify that and say that she knew she was signing up to pay monthly board, vet bills and all the bills that come with a horse, for this lame, skinny, old, very sad horse that she had never seen. He was at a slaughter auction in East Tennessee, about 4 hours away from us, and she was in Boston. Instead of purchasing another horse that she could ride, she signed up for all of the bills simply to give a horse she would never get any “use” out of, a soft landing. You can see why her brand of crazy and my brand of crazy have meshed so well.
Thus, I felt terrible when I told her that I couldn’t take her sad, starving rescue horse at that time. Number one we always stay full so I didn’t have an opening (although I had never actually filled Faune’s spot in his pasture which is another story in itself), and number two I had no idea what this horse had been exposed to and what his health was like, so even if I could have taken him right away I wouldn’t have. Thankfully her friend who had posted the video of the horse continued to be an amazing person and found a farm about an hour away from us that could take him for a few months. Her friend than drove her truck and trailer to east Tennessee and picked up the unnamed rescue horse. When she went to load him on her trailer she said he was skinnier and in even worse shape than she realized, and the parting words of the people running the auction were, “I hope he survives the trip.”
Thankfully he did survive the trip. He started his next phase of life with kind, loving people and a new name (as I believe his former name was unknown), Moses. Moses was a challenge from the start. Although he was starving and frail, he was also terrified of people. Catching him turned out to be basically impossible for the first few weeks as he wouldn’t let anyone near him. Eventually, with a lot of time and patience, his host family was able to catch him, but Moses never made it quick or easy.
Moses gained weight and health for a few months, and in August his new mom came to Tennessee to meet him for the first time. We also got to visit with his mom during that trip, and we all agreed that moving him to our farm in the fall would work out as Moses had been vaccinated and seemed to be healthy. Fast forward to the first week of November, and Jason and I go to pick up Moses. His host family had kindly already caught him for us and spared us a few hours of trying to catch him. Moses is always very compliant once caught, and he walked right on to the trailer with no hesitation and rode quietly to our farm.
Moses spent the first two days at our farm in a stall and all we did was constantly walk in and out of his stall. We would talk to him, make him endure us petting him, and we would put a feedbag on him. By the second day he had stopped running laps in his stall attempting to evade us, so we started putting him out in a pen made of corral panels in his future pasture (Faune’s former pasture). We constantly walked in and out of his pen every day. Constantly, I mean 20 – 30 times per day, over and over and over. We kept this up for a couple of weeks.
During his first week we also had the vet out to see him. You haven’t officially gotten back into horse ownership without a vet bill. We had the vet out because we had noticed two things. The first was that Moses always made sure he was looking at us with his left eye. No matter how you approached him he tried his best to position himself so that his left eye was facing us. The other thing we noticed was that he could not eat hay. He quidded every scrap of hay that went in his mouth. The vet confirmed that he was about 70% blind in his right eye. We were hoping for some nasty hooks and other issues in his mouth as those can be addressed. Unfortunately he was just missing a lot of molars, and many of the molars he had were below the gum line so his bight didn’t meet. Essentially he has no grinding surface. Moses now eats a big mash of soaked hay cubes and beet pulp twice per day in addition to his soaked grain. The vet estimated his age to be in the 29-30+ range.
No one knows the story of how Moses came to be at a slaughter auction in east Tennessee. His coggins was from another state, I think Texas. Regardless, about the most cruel thing you can do to your really aged horse is not keep them. If you can no longer afford the bills then euthanize them. There are fates worse than death, and Moses is living proof of that. Being half blind in the middle of crowded holding pens, unable to eat forage (thus slowly starving to death), and forced to carry a rider when you are broken down from lameness is the stuff of nightmares for a horse. Moses had to live it, probably for several months, and his soft landing was only through sheer luck. His next stop was a slaughter house in Mexico, after being jammed onto an over-crowded trailer for a few days to get there, all while starving, lame, and partially blind.
Moses is a lot less skinny than he was a few months ago. He is so old and was so broken down and emaciated I don’t know if he will ever look quite as good as we would like, it’s hard to bounce back from that level of starvation when you are 30+ years old with no functioning molars. However, he has continued to slowly gain weight, even since he arrived at our farm a few weeks ago.
After Moses had been with us for about three weeks, we finally decided we had to risk not being able to catch him and let him out in the pasture with the other horses. The horses were all pretty laid back about it as they had been interacting with Moses for weeks in his pen. Moses was really excited to have freedom. He made a few laps around the pasture, sometimes breaking into his cute Paso Fino gait. After about 15 minutes he settled down and started being one of the gang.
To this day catching Moses is not a sure thing. We just took his halter off of him a couple of weeks ago, but he still wears a neck collar. We have to have some way of making it easier to catch him. He’s very food motivated and now knows what a feedbag is so most days he only has to think about it for a couple of minutes before letting us walk up to him to put his feedbag on or put him in his pen for his hay cube mash. On his best days he will actually walk up to us. On his most off days it can take ten minutes to get his feedbag on. I’m sure he has good reasons for his permanent fear of humans, and it makes me sad for him.
His mom said it perfectly to me that, “it makes her heart explode knowing that Moses is now living a happy life. A life without abuse, without starvation, and without being forced to work when he’s lame. He has friends, food he can actually eat, and kind handling. Moses has an ideal life now because one day I made an unselfish choice.” She makes a lot of unselfish choices, I’ve known her for eleven years, but I understand her point.
None of us know how much time Moses will have at Paradigm Farms. He is a very old man who has endured severe starvation and abuse. We’re all just living in the moment with Moses because for now, he’s healthy, safe, and living a life that makes him happy. He has a new leather halter with a nameplate because his mom said he’s probably never had a halter with his name on it. He also has a new Rambo blanket. The first couple of times putting his blanket on and taking it off were adventurous, but he’s pretty quiet about it now. Moses is enjoying each day of his new life thanks to his mom.
Everyone please join me in giving a very special welcome to Moses!