Feel Good Sunday: Videos – With Love to All Species of Mothers

“Today, is all but a perfect day to remind we two legged passengers on this great Spaceship Earth that we are not the only travelers who experience love, compassion and concern for those who are members of our family and community. 

We at Wild Horse Freedom Federation are fighting with every breath we take to keep the families of wild horses and burros together, free and in the wild where they belong.  That is our singular mission but our eyes are not closed to the struggles of other species and the abuse we as humans rain down upon the innocent.  Hence, we share with you, today, the beauty and grace of many moms who love and care for the young ones.  We celebrate mothers of all species and hope that these glimpses into moments from other families may warm your heart and strengthen your souls.

Happy Mother’s day to all of you lovely and beautiful creatures.  We are all ‘here’ only because of your sacrifice.  May God bless you on your very special day.” ~ love, R.T.

Click (HERE) to view previous Mother’s Day posts on SFTHH


Elephant Retirement: Will Ringling Bros. move be a game-changer?

Video: Restore Your Faith in Humanity in 4 Minutes Flat

“A special heart warming ‘Feel Good Sunday’ submission from our good friend, Grandma Gregg!  I will say no more other than you should have tissues handy as this production made this hardened old coot’s eyes leak.  Keep the faith my very fine friends!!!” ~ R.T.

An Equine Odyssey: How a Girl Lost — and Found — the Horse She Loved

Article by: HELEN O’NEILL, Award Winning Writer

The ‘Force of the Horse’ in Action

A dark bay, nearly black, with a dramatic white blaze on her forehead, everyone thought Burma — the diva of the barn — was a beauty.

But, though friendly and affectionate, the 6-year-old thoroughbred was practically impossible to handle. High-strung and feisty, she swayed impatiently in her stall, chewed the wooden doors, got tangled in her harness, stuck her nose into any box or bucket she could find. She had proved hopeless on the track, despite having a distant blood connection to the great racehorse Man o’ War. She had ugly feet that required special shoes, and an alarming tendency to colic.

To 16-year-old Megan Chance, she was perfect.

“This is the horse I want,” she announced jubilantly in 1998, after riding Burma for the first time at a New Jersey stable.

Her parents were uneasy, urging her to consider a quieter, more manageable mount. But Megan was sure. A tall girl who spent every free minute at the stables — grooming, riding, mucking out stalls, giving lessons — she wanted a big horse with a big personality, one that demanded attention and care, one that would truly test her ability as a horsewoman and trainer.

Her parents relented. And Burma was hers.

For six years, they were inseparable. Megan worked on pacing her new horse, calming her, grooming her, earning her trust. From the start it was clear that Burma would never be a good hunter or jumper: She didn’t have the calm, steady temperament to win in the show ring. And she was sickly — Megan endured whole nights in the barn, nursing her horse through bouts of colic, an intestinal disease that’s sometimes fatal. But Megan loved Burma’s adventurous streak, the fact that she was willing to try anything, loved their deepening bond.

When Megan enrolled at Meredith Manor Equestrian College in West Virginia in 2001, Burma went too. And when Megan graduated in 2003 and went to work at the New Jersey stables of famed Olympian equestrian Frank Chapot, Burma accompanied her.

“She was more than my horse or my pet,” Megan said. “She was my best buddy.”

But, as many horse lovers will attest — and as Megan would discover — a horse who is your best buddy can break your heart.


In 2004, when Megan decided to take a couple of months to travel across the country with her friend Katie Gaylor, her biggest dilemma was who could take care of Burma.

Megan remembered a conversation several years earlier with the horse trainer who had shipped Burma to West Virginia. She is so lovely, Megan recalled the woman saying. If you ever want to breed her, please call me.

Megan contacted the woman, who ran a stable in New York’s Orange County. They made a deal, Megan says. The woman would pay all Burma’s costs — food, shelter, veterinary care — and in return she would breed the mare and keep the foal.

In the fall of 2004, Megan dropped Burma off at well-appointed stables in the New York countryside. They signed a handwritten contract, Megan says, and then she and her friend took off on a six-week cross-country tour. Along the way, she kept in regular phone contact with Burma’s barn; returning for Thanksgiving, she visited her horse at the stables, and found her happy and well cared for — and pregnant.

Confident that Burma was in good hands, Megan moved to North Carolina to take over a stable with Katie. She kept a picture of Burma on the dash of the car and had photos of her all over the house. She would call every few weeks to ask how her horse was doing — and that was how she learned that Burma had miscarried.

She agreed to leave her at the stable for up to a year longer so the breeder could try for another foal.

Months passed. In the spring of 2005 the breeder told Megan that Burma was pregnant again.

That is the last conversation Megan recalls.

At first Megan paid little attention to the fact that her phone calls were not being returned. But when she called one day and the phone was disconnected, she panicked.

She tried to find the woman on the Internet, but she’d left no trace. She tried email, but her messages bounced back.

What had happened to the breeder? What had happened to her horse?

Katie wondered about taking legal action, or hiring an investigator. But Megan didn’t have any money. They could barely afford to run the barn. Besides, as her mother kept reminding her daughter in long, tearful phone conversations, the reality was that something bad must have happened to Burma.

In all likelihood, she had died giving birth. Burma was gone.


Six years passed. On July 6, 2011, two strikingly beautiful thoroughbred mares stood in pen No. 10 at the weekly horse auction in Cranbury, N.J, calling frantically to each other, eyes wild with fear. Number 912 was a tall dark bay, nearly black, with a stunning white blaze on her forehead. Her companion, number 911, was a skinny bay. Both had unusual white branding on their necks — t-47 and t-38.

No. 10 is the saddest stall, the feedlot pen also known as the “kill pen.” Horses here are destined to be shipped to a slaughterhouse and butchered for horse meat abroad. They can only be saved if they are bought, or “bailed,” for a couple of hundred dollars — the equivalent of what they would get per pound at the slaughterhouse.

At her pretty horse farm in Newtown, Conn., more than 100 miles away, Annette Sullivan monitored the auction on her computer. The 43-year-old horsewoman had her hands full with summer camp, and the last thing on her mind was rescuing a horse. But something about the dark mare made her pause.

How in the world could this gorgeous creature — which, according to one Internet posting, had some connection to Frank Chapot’s Olympic stable — wind up in the kill pen?

This horse has a history, Sullivan thought.

A friend connected to a rescue group offered to pay boarding costs if Sullivan would give the mares a home. Sullivan called the auction house. “I’ll bail 911 and 912,” she said, and paid $325 for both.

Papers identified the dark horse as Burma’s Lady, the 15-year-old granddaughter of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. Her companion was 18-year-old Ready to Cry, who had been on the track a few years but had no such famous lineage.

Lady was the beauty, but also more shy. Ready to Cry was her protector and muse, nuzzling Lady, stepping in front of her when anyone approached. Touched by the bond, convinced that the dark horse had a story as compelling as the fictional Black Beauty, Sullivan renamed Ready to Cry “Anna” — after Anna Sewell, author of the classic novel.

The horses seemed healthy and in good shape, but with one puzzling trait: Though they were broodmares, their teats were maiden. They had never given birth.

Curious, Sullivan emailed the stables listed as their last owner — All-D-Reiterhof Farm in Long Valley, N.J.

What she learned disturbed her deeply.

The farm operates a federally approved quarantine station where imported stallions are tested for contagious equine metritis, or CEM, a venereal disease that is treatable but can be devastating if it spreads through a barn. Because stallions show no symptoms, they are bred to two mares. If the mares are not infected, the stallion is released from quarantine.

For at least five years, Lady and Anna (known only as t-47 and t-38) had been used as test mares, bred over and over by foreign-born stallions entering the country. Each time, they were injected with hormone drugs and their reproductive organs were swabbed and flushed to ensure that they didn’t get pregnant.

Sullivan had never heard of CEM — and was horrified by what her mares had endured.

Armin Wagner, who owns the farm, was equally horrified to learn that the horses were alive.

Why do you have my horses? I sent them to slaughter, Sullivan recalls him saying over the phone. He also stressed, in emails to Sullivan, that it was crucial not to breed the mares. Their organs had been compromised by all the testing, he wrote. And Anna had a serious uterine infection.

Wagner refused to discuss the test program on the record. But equine experts and veterinarians associated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which mandates and oversees the little-known program, said the mares are well cared for. It is the only way, they said, to ensure the disease is kept out of the country.

“The mares are well treated and pampered,” said New Jersey State Veterinarian Dr. Manoel Tamassia, whose office was familiar with Burma and Anna. They spent most of the time, Tamassia said, eating hay or out in the pasture. When they are bred to the stallions a few times a year, he added, they are doing what is natural.

“It is a good life for a horse,” he said, “better than being stuck in a stall.”


The vet said Anna’s infection was not a danger as long as she was not bred, and both horses began quickly adjusting to the daily rhythms of their Connecticut home. But the mystery of Lady’s past haunted Sullivan.

The horse rode beautifully. “She has carriage and floats with you and engages,” Sullivan said. “You could feel the energy. There was something so special about this horse.”

Twelve-year-old Haley McNulty, who had been riding at the stable for years, fell in love with Lady, too. Her parents had promised her a horse for her 13th birthday in October, and there was no doubt which horse she wanted. Haley loved Lady’s sweet-natured personality, the way she stuck her tongue out as though she was laughing. And though she had “vices” — chomping on the stall door (“cribbing”) and weaving in the stall — Haley was moved by the mare’s story and all she had been through.

And so Haley started riding Lady several times a week, baking her oatmeal cookies and visiting almost every day. At Halloween, Haley dressed as a witch and stuck whiskers on Lady as her cat.

Sullivan was thrilled at what seemed like a perfect match, but she had nagging doubts about Lady’s health. The mare’s girth was expanding daily: She looked pregnant. But how could that be? Wagner had assured her it was impossible for a test mare to get pregnant.

Somehow, it had happened. A vet confirmed the pregnancy in late September: Lady would likely give birth within a month.

Sullivan’s heart sank. Lady’s uterus was too compromised to carry a foal to term. Even had she been in full health, she was old to be giving birth for the first time.

Sullivan braced herself to break the news to Haley: There was a good chance Lady would not make it. She might die giving birth, or her placenta could be so toxic she might have to be put down.


On a sunny morning in October, Megan Chance Adams dropped her son at kindergarten and checked her computer in Washington, N.C. She clicked on a Facebook link forwarded by a friend and saw a picture of a horse, a beautiful tall dark bay with a familiar white blaze.

Megan gasped.

“I found Burma,” she screamed on the phone to her mother. “Oh my God, she’s alive.”

“Are you sure?” her mother asked.

“Of course I’m sure,” Megan said, sobbing hysterically. “I know my horse.”

She called Sullivan, who listened patiently as the weeping young woman described everything about Lady — from her messy stall to her bad feet to the quirky way she stuck out her tongue. There was no doubt: Lady was Megan’s Burma.

Sullivan assured Megan that the horse was safe and well, but added that she had been through a lot. Gently, but without sparing any details, she described the test facility where Lady had spent five years, her rescue, her dangerous pregnancy.

Next Sullivan called Haley’s mother and left a message saying Lady was no longer available for adoption. Then she went to the barn. Stroking Lady’s forehead, she offered a silent prayer that the mare would survive.

Over the next week, Megan and Sullivan talked nearly every day. Megan told her about the contract with the farm in New York state, about how the woman and Burma had vanished. She told her how heartbroken she had felt, how guilty for letting her horse down. Now 29, Megan was married with a 4-year-old son and working in a pharmacy. She had taken some time off working with horses to focus on being a mom. But she had never stopped thinking of Burma.

On Oct. 26, a cold and rainy night, Burma went into labor.

For hours she heaved and sweated and moaned. Several times, Sullivan and the vet wondered if they would have to euthanize her. The foal was stillborn and twisted, its legs backwards. Even after sedating Burma, it took the vet, her assistant and Sullivan all their strength to wrap chains around the stunted fetus and pull it out.

They tried to present it to Burma, so that she would understand her baby was dead. But she didn’t want to know. She screamed and reared and banged at the stall, yanking out her IV.

In desperation, Sullivan went to Anna’s stall. She walked the mare over to Burma. Anna nuzzled her friend. She sniffed her. She whinnied softly. Burma grew quiet, and stopped banging at the sides of the stall. She looked at her companion with such sadness that Sullivan wept.

“I was mush,” Sullivan said.

Megan was a wreck, too, anxiously waiting by the phone in North Carolina, fearing the worst, willing her horse to survive.

Sullivan kept her updated with text messages. Both knew that the next few hours were critical. The placenta was toxic. If it didn’t expel soon, Burma could go into shock and would have to be put down.

About 24 hours after the birth, Sullivan messaged Megan.

We have placenta!

Megan collapsed in sobs. Burma had pulled through once again.


On the day after Thanksgiving, Megan drove from her mother’s house in New Jersey to Zoar Ridge stables in Connecticut.

She was about to see Burma for the first time in six years. And she was terrified.

Would Burma recognize her? Would she forgive her?

Heart pounding, she walked towards the pasture where Burma was grazing.

“Burma,” she called softly, “Burma.”

The mare flicked her head and looked up, ears pointed, curious. Slowly she ambled over. Trembling, Megan reached out and stroked her. It was hard to believe, after all this time, that she could touch the horse she had never stopped grieving.

In the barn, Burma didn’t take her eyes off Megan. It was as if she was trying to remember, to piece together all that had happened.

Megan and Sullivan agreed that Burma would stay through the holidays to continue her recovery, and move to North Carolina in the New Year. There, a beautiful new barn awaited her. After retiring, Megan’s father-in-law had built a small pleasure horse farm on a 70-acre tract in Washington. At the Lazy A, Burma would have a warm stall, plenty of companions and lots of hay. And Megan would visit every day.

For Megan, the reunion brought back a flood of memories — and questions.

Though she had long forgotten the name of the woman she had entrusted with Burma, she did remember the name of her shipping company: Horsefeathers. It turned out the business had once belonged to Kim Martin, a horse trainer in Warwick, N.Y. Martin, who goes by several other names, remembered Burma well, but she has a very different recollection of her deal with Megan.

There was no contract for a foal, Martin said. “She gave me the horse because she didn’t have the money to keep it.”

After running into legal and financial difficulties in 2005, Martin said she gave the horse to her friend, Wagner, who runs the test facility.

“I’m glad she got her horse back,” Martin said. But she insisted: “It was mine to give away. It was never lost or stolen.”

Martin’s account infuriates Megan’s husband and other family members who had watched her suffer over the loss of her horse. But it matters little to Megan.

At midnight on Jan. 11, a throng of friends and family gathered at the Lazy A, cheering as a horse trailer pulled into the stables.

Burma was home.

Sullivan watched the homecoming on her computer in Connecticut. It had been bittersweet to say goodbye to her rescued Black Beauty. But happily, the mare’s saga was over.


Except it wasn’t quite the ending.

After Sullivan posted Megan and Burma’s story on Facebook, and local media in Connecticut and North Carolina picked it up, a Kentucky horsewoman came forward to say the real Burma’s Lady was happily grazing in a field on her farm.

“I don’t know what Burma she has,” said Cheryll Frank of Georgetown, Ky., a few days after Burma’s arrival in North Carolina. “But Burma’s Lady by Tsunami Slew is sitting outside my window, and I have all the papers to prove it.”

Frank’s announcement launched a frenetic series of email and phone call exchanges between Frank, Megan, her mother, Sullivan and others. They checked the lip tattoo numbers of both horses against data with The Jockey Club, where thoroughbreds are registered. They checked with the American Equestrian Association and the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau.

Together they solved the mystery.

Megan’s Burma is actually Burma’s True Love, four years older than her half-sister, Burma’s Lady. They were born to the same dam, or mother, but have different fathers. (Burma’s True Love is not descended from the great Seattle Slew.)

Megan had only ever called her horse Burma. The name Lady appears to have been added when the horse was stabled with Martin.

For her part, Megan couldn’t care less about her horse’s name or lineage. All that matters is Burma is back where she belongs.

At the Lazy A, Burma has settled in happily with Lacey, a pony, and Dano, a gelding. Lulu, the 13-year-old chestnut mare, has become her new friend.

“I intend to spoil her and love her and pamper her and watch her grow old,” Megan said one recent sunny afternoon as she cleaned the stalls. “She’s going to be my princess, aren’t you, Burma?”

Hearing her name, Burma trotted over. Pushing her nose against Megan, the princess mare — Burma’s True Love — cheekily demanded another carrot.




Helen O’Neill is a national New York based writer noted for writing feature articles for major national newspapers and publications.

Press Conferences, Protests and a Festival of Love

(In My Humble Opinion) by R. T. Fitch ~ Author/Director of HfH Advisory Council

The Wild Horses Thank You!

It’s been one helluva week.  Many thanks go out to those who took of their own time, and resources, to plan, travel and execute activities during the BLM Advisory Board Meeting of this past week.  My head is still whirling but then again, it does not take much to make that occur.  But overall, the question remains…did we make a difference?

My answer would be a resounding YES!  From the quality and professionalism of our press conference; the in depth and quantified remarks and recommendations to the Board; and the demonstrations; the advocates were on the mark and stated their case, clearly.

I reserve the right to discuss the meeting in further detail, later; but everyone made a sincere and dramatic impact.  I would have liked to see a couple of hundred more folks there, or maybe a couple of thousand; but considering the economy, we were lucky to have the participants that we had.  But, here is the point…whether you were behind a microphone, holding a banner, calling your legislator or faxing the White House…you made a difference and that difference was a profound one.

It is difficult to ascertain from within the battlefield the progress of the war as you are, personally, grappling with the enemy face to face and one on one as your entire universe implodes down to a live or die confrontation with the enemy of choice.  But a far broader view will reveal that the collective efforts of the army, of which you are a member, has made a significant advancement into the weak, untrained and ill informed opponent who may out number us but by no means has the mental capacity to strategically defend a position that is founded in a lie.

It came home to me for a brief moment, tonight.  I just stepped off from a jet plane, today, but will step onto another one tomorrow, then again another the next followed by another one the day after and so on and so on, so late tonight I took a sip from the goblet of life and pulled up a chair to watch Terry interact with our horses in our front pasture.  Life is fleeting; we must stay centered and draw strength from all of the “life moments” that we are given and I received a potent and poignant one this evening.

I simply sat in the shade with two geriatric German Shepherds flanking me and together we watched a dance of love in the lush grass of the pasture.  Terry rubbed and stroked the ‘boyz’ as they gathered around her to give her hugs with their eyes half-lidded.  There was so much love in the air that you could have cut it with a knife; it was as thick as was the humidity.  But as I watched the slow dance of mutual regard and respect it became apparent what the horses were doing, it was obvious in both their behavior and their demeanor.  They were saying thank you and their kind regard did not fall upon deaf hearts.

And as my eyes welled up in preparation to begin leaking, I heard a soft sigh behind me and felt the warm breath on my ear, even the dogs turned around but I did not need to, I knew I was not alone, I was alive with the essence of the spirit of the horse so I simply whispered:

“We are not there yet, Ethan, but we are closer.  I made you a promise and that I shall keep, we will win as we will never quit…and, I miss you so very terribly.”

I know not how long I sat there basking in the warm glow of my past friend’s presence but it was a soft kiss on my forehead that brought be earthward.  Terry was leaning over me, smiling and gently she whispered;

“The boys said thank-you, they knew R.T., they knew.”

I smiled back and replied;

“They all know, Terry…we have much work to do.”

And we walked to the house, hand in hand, for the last time in many weeks.

My heart is heavy yet still it has wings…there is much work to do.

Thank you, all!

The Near Miss

Original story by R.T. Fitch ~ author of “Straight from the Horses Heart

The “Other Side” of the Story – An Excerpt

Since the publication of “The Drive-By” last Sunday I have received multiple emails asking for the end of the story.  In reality, folks, there is no “end” to the story as we are continually in struggle against cruelty and abuse aimed at our American equines both domestic and wild.  BUT there is another perspective to the story which we submit to you, here.  Again, this is also an excerpt from our book and a story from the heart.  The battle rages on.” ~ R.T.


She didn’t know why she had not seen them before.  She had driven by that little patch of pain for years and remembered seeing something up there, but she had never in her life seen what she saw on this day, never.

She was driving north, up that old country road that lead to her elderly aunt’s house.  This was a trip that she had many hundreds of times over the past several decades, straight up north on the old gravel road, kicking up enough dust to be seen by the space shuttle as it flew over Texas.  She used to think that thought and it would press her to move even faster as if to say hello to those up in space.  Maybe that is why she had never seen them; she did not know.

Today was different, though, for no reason as she raced up that empty country road, she paid attention to the often barren but always empty country land.  Her eyes drifted from left to right as she tapped her left foot to the rhythm of the Blood, Sweat and Tears song booming out her XM radio locked permanently on the 70’s station.  She swayed her head from side to side to match the flow of the music and allowed her mind to drift back to the “good old days” when her heart was pure, whole, intact and ready to take on the world.  She remembered the words he used to woo her as they sat looking out at the dark lake, at midnight, in his dad’s new Dodge Polaris…this song was playing.  She allowed herself to remember the kiss, the caress, the feeling of her heart leaping out of her chest and just as she was slipping down the tunnel of darkness towards remembering the betrayal, she saw them.

She jumped and clutched the steering wheel as if electrocuted and snapped her head around to the left as she gasped in horror at what she saw.  It took several seconds for her body to react to what her eyes had just seen so her truck continued to barrel up the road until her shaking foot finally found the strength to step on the brake pedal, stones scattered as she came to a half controlled skid in the middle of that desolate country road.  She sat there for a minute, softly panting and trying to put the image into perspective as she had traveled too far out of range and could no longer visualize the horror.  What were they?  How hideous?  What could they be?

Being alone, she thought that maybe it would be better to continue on and not go back, just head up to the road to her Aunt’s house where they would sip Diet Dr. Peppers and she would here the same old stories about her deceased mother, good stories, but old after you had heard them for at least a thousand times.  Maybe that should be what she should do, but…she would never be able to relax as the images would be haunting her during her visit and she knew that she would have to drive by them on the way home.  What to do?

While her mind debated over the best course of action, her heart put the truck in gear, backed it up, turned it around to where she had seen the abominations and headed back down the road to the location of the viewing.  Once there, the truck deftly performed a U-turn and parked on the other side of the road with the drivers side window in full view of the scene from hell.  She slipped the truck into park, pushed on the parking brake, let it idle to keep the AC running, took a deep breath and turned her head to the left to stare out over the shoulder and the barbed wire fence beyond.  A little gasp was heard as she quickly drew air into her lungs, her lower teeth slowly applied pressure to her upper lip, and the tears that began to form in her eyes made the vision of death begin to blur.

As she sat frozen, with her head twisted to the left, her right hand appeared to develop an intelligence of it’s own and without any visual direction from the head it began searching and groping on the front bench seat, looking for something.  It riffled through the newspaper, by-passed the purse and bingo, snatched a hold of the handle of the digital camera that was lying close to the passenger’s side.  The right hand and arm pulled it close to her chest as the left hand rolled down the window, little whimpers of despair filled the cab.  As the drivers window clunked itself down into the cradle inside the door, a blast of hot air roared into the cab bringing the stench of death, or rotting flesh and entrails, she almost vomited in the truck but pressed her left hand to her mouth as her right hand and camera shook against her chest.  She wept.

Through the tears she found the strength to put the camera to her face, to focus the telephoto lens and begin clicking off pictures.  She cried as the clarity of the horror came to her through the viewfinder, her heart was breaking and she felt so helpless.  As she sat and clicked the pictures, two of the horrible, emaciated skeletons turned to look at her, they had been standing over the body of one of the own, in a swarm of black flies…but they must have heard her.  Awkwardly they turned to face her, some several dozen yards away.  They turned and stared with sunken dull eyes, eyes that screamed with pain, fear, confusion, and abandonment…they stared and she took pictures.  The larger one tried to move towards her and almost fell as he stumbled on the rocks, the smaller one tried to follow but had to stop every other step to work up the strength to move forward.  For what seemed like hours, they stumbled their way towards the fence that ran along the road and closer to her, still taking pictures.  They made it to the fence, it appeared to be a serious test of their endurance, and they hung their heads over the barbed wire and panted while they watched her.  Off in the far corner she could see another one standing, rocking in pain, but he did not turn, he did not move, only these two and they looked right at her.

She felt the pull, she could almost touch the feelings that these two exuded, and she must at the very least, go to them.  She opened the door of the truck, stumbled across the ditch as she did not stop taking pictures, and walked up to within five feet of the emaciated, fly covered beings.  The stench was unbearable, she stopped pushing on the shutter, the camera lowered and she tried a weak attempt at a smile so as not to frighten them.  Instead of a sob, a frustrated squeak of a laugh came from her lips as the two looked so intently at her, as if she could save them from the fate that had befallen them and those behind in the mean paddock.  She felt weak, helpless and reached out to touch them.  Two sore covered noses stretched out to smell her hand in hopes that she had brought them nourishment; all she could do was stroke their patchy, scabbed foreheads and whisper; “Hold on babies, I will get help, don’t give in, fight, I will get help.”  And with that, she bolted across the ditch, up the shoulder and jumped into her truck.  She rolled down the window and hollered, “I’ll be back, hang in there, I’ll be back!” and before the words could fade, she pushed on the accelerator and the truck leaped forward in a flurry of flying gravel and dust.

Her pulse was pounding, her mind was racing, she had to help, she had to do something, they were about to die, and she must take action.  And as she drove to the sanctuary of her Aunt’s home where a phone and a computer waited, she began to form the plan, a direction of action that could be taken, the numbers that she needed to call, the website that she needed to go to, she would not wait, she would not stop, she needed to save those horses.

And as she drove off out of sight; another equine soul departed the world in the mean paddock behind her, she did not know this, she did not need to, for she had given a gift to the two who remained, the two that were still prisoners in their cell, she had left a bit of herself with them, she had given them hope.  And as the dust began to settle from her rapid exit, the two who remained looked in her direction with dulling eyes, yet uplifted hearts…they knew, their equine spirits knew.  They knew that they had a chance; there might be hope because they knew, in their heart of hearts, that a Horse Rescuer had been born that day…they knew; and so…they waited.

The Drive-By

Original story by R.T. Fitch ~ an excerpt from “Straight from the Horse’s Heart

It’s Sunday and as I have promised in the past, and often failed to follow through with, we will take a break from the battles of protecting our equine cousins and refresh our souls a bit.

It’s been a rough week for the horses, again.  More nonsense out of the horse eating Wallis camp, bad news from the BLM regarding the future of our wild ones and the horror of over 1,000 neglected animals out in a Montana “Sanctuary”.  But the later bodes some good news as dozens of volunteers and several volunteer organizations are making progress in saving those animals from a horrible and painful fate.  And in honor of all those who give of themselves for those who cannot speak in their own behalf we dedicate our story, today.

This is why we do what we do…from the perspective of the neglected and abused…this is the fuel that drives us, keeps up awake at night and motivates us to uplift each other so that the mission can continue.  This is just one generic example/story that I penned many years ago through the eyes of those who suffer.  This is why we are here!” ~ R.T.

The Drive-By; Through Their Eyes to Our Hearts

Once upon a time, on a small one-acre paddock in rural central Texas, there resided several horses; unfortunately, not in the best of conditions. It was a mean enclosure, boarded with barbed wire and natural cut poles whose bark had been eaten off long ago by the horses held captive within.

There was no grass left; there were only rocks, litter, junk, and dung. In the southwest corner was the old rusting shell of a 1971 Super Beetle, a proud car in its day, but now diminished to a rust red hulk with broken shards for windows that looked like the ragged teeth of a dinosaur long dead. Nearby, several faded and broken plastic tubs littered the area: some overturned, others shattered. These vessels once held life-giving water and feed; their present condition indicated that such memories were in a distant past.

In the southeast corner, stretched out like a toppled skeleton of a giant alien, was a ruined windmill. It had come crashing down during a thunderstorm quite some time ago. Its broken vanes lay very close to the barbed wire fence. Only a few more feet and the prisoners within the enclosure could have escaped; but that was not their fate. The windmill lay ruined, no longer able to provide the captive horses with the water that they so desperately needed.

Near the northwest corner stood an emaciated gelding, shivering from pain; he made no sound, but simply rocked from front to back. It was obvious that he was in severe agony. Besides the protruding bones, there was a gunshot wound to his left rear hip where dried bloodstains ran down his back leg. Black flies still swarmed around the dried up wound and maggots could be seen moving within. The stench was unbearable. He stared off towards the horizon, his pained mind seeing vistas not visible to the naked eye. His breathing was labored, dry, and raspy. His eyes were glazed and sunken from starvation. He hoped for the pain to stop, he hoped for release, he hoped for freedom.

The eastern portion of the mean paddock was frontage on a secondary gravel road, not often traveled. When people drove by, no one stopped to help or even bothered to slow down. As a rule, beer bottles or cans were thrown at the horses with gunshots being fired from time to time: one even found a home, in the left hip of the starving gelding.

In the middle of the death cell laid a gasping mare; above her stood a grotesquely thin stallion and another mare in just as bad of shape. Their breed and color where indistinguishable due to their lack of form and soiled, patchy, coats. Their heads were lowered as they looked intently at the ailing mare.

“What did I do?” whispered the mare, “What did I do? I loved them; loved them all who came into my life.” She paused to cough painfully, “What did I do to deserve this?” She sighed and the sound of her breath rattled from deep down in her throat. She wheezed and coughed again. “I loved my people so…” The two other horses could see that she mouthed the word “much” as another rattle escaped from her. But this one lasted longer and when it stopped, there was not another. Her eyes no longer blinked.

The mare and the stallion lowered their heads to nudge her, but there was no movement. Slowly, they backed away with their heads still low and their eyes half closed. They stopped some distance away and looked at each other, sighed and then looked over at the wounded gelding shivering in the corner. The stallion shook his head; he was about to speak when they heard a sound behind them on the frontage road.

Slowly and carefully the two starving horses turned to find that a vehicle had stopped on the road and someone was peering out of the driver’s window at them. They did not see many people and had not seen anyone stop for a long time, so they gave the vehicle their full attention. It was a small pick-up truck. Inside they could see a female human staring at them. A little light went on in both of their heads, and they were drawn to come closer.

As they slowly and painfully shuffled towards the fence, the woman fiddled around the inside of the truck, popped open the door, and jumped out with a camera in her right hand. She left the truck door open and began to snap pictures of the horses. The horses saw the camera; they were not afraid; and for a fleeting moment, they hoped that the camera was something to eat. So, when they reached the fence, they hung their heads over and beseeched the woman to come closer.

The woman carefully walked across the road’s shoulder, picked her way through the trash in the ditch, and came up to the fence line. She stood several feet away from the horses and continued to take pictures; she had been so busy taking pictures that the horses had yet to see her face.

Finally, the mechanical clicking stopped and the woman lowered the camera revealing a tear-smeared face and downturn lips with very small sobs escaping from her mouth. She stood there for a moment while the tears streamed and looked disbelievingly at the horses. The stallion cocked his head as he looked at her, and a gentle little laugh escaped the smile that popped up on her face. She slowly walked up to both of them and lovingly stroked their heads. They attempted to see if she had food but none was to be found—only words.

The woman whispered, “Hold on babies, I will get help. Don’t give in. Fight. I will get help.” And, with that, she bolted across the ditch, up the shoulder, and jumped into her truck. She rolled down the window and hollered, “I’ll be back. Hang in there; I’ll be back!” And, before the words could fade, the truck leaped forward in a cloud of dust, spewing loose gravel in all directions. Soon, all that was left was a settling cloud of dust drifting across the enclosure.

The stallion turned to look over the mare in the direction the truck had disappeared; he laid his chin on her withers and sighed when he heard yet another sound: the crunch of gravel, behind them, and a dull hollow thud.

They turned to see that the gelding had gone down; he had fallen on his right side with his head hung up on the bottom strand of the barbed wire fence. With what little strength they had left, they turned and moved as fast as they could towards the gasping gelding. As they drew nearer, they could hear his moans and the mantra that they had all become accustomed to; they could hear him articulate, “What did I do; what did I do; I loved them and gave them my all!”

The stallion stopped; the mare attempted to do so, also, and almost stumbled. They stood a short distance from the gelding, listening to his song of lament. The stallion slowly turned his head to look down the road at the now long-departed truck. The mare followed his gaze.

“I hope she hurries,” he coughed; “I hope that she does not forget.” The mare nodded.

They both stood there, shaking and rocking, and………they waited.

Men, Horses, Sex and a Thing Called Love

(In My Humble Opinion) R.T. Fitch ~ author of “Straight from the Horse’s Heart

Rebecca Williams, VP of Habitat for Horses, with a couple of the Fitch boys ~ Photo by Terry Fitch

Recently I was engaged in an email conversation, with a group of colleagues, on the issue of the extensive cruelty exhibited by Federal agencies and our government, overall.  The discussion was centered on the unimaginable suffering that our native wild horses are subjected to at the hands of the Obama administration’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) headed up by Bob Abbey under the direction of 5th generation rancher, Ken Salazar the Secretary of the Department of Interior (DOI).  As the conversation progressed it became apparent that the bulk of the mindless cruelty, shown to our federally protected mustangs, is administered by and distributed through men.  Hence, the question arose,

Why is it that men consider equines to be such a threat?

I found the question to be of great interest as both myself and my good friend Jerry Finch, President of Habitat for Horses, have been pondering this same issue for many years.  Jerry and I have been in the horse rescue business for over a decade and we often wondered, as we looked around our ranks, where are all the guys?

Now my intent is not to insult nor do I wish to stereotype but if you will indulge me I would like to offer my observations from well over a half a century of living with and around my own gender.  If there are any gentlemen out there who might recognize themselves in these words take heart as you may be able to make a significant shift that could reap you ample rewards in your current and future relationships be they equine in nature or with human females, they all subscribe to the same forms of acknowledgment.

Overall, and this is huge, the bulk of all men are insecure…full stop.  That’s why we speak loud, push things around, believe that size matters, play with balls and call it a sport, start wars and subjugate women and animals.  Ya can’t deny that boys.

Men like things that they can control such as cars (just point it to where you want it to go and it goes), boats, aircraft, guns, tools, dogs and all things that bend quickly and directly to the male whim.  Men cannot nor ever will be able to adequately command or control cats, horses and/or women…ain’t gonna happen so the result is, often times, abuse and neglect.  Even though I claim no formal education in psychiatry it doesn’t take more than a high school education and an in tune heart to figure that one out.

Terry Fitch with her Pele ~ Photo by R.T. Fitch

Female induced abuse and neglect upon an equine is very rare and is usually associated with some form of mental disorder and when was the last time you heard of a husband having the living crap beat out of him by his wife?  Hard to conjure that image up isn’t it? (IMHO)  Have you ever read about an innocent adolescent boy being raped by an older woman?  That was the stuff that dreams were made of when I was a teenager but much to my chagrin I was never abused in such a manner.

The male insecurity is amplified when the woman in his life falls in love with a horse and here is where real sparks can begin to fly.  Being inherently insecure the male is jealous of the fact that the human female he desires is sharing and spending love, time and attention on the horse that should be spent on him.  He feels that she must not really have the care and concern for him that he wants or needs if she can show so much affection to another creature while he only stands in the wings.  This insecurity is what has driven many equine related relationships into divorce court, we have all seen it a dozen times over.

There is also the Freudian sexual thing all wrapped up into that mess but that is more than we can go into, here.  Again, it goes back to the bigger is better syndrome and the size thing.

Now men who love women who love horses have a couple of things in their saddle bags that their brothers do not; they are comfortable in their own skins and secure with their sexuality, hands down.  If the woman of a horsemen loves a horse the man sees that women with an expanded heart and a depth of feeling that warms his insides.  Looking out across the pasture and seeing my wife hugging on her horse lights me up because she cares so much about something so special and has room in her heart for not only me but other sentient creatures it just plain turns me on, it’s that simple.

Women who love animals are special spirits as they have the unique ability to carry their compassion outside the realm of human circles and can spread sunshine to all the other travelers on this spaceship we call Earth.  And women who love horses are truly exceptional in the breadth, depth and conviction of their love as they not only have taken the leap from human ties but have bonded and partnered with a creature that is many times larger than her physical being.

Artist Leslie Anne Webb with one of the Loves of her life ~ Photo by R.T. Fitch

Horsewomen have changed the face of the Equestrian world over the last 40 or so years.  The days of using manly terms like “broke” have been replaced with gentled, partnered or bonded.  There are a few guys out there working with horses but they have become smart enough to develop and promote like techniques knowing that their largest audience is the compassionate side of the human race.

But bullies be forewarned; all of the love and compassion that a woman shows a horse can quickly be turned into the hottest and most tenacious fire that you ever hope to see if you should be guilty of harming any equines within her realm of influence.  This is something that abusers have known for a long time as you just do not want to cross a woman over being abusive to a horse and this is also a lesson that the BLM is learning at the very time of this writing.  The most honest, sincere, committed and knowledgeable equine advocates on this planet are women; we accompanying males pale in comparison.  There is something almost magical and supernatural about the ambiance of the women who are dedicated to the cause and commitment to ensuring the health, safety and welfare of our American horse be they wild or domestic.  For an enlightened male this is a tremendous blessing but for the slow to learn, it could spell their demise.

Maybe it’s genetically driven guilt for the sins that my brothers have rained down upon woman and horse alike or perhaps it’s a misplaced chromosome that bends me to their way of thinking but regardless of  the subliminal driver there is one thing for certain; if there is ever any hope of putting ourselves back in touch with the planet around us, and the other inhabitants of this world, it will not be the males of our species but the female who will save us from our own eminent self-destruction.  For within the spirit of the woman resides not only the hope for our future but the heart and the soul of the entire human race.

I am beyond pleased and proud to stand amongst the thousands of women who have made the commitment to protect the most benevolent of all animals on this planet.

I respectfully take off my hat and thank you for allowing me to share your grace; all of you special souls are my most heartfelt hero’s.

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