1998 bay Thoroughbred mare
registered Name:Phenomenal Times
type of Rescue: Owner surrender
intake date: 10/4/17
adoption date: 4/16/18
length of time with SAFE 6 months
Adopted by Humanity for Horses Sanctuary, Mt Shasta CA
Belle and her daughter Aurora were surrendered to SAFE by their owner who was no longer able to take care of them. Belle raced in the PNW as a 2- and 3-year old, and retired with a record of 1 win and 1 second in 11 starts. After the track, Belle went on to have a career as a sport horse and was ridden extensively, but by the time she came to SAFE, she’d been idle for about ten years. She was bred and produced a filly foal and the two mares were never separated. As a result, they were dangerously herd bound. When we started working with Aurora, we discovered other dangerous behaviors and were extremely close to having her euthanized. But Humanity for Horses offered to take both Belle and Aurora and allow them to remain together at their northern California sanctuary. The girls receive all the care they need, but they will never be separated or asked to do anything more than happy, healthy horses.
Read Belle and Aurora’s story below!
In journalism school, they say “don’t bury the lead,” so I’ll come right out with it: Aurora and Belle are being adopted together to a Thoroughbred sanctuary in northern California. They will live the rest of their lives, together, with nothing expected of them but to be horses. The sanctuary is called Humanity for Horses and already houses about 150 Thoroughbreds on 115 acres near Mt Shasta. We are beside ourselves with joy and relief.
Aurora has been a troubling horse since she arrived at SAFE. Being tall, healthy, and sound, we had high hopes of being able to start her under saddle and help her become a fine riding horse for some lucky adopter. The first indication of trouble was the extreme herd-boundness she and her dam Belle exhibited toward one another. Aurora in particular would completely melt down if she could not see Belle. This is a big horse, and such behavior can be very dangerous.
The second indication was during one of her first groundwork sessions with Terry. Working in hand on a 15′ lead rope, she suddenly reared up and struck out at Terry, repeatedly, demonstrating some unusual aggression under reasonably calm circumstances.
The next incident took place a few weeks later. Jolene was working with Aurora, and asked her to lift her left front foot, just like you would if you were going to pick her hoof. Aurora suddenly snaked her head around and tried to bite Jolene, who fortunately was able to get out of the way in time. But again, it was an unusual level of aggression during a very calm moment.
Both Terry and Jolene are experienced horsewomen who were being careful and alert in her presence. And they’ve both dealt with plenty of “marish” mares over the years. But most angry or upset mares “show their cards” with pinned ears and swishing tails when they think about acting out. Aurora’s attacks came out of nowhere. She’d been handled gently but fairly by experienced staff and volunteers at SAFE, taking her in and out of turnout, and for the most part her behavior had been fine. But in these circumstances, she was always moved in and out of the barn with Belle, and nothing much was being asked of her besides walking respectfully with her handler, something she is quite able to do. Normal handling, she is fine, a typical Thoroughbred. But when she feels pressured…she can strike out. There’s no warning.
A few weeks ago, Aurora was hauled over to Ellensburg for a short consultation with Joel Conner. On the second day of this visit, Joel approached Aurora’s left side and she attacked him, knocking him to the ground and tearing the back off his thick winter coat. Joel is a kind and capable horseman with years of experience, good instincts, and superior reflexes. And had he not been wearing a thick coat he would have be severely injured. The attack came out of nowhere, and it was the third strike against Aurora.
This lovely mare, whose normal demeanor is kind and gentle, came to us with some severe emotional trauma that likely took place when she was very young. Someone did this to her. Since her attack on Joel, we have been dealing with the harsh reality that we would have to put Aurora down. Not being able to help them all is part of rescue, and there are always going to be hard choices that have to be made. It never stops. Still, the heartbreak we felt for Aurora was so painful. But through the tears and the guilt and the pain, we knew that if someone got hurt…knowing what we knew…it would end us. SAFE would be over. It was not a risk we could take.
In order to satisfy ourselves that we’d tried everything, I reached out to every Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance accredited sanctuary from here to Texas. I explained the situation in detail and said that we were prepared to do the right thing, but I just had to ask…could they take her, knowing she was dangerous, and keep her safe? One after another, the responses came back… each one kind and sympathetic, but apologetic. No one could offer her a place. Every single one told me that euthanization was the only option.
Last Tuesday morning, about a half hour after I got the call telling me that Annabelle had passed, my phone rang again. It was Luna from Humanity for Horses, saying that they had discussed our situation at great length, and decided they could take both Aurora and her dam, Belle. They would spend the rest of their lives together, and they would be cared for by people who were very experienced in dealing with TBs with similar issues to what I’d described in Aurora. They’d see the farrier and the vet and whatever other necessary care they’d need, but they would never be ridden, never be adopted, never be separated. Everything we wanted for her, we were offered, by Humanity for Horses.
Did I mention that Tuesday was my birthday? It was the greatest present I could ever have imagined. I love Aurora, she’s one of my favorites, and I felt that putting her down was going to devastate me. Now she gets to live, and my heart is filled with joy and relief.
We’ll update when the girls are transported to their new home.
Last Monday, after she had gotten settled into her stall for the evening, Belle gave the PM volunteers a scare. She suddenly became lethargic and had a large amount of discharge coming from her mouth and nostrils. It appeared as though she was experiencing an episode of choke.
Choke in horses is different than when people choke. Rather than their airway getting blocked and being unable to breathe, something (usually feed) gets stuck in their esophagus and they are unable to eat or drink. They are not in immediate danger, but if left too long they can rapidly become dehydrated. Dr. Lewis from Rainland was the vet on call that evening and she came out to examine her.
When Dr. Lewis arrived, she assessed Belle and verified that we were looking at a choke situation. Dr. Lewis sedated her to relax her esophagus and then passed a nasogastric tube up her nostril to help break up the feed blockage in her throat.
Belle will be on antibiotics for a few days to ward off any aspiration pneumonia caused by the choke, and going forward we will be making her mashes extra soupy to help her get her food down more efficiently. She recovered uneventfully and is now back to her normal, cheerful self.
Belle is a very wise mare. She can be a bit of stand-offish when you enter into her paddock but once she takes an assessment of you, she is easily caught and willing to go along with what is being asked of her. She stands nicely to be groomed and has a pretty relaxed demeanor when she is with her daughter Aurora. We have begun helping the two separate since they have never been apart.
Her dental was uneventful and she was good for the vet to do her evaluation. We dealt with an abscess in her front left hoof which quickly resolved with Epson salt soaks and poultice wraps. When our farrier came, we also were able to see that she had some older possible abscess ports, one on the hind and another on her right front. We are hopeful that with better hoof care we can help her build up stronger hoof walls and healthier feet. Abscesses happen now and then but there is a lot we can do to stop them from popping up so frequently. Keeping her out of mud and allowing her to get off of wet ground both in her shelter during the day and stall at night will help immensely. Proper farrier care and trims every 6 weeks are key to the overall health of the hoof and keeping abscesses and fungus at bay. Our Barn Managers are diligently treating Belle’s hooves with Venice Turpentine to help both harden the sole and stop the growth of bacteria in the frog and sole. They are treating her at night so she can have the full effect of the treatment while she’s in a nice dry stall.
Overall Belle appears fairly sound for her age. She has some conformational changes in her left front leg and stands fairly over at the knee but it does not seem to both her so it’s probably something she’s dealt with for a long time. We are hoping to keep her barefoot at least while we assess if she will be a riding horse or not but she may require shoes or boots if she is ridden on hard surfaces. She is a kind mare and we hope to have a better idea soon of what type of adopter will be her ideal match.
SAFE welcomed two new horses to our herd today. Belle is a 19 year old Thoroughbred mare, and her daughter Aurora is 11 years old. The two girls are sharing a quarantine space at Safe Harbor for the time being, and seem very interested in all the goings on around them. We’ll give them time to acclimate and settle in before we start evaluating them to see what they know and what they need to learn. First impression is that they are nice girls who haven’t gotten a great deal of handling lately so they need to be reminded about paying attention to their handlers and respecting personal space. We’re pretty sure they’ll do well once training starts. They are both big-bodied, gorgeous mares with a lot of potential!