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In this case, the horse came to see us - about himself.

That is, about helping him actually, you know, not die a horrible death.

He was left on Wings's family land, immediately adjacent. [Yes, we know who it is. No, that person did not get his permission. No, the issue is not lack of money to care for the horse - not when the person has bought a new SUV.]

Actually, he was left there - with no grass, nothing but chamisa winter scrub to eat.  And with no access to water.

A few days later, he staggered to a downed section of fence and crossed to our side.

And he knew he was safe.

Warning: There are two very graphic, heart-hurting photos over the jump. They are interspersed with newer, much happier photos of a horse growing increasingly healthy. But if seeing the version of this boy from three weeks ago will give you nightmares, I recommend skipping the rest.

He showed up here on April 17th. The grass was already up by then, but that week was cold and windy and blustery, with intermittent snow and sleet and ice pellets whipping down out of the sky. He wandered hesitantly across the boundary line, looking around as though expecting to be chased off or worse, and then surreptitiously grabbing mouthfuls of grass here and there. Once he realized that we'd seen him and were leaving him alone, he began to graze a little more confidently.  

He was too weak to lift his head.

I've seen some animals in really bad shape. We've rescued a few over the years. But only once in my life have I ever seen a horse that was this badly off: a horse that, while it might hang on for a few more days or weeks or even months, is already dead. All that remains is the pain and misery of the dying itself - horribly.

And on April 17th, this boy was death on four legs; the damage would most likely have taken its final toll in a matter of days.

So on April 18th, we took matters in hand.

First, a glimpse of what he looked like on April 18th [graphic photo]:

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This photo doesn't really begin to show the extent of the damage. He was nothing but bones:  hip bones jutting several inches above his skin; spine a bony ridge; ribs a washboard with more than an inch of depth visible between each bone; his head a skull with skin stretched over it.

But that was only the beginning. His abdomen was horribly bloated, a side effect of prolonged starvation and its effects on the equine digestive system. His front hooves were so long that they had nearly flattened out completely - it's only by the grace of something that he's not foundered. He had lost patches of hair due to malnutrition, and others had been scraped and torn off, the exposed skin angry and inflamed. And he was infested with, literally, hundreds of ticks, everywhere on his body - including some truly unmentionable internal places. Everyone who's ever owned a male horse will know exactly what I mean.

He was too weak to run from me, or even to balk when I haltered him.

And this is him on May 6, two weeks and five days later:

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Again, on April 18th [graphic photo]:

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And again, on May 6:

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Got that? Two weeks and five days. This is not rocket science.  It's basic common sense.

Well, that and actually giving a flying fuck about your animal's welfare.

Then, you get an animal that looks a more like this:

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Add continual access to fresh water, daily grain, and high-quality alfalfa (we grow several fields' worth of it here every year). Add an initial de-worming treatment and rabies and West Nile vaccines. Add natural insecticide spray, a de-ticking scrub bath (Wings did that, bless his heart; all I had to do was hold him still); and more natural insecticide spray. Add salt and mineral blocks and plenty of exercise.

Add currying, including combing and detangling his mane and tail (Wings did all those things last Saturday).

Add a hoof trim on Monday so that he can walk properly and with less pain.

Add humans who recognize certain signs.

He's head-shy. He loves being stroked, but he has to fight the urge to flinch, especially if I go to stroke his forehead or muzzle. Once he remembers where he is, he settles in, relaxed, enjoying the fact that a human is touching his face in way that's not abusive.

He doesn't like my scarves that flutter in the wind. They spook him. They seem to be reminders of things inflicted on him. So I take them off before I go out to see him.

He will [mostly] stop when I ask him to stop; he will [mostly] come when I ask him to come. He knows that the round pen is his current home, and he will go into it in the evening when it's time.

But if I approach him wearing sunglasses, he will run. Oh, he'll run straight into the round pen, as he knows I want, but he runs away from me. If he's standing in the pen, he'll turn and walk to the other side. It only took two days of the same reaction for me to realize what was happening.

Now, I put my sunglasses on top of my head before approaching him. And he's fine.

I've rehabilitated enough abused animals. I know the signs. Too well.

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We've kept him segregated from the other four so far. Mostly, because we didn't know what communicable diseases he might have picked up, or what conditions he might transmit. That no longer appears to be a concern.

But two of the mares are very dominant, and would bully him within an inch of his life.

We think he's been bullied enough.

So for now, he has the round pen. If he's still here when it gets hot, we'll build him an enclosure to escape the elements.

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He has life again, and love.

And he has a new name.

We call him Miskwaki (Red Earth).

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