Olivia's first day of freedom

On Dec 17th, 2020, I messaged Crystal, the owner of Long Road Home Horse Rescue, and said: "Have you seen that Horse called Olivia at the kill pen?"

That was the beginning of Olivia's story.

Olivia is the type of horse most people wouldn't have given a second look at. Surrounded by healthier-looking, prettier, and bigger horses at the kill pen, she melted into the background. Pitiful with a matted mane and tail, the only thing she has going for her is her pretty face.

For over a week, I hadn't been able to get the image of this scrawny, malnourished mare out of my head. As it turns out, neither had Crystal. She was already organizing a fundraiser for her rescue.

We were unsure whether Crystal would raise enough money to bail her out of the kill pen. Donors had given so much already to rescue three other horses. By some miracle and many good people sharing her post, $800 for her bail and $250 for her vet care and meds came in within two days. The kill pens sell the horses by their meat weight.

Jon and Lindsey from Stagecoach Highlands, already fetching a grey gelding from the kill pen, offered to pick her up and quarantine her (who knows what diseases those horses pick up at the lot). I don't think they knew quite the ride they were in for!

When they got to the lot, they were told she was not halter broken. They were worried she wouldn't get on the trailer. Surprisingly she walked straight on - maybe she knew this was her passport out of hell. Then the real journey began, and it was by no means easy. She kicked so hard she was rocking the trailer across the lanes of the highway. By the time she got to the farm, she had given up and collapsed on the floor, shaking, terrified, weak. Jonny managed to get into the trailer and get a halter on her, but she was too terrified to stand up.

I got there shortly after she arrived at the farm. I thought perhaps this was her last moment. Once a horse is down, it is never a good sign. The stress alone can kill them.

We decided to put fence panels up on either side of the trailer, open the door, and let her come out in her own time - if she could.

We opened the trailer door, she got up and strolled out like she owned the place. She walked straight to a pile of hay and started munching, ignoring the other five rescues glaring at this stinky stranger.

I got closer, curious to see if she was as wild as she seemed. After a few minutes of standing several feet away from her, she began inching closer to me. Three feet away, two feet away, one foot away. I could reach out and touch her. In just a few minutes, I could rub her head. She was calm and leaned into my hand. Maybe this is the first time she has felt love in years.

Jon brought out some horse treats, and she gently nibbled them out of my hand.

This horse isn't wild or crazy. She is just scared out of her mind.

Tomorrow we will try and brush her and get meds into her and see if we can look at her teeth to guess her age.

Day 2

9 am Crystal and I arrived at Jon and Lindsey's farm to figure out just how old, how tame, and how sick Olivia is.

She is pretty easy to catch after a few 'mare glares'. Crystal injects her with a dose of antibiotics to catch any nasty kill pen diseases before they start. She barely flinches as the needle goes into her muscle. So much for not being halter-broke! Her wormer and electrolytes went down her throat with no fuss. Now to take a look at those teeth.

Is she 9, is she 29? Turns out she is somewhere in her 20s, and it is likely at some point in her life she was a reining horse - her dropped pasterns are a dead giveaway.

Now to deal with the stink and the mane and tail tangled with burrs. No one has cared for this old girl in years, and it shows.

We attack those burrs with a comb and some detangler, and out they come, easy. I don't know if it is the detangler or that her hair is falling out anyway from malnutrition. Her tail brushes out into a glorious plume of silky strands shot through with the silver of old age, her old eyes closing; finally, some attention, good attention, and love.

The final test - time to get a blanket on - not a flinch. She snuggled into it like a human wrapping themselves in a throw on a cold day. Crystal reached under her belly to cross the straps. Not a care in the world.

Olivia knows she is safe.

Someone once cared for this old lady; we speculate that when she was too old and lame to rein anymore and ended up being a broodmare - then to the kill pen, cast aside like trash after two decades of giving her humans everything she had.

Day 3

This afternoon I went to visit Olivia in Quarantine to feed her and give her meds. WOW, what a difference in just 48 hours. She has gone from terrified and wild (to the point we were told she was unbroken) to a Little Miss Sassy pants. She sneaks around, stealing everyone else's food when they aren't looking and giving everyone, whether they are human or animal those terrifying, but harmless 'mare stares'.

She is hilarious with a HUGE personality. I just cannot understand how someone could have dumped her for meat.

She will glare at you like she is about to eat you one second, then quietly sneak closer for cuddles a second later. Whoever ends up adopting her will have an incredible lady. We will have to wait until she is fatter and fitter before seeing whether she will end up being a cuddly pasture pet or perhaps a small kids pony.

She deserves the best home in the world, whatever the outcome.

Day 4

I'm getting into the swing of things and head on over to Olivia as soon as I have finished work. Today was a bit of a breakthrough day for her and I! She was standing at the fence waiting for me when I arrived and seemed moderately pleased to see me. It's a little hard to tell with those evil mare glares she gives you, but I choose to believe she does them out of love... maybe.

I got her food and supplements ready in a bucket and she was all ears forward, yay food - until I walked into the pen with her halter. Then it was nothing but glares and turning her back on me. One thing I have found out about this sassy lady is she DOES NOT kick or bite. She just stares at you like she wishes a hole would open up in the ground and eat you. I tossed the lead rope over her neck and dragged her towards me to get the halter on. Once we have that ordeal out of the way she is all happiness and joy again and easily leads out of the pen to her food.

I take off her blanket to see what is going on under there and give her a good brush and I cannot believe how much better she looks in such a short time. Her fur is soft and silky-smooth compared to that stinky, matted mess she arrived with. She seems to enjoy the attention and turns around to look at me a few times as I run the brush over her old bones. After she finishes her food she is content to let me continue brushing her, at one point the lead rope came untied when I wasn't looking - she didn't move a muscle, she just stood there with her eyes half-closed content to be loved on.

It's such a joy to see her so happy after such terrible trauma. This little lady may just have stolen a piece of my heart. I wish I had the space to keep her - whoever adopts her is going to have the cutest, goofiest little pasture pet ever.

Day 5

Not much to report today. She still wants to run away when I go into her pen, but she runs a little less far now. She still glares at me! She is loving her food and supplements and the other rescue at the farm, Silver, is super jealous that Olivia gets food and he doesn't!!

Day 6

Olivia had her last shot today and she is clear of diseases! That is one of the biggest worries when you pick these horses up from the lot. It is full of diseases from strangles to respiratory diseases. Thankfully with the preventative shots we gave her from day one she seems to have missed catching anything! She is becoming much friendlier and more relaxed. She was a little easier to catch today, but still the mare glares lol! She is still fearful if you raise your voice too much or wave your arms about. She has obviously been mistreated and it will take a while for her to truly trust humans again. I don't blame her.

Day 7

Today was a breakthrough day for Olivia and me. Now affectionately called Livy, this wonderful little mare had her ears forward when we came to feed and groom her, allowed herself to be caught with no glares at all and put her ears forward most of the time I was working with her. She definitely seems to prefer women and is a little more fearful of men. I wonder what happened to her?

Today I also learned that she is brilliant to lead on the halter, she doesn't crowd you or pull, just follows sweetly along next to you with a loose rope. She also knows commands like 'back up' when on the lead, and 'over' to move her over. Someone took the time to train her beautifully and now look at her. She narrowly escaped a horrible death and terror.

I cannot believe someone dumped her for the kill pens.

Right now she should be living out a leisurely retirement with her original people. It's so sad that humans discard these creatures when they are no longer useful. What I would give to find her original owners and learn her story! I hope her future holds a small child that she can teach the ropes to, or perhaps a forever retirement home where she will be loved on forever.

Olivia will have her feet done this week, they are a ragged, cracked mess, obviously, she has been severely neglected, She will also have a pregnancy check - she has milk, but we aren't sure whether it is drying up from having a foal suddenly taken away, or if she is gearing up for another one.

I have seen so many people rage against the kill pen owners saying they are cruel. They offer the horses that were once pets, those that might have a chance to have a life, to the public for sale. They run a meat business, not a rescue. They need to make a profit, not run at a loss because people are bleeding hearts. It doesn't mean you have to like their business, just be real about it.

The blame here must fall squarely on the shoulders of the owners of those horses, donkeys, and mules that abandon their animals to being packed into a truck to Mexico and slaughtered - for a few hundred dollars. It is the owners that knowingly sell their horses to kill buyers. They should be blamed, shamed, and shunned.