George’s horses…..love, loss and compassion (Part 1)

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
Plato

Five years ago, a large horse transport arrived at our gate. With helpers on hand, we unloaded five ponies and horses to start a new life. There should have been six, but more on the mare who stayed behind later.

This rescue had started two years earlier. A caring social worker had made contact with Edgar’s Mission….’ Did they know anyone who could assist an elderly man, in poor health and in hospital, manage his eight horses?’

The man in question was George, who lived some distance from Edgar’s Mission. In his eighties’, for many years he had run a riding establishment, and now lived alone in an area fast being developed for housing, with his remaining equines.

George cared deeply for his friends, but health and finances made it hard for him to care for his horses, many of them of an advanced age. But he was terrified that if he asked for help, those in power would take his horses from him.

All he wanted was to live out his remaining days at home and with his beloved horses.

Pam at Edgars Mission contacted me to ask if I knew of anyone close by who could assist. Making call after call I tried to find a local horse group or a person who could help. The previous owner of one of the mares stated she could not help…but if the mare needed a new home she would take her back…..

In the meantime I had become involved in a local animal neglect problem. Seeking to find someone who could assist with a matter the authorities would not I came across an animal advocate who I shall call Bob. By chance I found out that Bob, an experienced horseman, lived in the same locality as George.

Finally someone local was willing to get involved. With a media campaign, volunteers were forthcoming, and other established horse groups came into assist with expertise and gear.

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A representative from TREW with George and My Misty

Over the months George’s horses received farrier support, vet care, rugs, and feed. Sadly two had to be euthanized due to age and ailments but George was thrilled to have his horses close.

George’s health was failing. I sent him some warm pyjama’s and chocolate for his birthday and had a lovely ‘phone call in return. I planned to make the trip to meet him, but the demands of a young daughter, a number of rescue horses arriving, and caring for our animals meant time was limited to do so.

I let Bob know when the time came I could take the little Shetland mare ‘Twinkie’ and her forever friend.

Then I received a call from ‘Bob’…George had died. He has asked Bob to care for his six remaining horses, but without land, Bob needed to find a home for them as soon as possible…..could we help?

Hastily we rearranged paddocks and waited for the transporter to arrive. The horses had been yarded the previous evening but one, ‘The Filly’, had escaped, and subsequently refused to load. As George had rented his premises emergency accommodation was found at a property opposite, and one of the volunteers offered to care for her.

On a clear sunny morning, the truck drew up. Two pony mares, a thoroughbred mare, a pony gelding, and a standard bred mare.

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Twinkie, a beautiful taffy Shetland was the first I saw. I cried. She clearly was not able to be in a paddock with hooves needing remedial work, her Cushing’s out of control and in pain from the trip. We arranged for  the truck to take her, and her faithful friend, My Misty, straight to the loose boxes.

Jackie, a thoroughbred mare, Call Me Misty, a standard bred mare, and Flip,the pony gelding were settled in the paddocks.

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A very overweight Flip

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Call Me Misty

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Jackie (at rear), Call Me Misty, and Flip (at front)

 

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My Misty

An additional five horses, two in need of high of care…….it was a big job. A visiting horse trainer offered to run a clinic to raise much needed funds, so amongst the other work we arranged a clinic on the property.

Our first priority was Twinkie. A specialist farrier attended and did her and Misty’s hooves. However there were more issues. Twinkie had been on Pergolide but it was out of date, and so her Cushings was not controlled.

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Twinkie after her trim. Vera looking on

Twinkie developed laminitis. Ballarat Vet Practice attended and we set her up in the stable with IV pain relief, fluid support, anti ulcer medication, and Pergolide, to get her back on track.

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My Misty. She had an eye condition…please excuse the loose headstall…it was temporary!

With Twinkie’s pain not resolving, we then discovered an abscess, which was also treated. After 48 hours intensive care, Twinkie improved, and for a memorable few hours, she and My Misty grazed on our lawn, happy and pain free. The vet was thrilled. Thirty minutes later Poss, who had been in a new paddock, presented with a leg injury, so I called the vet to attend the next day for both him and to review Twinkie.

Then overnight disaster struck. I had been checking Twinkie every two hours. At 2am I found her shivering with an elevated respirations. I called in the vet and Twinkie and I  waited together, with My Misty close by.  I told her if she needed to leave, to go with George, she must do so. I would look after the others.

Then the vet arrived. Examining Twinkie it was clear she needed to be put out of her pain. She appeared to have peritonitis with the infection out of control. We had no choice. I just sobbed. I was so tired, the last two weeks had been intense. We believe Twinkie possibly had bad ulcers due to continuous bute and suffered an intestinal rupture.

So within a week of her arrival I farewelled Twinkie…her work was done and she was off to be with George. We buried her under the trees and now my focus was to care for the grieving Misty, as well as Flip, Jackie, Call me Misty and to find a way to get ‘The Filly’ to us as well……

 

 

to be continued……………..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She who dares to be different …Wilma

“Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.”
Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays

I remember clearly an on line discussion regarding sheep. A farmer posting stated that sheep did not show intelligence, that proof of this was how hard it could be to ‘herd’ a flock of sheep into a yard.

To me this shows quite the opposite. It shows that the sheep are VERY aware that they are in danger, that the yard holds the fear of the unknown, of loss of freedom, and the risk of being subject to the will of another.

When Wilma saw her flock friends being herded into yards she made a decision, one that would save her life. She refused to go with the flock. Against all normal instincts that there is safety in numbers, Wilma decided to go it alone and take a risk.

From behind the trees she watched her flock family driven off, never to return…. and alone she roamed the bush block.

There was some luck on Wilma’s side. Her ‘owner’ did not want to capture her and make another trip to the abattoir; the property is to be sold. Permission was given…if we could catch her, we could have her.

When I first saw Wilma she darted off for cover, vulnerable away from her flock, terrified.

Her next encounter with humans was to see a yard put up in the bush, with some tasty lucerne hay put in. Whether or not she was tempted we do not know.

Yesterday the master plan was put into action. Our float was taken to the block,  and there, with  the generous assistance of Bill and his two experienced working dogs, Wilma was robbed of her hard won freedom.

It is always hard to witness the fear and terror as an animal tries to escape, and willing them to understand that their very life and safety is at stake.

After 20 minutes, Wilma was ’rounded up’ and secured in a horse float, where she spent the night.

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Today she made the journey to Honey’s Pledge and was released into a yard, with a small flock of sheep adjacent.

Wilma is heavy with fleece but given the cold weather and onset of winter, she will not be shorn until Spring. She will live in the yards for some time until we can gain her trust and reassure her that life here is safe.

A new flock and a new life.

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A little one lost…..

Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep…………

Meet Peggy.

Peggy was spotted by a kindly member of the community in an adjacent garden. Neighbours were canvassed but no one was missing a sheep.

Peggy had what appeared to be an injured leg and some injuries to her face.

Despite the garden being unfenced Peggy stayed put, and the reason…she had found a friendly face.

We found this so poignant…..lost and lonely…Peggy made ‘friends’ with a familiar figure. Apparently she even slept snuggled up to her friend, a fibreglass sheep.

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With no one coming forward to claim Peggy, we offered to provide her sanctuary and treatment for her injuries.

Using our portable yards, the HP team quietly assembled an open ended corral around the fibreglass friend. Then standing with our eyes lowered we waited, and in just a few minutes Peggy ran to join her friend in the yard and we secured her.

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Gently we carried her to the horse float. We felt sad at leaving her ‘friend’ and comfort behind but joyous that as soon as possible Peggy would re reunited with real sheep.

Peggy was transported directly to a vet who diagnosed injuries to her eye and mouth from a likely dog attack, as well as a badly infected front foot.

Peggy is having treatment for her eye and foot and is snug and dry in the horse float.

Once her hoof has healed she will be transferred to the stables and then to our sheep yards.

Where sheep may safely graze…..the continuing story

“Birds of the same feathers flock together, and when they flock together they fly so high.”
Cecil Thounaojam

On February 13 we collected seven sheep from the local pound. That day three more sheep arrived at the pound from the same property..sheep from the same flock who had strayed.

In  due course these three also made their way to Honey’s Pledge.

All have been shorn and are out of quarantine, settling in to their new life.

Recently I felt the need to check the local pound and saw…three more sheep. On making enquiries I was told these were from the same flock.

We were not surprised that these three have not been claimed and, after the necessary formalities, today we collected them from the pound for their journey to safety.

With the splendid set of horns on one, as we expected one of our new charges is a ram.

Our first priority is to have the three ‘crutched’. It is far too late in the year to remove their fleece but we have to remove the extensive soiled fleece from their rears.

Clearly these sheep have not been shorn for some time. We are hoping that this may have prevented the ram from enabling more little sheep to come into this world, but only time will tell.

After crutching, our lovely ram will be having some surgery to transform him to a ‘wether’. ‘Spring’ may require her horns to be trimmed as they appear very close to her eyes.

We are hoping that no sheep remain on the property they originally escaped from, or if so, that there are no more rams and so the flow of rescues will cease.

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Hay appeal

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We have two HP horses, Banjo and Jimmy,  being returned to us this week.

This is at a time when we are needing to feed out the horses here for the next 6 weeks until another pasture area becomes available.

Having two horses arrive back, plus with the additional sheep we have taken in recently, means we are having to provide a lot of fodder.

Can you help us over the next few weeks with the purchasing of lucerne squares (for the sheep) and round bales (for the horses and cattle)?

$10 will purchase a bale of lucerne and $60 a round bale

Your help at this time will be greatly appreciated.

Account details

Honeys Pledge Inc

Westpac

BSB            033688

Account    503538

Please reference your donation with your name, and use the contact form to advise us of your donation so a receipt can be issued.

If you cannot access internet banking, donations can be sent to Honey’s Pledge Inc. PO Box 94, DAYLESFORD, VIC. 3460.

Honey’s Pledge Inc has Deductible Gift status.

Where sheep may safely graze

Sheep may safely graze
Woolly lambs are gamboling by the streams
Sheep may safely graze
All the lost children will be found in time
Sheep may safely graze, my boy
Close your eyes, your daddy is by your side

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

We are often asked where our rescue sheep come from. Apart from orphan lambs and surrenders, many sheep are from local council ”pounds’..

When an animal deemed as ‘livestock’ is found on the roads, is abandoned on a property, or on another land holders land, the local council is empowered to ‘impound’ the animal/s.

If no owner comes forward, after a statutory period, the animals are disposed of by the council

One means is by tender, where members of the public can place a sealed bid, to purchase the animals.

A few weeks ago a supporter alerted us to there being seven sheep in our local pound, soon to be sold through tender. The seven were listed as 5 ewes and 2 rams. As we are aware that such animals are often purchased to be on sold to the sale yards or abattoir for a profit, we were keen to put in a bid to secure a safe future.

Funds being low, we were thrilled to have support for a fund raiser to enable us to put in a bid for the sheep

We put in our tender and then had a tense wait to find out if we were successful. Thankfully we were and a few days ago these seven lucky sheep arrived. One small ewe had already been shorn as she had had horrendous fly strike on arrival at the pound, and we thank the shire for taking prompt action, as such severe flystrike would have led to her death.

On the day our seven were collected the shire contractor had collected yet another three of five more sheep from the same property. These are now in the pound and the same process will apply.

The seven sheep are of mixed breeds, some Suffolks, a couple of Dorset crosses and a magnificent Border Leicester. We shedded them in the stables to get the accustomed to us hand feeding them, and to ensure they stayed dry prior to shearing. Very glad we did as we had a torrential downpour.

Yesterday our fantastic shearer made a special trip over to shear the six sheep. At the same time all were drenched for parasites and also treated for nasal discharge.

They are getting used to us and the Border Leicester, ‘Beau’, is especially friendly, leading us to believe he was a pet at some stage.

After a time in quarantine they will join one of the main flocks.

And the other good news….at shearing we confirmed the group is made up of four wethers (male sheep who have been castrated) and three ewes, saving us the needs to castrate any rams, and hopefully none of the ewes are pregnant!

So now we will need to wait and hope we can save their friends.

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A not-so-special sheep

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures.
– His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Snowy Autumn Leaf was not unique. He was no different to any other sheep.

What was different was that his life, though cut short, was a life of love, freedom, caring and affection.

That was not to be the case. Snowy was bred for profit, to be slaughtered, but he got lucky.

And we reaped the reward.

Follow the link and meet Snowy.

 

Morning

 

 

 

When trust will not save you, but fate intervenes

Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.
George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones    

Meet our two newest sheep rescues.

And meat is the fate these two narrowly escaped.

Freezer sheep edit

Bottle raised and trusting of humans, these two were to be home slaughtered for ‘the freezer’, but luckily fate intervened twice. Firstly the person intending to slaughter them was physically unable to do so, and secondly that the advertisement selling them was spotted by a good Samaritan, who intervened and changed the outcome for these two. They arranged purchase and for them to come to Honey’s Pledge for rehabilitation.

As the mercury rises, and summer is set to hit, we were luckily able to collect them today. Not knowing what fate held in store they arrived on the float, looking scared and unsure. We spoke to them assuring them that they were safe for harm and we could be trusted.

Both are desperately in need of shearing. They have obviously never been shorn and they have a huge amount of ‘dags’ making them very prone to flystrike.

For now we have them yarded with access to deep shade and lots of water, and as soon as we can arrange, our shearer will be over to relieve them of their heavy and hot fleeces, attend to parasite control, feet trimming and we will check them for any other immediate care needed.

For now both are resting in the shade, taking in their new surroundings.

Tex, a lucky rescue

He is happiest be he king or peasant who finds peace in his home

Johann Wolfgang van Goethe

 

The easiest task in rescue is to say yes to every animal you see in need.

The hardest, and most heartbreaking, time in rescue is when you have to say no.

‘No, we cannot take in the sheep from the pound.’

‘No we cannot take in this horse to stop it from being slaughtered,.’

‘No I cannot take the cat you no longer want…..’

Animal rescue groups get calls and e mails every day asking them to take in stray and unwanted animals. Often the timeframes are urgent…‘The horse must be off the property this week….’, ‘The dog will be shot unless a home is found by tomorrow….’ 

Less often workable timelines are there, a relief , giving the animal a chance.

And when a rescuer has to say no, most will refer the caller, or will themselves,  try another group, in the hope a home can be found.

And so the call is put out, ‘Can you take in…….?’, ‘Do you know of anyone who could take in……’   Telephone calls, e mails, social media postings.

So every rescued animal is lucky. Lucky someone cared enough to see them in trouble, to contact a rescue group, and lucky that for them, the rescue group could say YES.

Tex was bred to trot fast, fast enough to win money for his owner and trainer. Tex was not fast, and so Tex was sent to the saleyards.

Tex was then bought buy a ‘meat buyer’, destination to be slaughtered, at just 4 years of age. He has not even got his full set of adult teeth yet.

Then Tex got lucky. Due to his good nature he was sold to a person who wanted a horse. So it looked like Tex’s worries are over……except not quite.

Experienced horse carers will tell you. that the cheapest part of owning a horse is buying a horse. Many people decide to rescue a horse, without factoring in the actual cost of caring for a healthy horse, let alone the costs to cover illness or accidents. or times of drought and increased fodder costs.

So Tex found himself in a paddock with a well meaning, but totally inexperienced carer. He developed a hoof abscess (a common hoof ailment). The cost of treating this set the carer ‘over the edge’ financially and it was very apparent that their knowledge of handling was minimal and in fact likely to put the horse, and them, at risk.

Then Tex got lucky again. His owner put in a call to an animal sanctuary. They could not assist but referred the caller onto Honey’s Pledge.

Young standard bred horses, untrained to saddle are sent to slaughter in their thousands every year, in line with the slaughter of thoroughbreds from the flat racing industry.

To get a call asking us to find a home for yet another of these poor animals is a blow, as inevitably we have to say no, we are already dealing with a number of horses needing homes.

But Tex was really lucky. Just weeks before, a supporter of Honey’s Pledge, had needed to euthanise their beloved aged horse , and they had contacted us regarding finding a companion for their rescue thoroughbred.

We put through a call to Jan and she agreed to give Tex a home for life. This is a ‘rolled gold’ forever home.

We contacted a  member of our committee, who was able to collect Tex the next day, and take him to their property to ensure hoof issues were resolved and to assess his overall well being,

So within hours I was able to call back to advise Tex would be safe for life. I also strongly recommended that the person not buy another horse and emphasised that the right homes are hard to find.

We were advised Tex travelled like a ‘pro’ and was soon settled in his short term home. Some of his behaviour was unusual until we were alerted to some of the handling issues from his previous home. These will settle with time and calm experienced handling.

Once we were happy that Tex had no ongoing hoof issues a transporter was contacted and Tex headed off in comfort for the next stage of his safe life journey.

Check him out in his new home with fellow rescue Al….we think he has not stopped eating that wonderful grass!!!

Tex was not undernourished or injured…but he was at risk …yet another standard bred superfluous to the industry in need of a home, where his value is as a living being in need of care and no more is expected of him.

Good luck Tex…..enjoy you new life…we were happy to play our part in getting you there

 

 

 

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A tonne of love………………….

The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.

 William Wordsworth

There are many famous Williams, William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, Prince William, William Blake.

Our William is a beautiful black Friesian cross steer. He came to us with his half-brother Jonathon, from a local dairy, otherwise destined, just days old, to the trucked to the markets and onto the abattoir as unwanted by products of the dairy industry.

William was initially bottle raised and then fostered by La Mode, a diminutive Jersey cow, who adores and dotes on her two strapping sons.

La Mode J and W July 2013

William lives with our herd of nine rescue cattle, always the first up to the fence for lucerne, loves to put his nose through the car window to lick us with a large raspy tongue, loves a head scratch, still looks out for his ‘Mum’ La Mode, and is a most impressive sight as he gallivants like a puppy, around the 4WD when feed is delivered.

William

And William is BIG. His shoulder stands at 6ft and he weighs in at nearly a tonne.

So it was with great concern we watched one of his horns, that had grown downwards, gradually curve in towards his face.

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Obviously it would need attention, but what was the safest option? William, though docile, would not stand still for us to cut off the end of his horn, and he is far too big for our modest cattle restraint (‘crush’), or indeed those of any local farmers.

Our only option was to call upon the services of Manfred, from Five Freedoms Rescue. Manfred is an expert with a tranquiliser darts and in the darting of wildlife and domestic animals. Importantly he has had experience with darting ruminants, a high risk group.

The weather has been against us proceeding as it is best not to sedate cattle in very cold weather. Finally this week the weather eased, Manfred was available, and we had help on hand to assist.

Our first requirement was to consult with our vets to confirm dosages, the best procedure for removing the horn tip, and the care for William during sedation.

Next we moved William into a small ‘run’, where the procedure could take place.

Dosages are not an exact science in this field. Too little and William could react badly and just become unmanageable, too much and he could be too deeply sedated and be at risk of aspiration and other complications.

We were also aware of the need to William to have his head higher than his rumen. if he lay down, that it was preferable to be on his left side, and to be best in a ‘recovery’ position of sitting upright on his chest……sounds easy….but not when you are dealing with a one tonne patient………………..

The team had a briefing together on the process and headed off. Hampered by recent knee surgery, I had to stay behind, which personally I found more nerve wracking, imagining what was going on.

William was quietly contemplating the recent delivery of round bales when the team arrived. Obligingly he turned his rump and presented an ample target for Manfred to aim for with the tranquiliser dart.

Manfred is a true marksman and the dart hit the spot.

Now came the best bit!.

William must have read the text book.

Visibly drowsy he walked over to the closest round bale, and rested his head on top…making sure his head was above his rumen….

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Then he moved slowly and deliberately between the two rounds, and settled, on his left side, sitting on his chest, in perfect recovery position……

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The team waited 3o minutes for the sedation to take full effect, moved in and quickly removed the offending horn tip. Note the horn itself has a very good blood supply but no nerve endings.

The open end of the horn was treated and sealed while William dozed.

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And then my favourite part, as the team wanted to make sure William did not have any problems with bloat after the procedure, they massaged his tummy, for the next hour until he began to awake.

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Now they are sure, and I am certain, that during this time a bleary eye occasionally took a peek, and quickly closed again. William would be LOVING that tummy rub!!!!

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William roused himself, probably worried that the others were eating all the hay, and made a full and swift recovery.

Our thanks to everyone who helped out, our vet practice for their advice and loan of required cutting wire, to local cattle carers for advice re weight, to Keith and Chris for their time and practical assistance, and to Manfred, as always, the consummate professional, careful, considered and compassionate….small acts of kindness and love, that have made a huge difference to our ‘tonne of love’.

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