The story of Ruth

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My name is Ruth. I am a 10 year old chestnut mare, born in a stud dedicated to breeding thoroughbred horses for horse racing. The person responsible for my care died leaving me and 40 others at risk of being sent for slaughter.

Luckily a woman worked hard with a group of others to find us homes. I was challenging. Although a pretty girl with a lovely nature, I had an ugly disfigurement to my hind leg. At some stage I had caught my leg, probably in a fence, and the resulting ‘flap’ had not been moved and with wound attended to. The flap reattached leaving me with a functional, but unsightly leg. I also had a growth on my left eye.

A rescue group took me in, and I was given the name Gift. At the time many people offered their support to help with the vet care I needed. A vet came to help me and decided to remove the old flap wound, leaving a large wound bed that would require care and bandaging for at least a year until it was healed over.

My leg hurt a lot and I hated it being touched anymore and I would kick out in protest. Eventually my carers, fearing for their safety requested a new home be found.

I went to a new home and was seen by a new vet that day. I was sedated and old bandaging that had constricted my leg was taken off. My leg hurt so much. On that day I was given my new name, Ruth.

Gradually my leg started to heal but then the vet looked at my eye and realised it was an unusual case of squamous cell cancer. The best hope was to have my eye removed before it spread. The specialist vet looked at my leg and said it needed skin grafts to make it heal stronger. So i stayed in hospital and had surgery to remove my eye and take skin from my tummy and put on my leg.

I came home to a loose box and stayed there for nearly three months as it was very wet and I had to keep my leg dry. I was so upset about my leg that every week the vet would come and give me IV sedation so the dressing could be changed. Ruben was a great friend staying outside for hours to keep me company. My eye had gone but I adjusted well.

The great day came when my bandage came off for good and I went back into a paddock. It was a small paddock with no branches as my leg was still open and very swollen. But with time it healed well. I then moved to a new paddock near the house so I could start learning to have my leg handled again. I even had a lovely lady from Switzerland come help me overcome my fears

Then I had an adventure with my new paddock mate. We found an open gate and went exploring in the olive grove. Then unfortunately I caught my leg, and ripped it back to the bone. So back almost to square one, except a local horse trainer donated his time to assist, especially with IV sedation that I need for each dressing.

Once fully healed, I will wear a protective boot as we cannot risk another injury.

I have found a great new friend in Sophie, another chestnut thoroughbred mare…we are twins……


Sweet Sally

In March 2011 we had the great fortune to have Virginie Bernhard, a freedom horse trainer from Switzerland, come to stay with us. This was a great opportunity to work with horses in need and so a friend and I made the decision to each purchase a rescue. My brave friend went to a horse slaughter yard and purchased a horse desperately in need. I was sent a photograph of a grey gelding and I asked that she purchase him on my behalf. Unfortunately a friend of the operator had asked for the pony so he was not available. Then my friend remembered a chestnut mare at the yards. I rang the slaughter yard and waited anxiously for the answer…no she had not been slaughtered and yes I could buy her.

The following day my friend drove with her float and loaded both horses. It was a nerve wracking journey as she did not know how they would travel but she got here safely and we unloaded them.

It is hard to explain the feeling of taking an animal out of the slaughter house yards, the mud, the terror, the stench, the fear-laden atmosphere and then release them into a grassed paddock, with shelter, feed, clean water, fresh clean air, and peace and quiet.

Our quarantine paddock is a long way for the house and the stables. This is a good thing as it gives maximum rest and quiet for new arrivals. We took one look at the new chestnut mare and named her Sally, sweet Sally.

We let the two horses to explore and settle. Over the next days we observed them, waiting for one of the most rewarding moments. Exhausted after being put through sale yards, trucked, held at the abattoir, it takes a few days for a new horse to ‘trust’ their new environment. Then, and it is usually day three, is the wonderful moment when the horse lays down in the sun and sleeps, deeply.

Sally just ate and ate, slept and slept.

We had our first hint as to Sally’s past when I put a rug on her. Sally would stand quietly while all the straps were secured. Then the moment it was finished she would gallop, full speed and frantic, hide in the corner of the paddock, and not come out unless we removed the rug.

At the time we observed this we found that the other horse had been ‘through’ a bucking contractor, and had been sent to the knackery to die for his refusal to buck enough. Sally’s behaviour indicated perhaps she had experienced the same.

So slowly, slowly we worked to regain Sally’s trust with gentle handling based on freedom techniques.

Then Sally put on weight, and more weight and more weight. Wondering if she was in foal I had the vet do a blood test. At the same time a lovely woman contact, who had rescued an older horse from a riding establishment, sent me the sad news that her rescue had died. She suggested she could take a horse from us and so she was invited over to meet Sally. It was love at first sight, and pending the result of the pregnancy test, Sally had a new home.

Well it turned out Sally was just putting on weight due to good food, and so the day came for her to go to her new home. She was still a little challenging to catch but this day all went well and we loaded her without incident into the float.

On arrival Sally did not want to get off. In the end we had to push her back off. And then she looked around, accepted a proffered apple and immediately we could see, this was Home!

She joined three other horses, all geldings. Immediately Sally flaunted her stuff and was flirting like mad.

There has never been a backward step. Her lovely carer took the time to handle her with respect and care, utilised the advice of natural horse people, and now has a horse who welcomes human contact, and has become a big big smooch.

Sweet Sally is indeed living up to her name.

And as for the little bay filly in the background of the photograph os Sally after one week out of the abattoir….

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A touch of Frosty

Frosty came into our lives in April 2007.

This was in the seventh year of drought. The paddocks were dry and dusty. We were planning for the christening of our infant daughter.

In a chance discussion with our farrier he talked of a pony who he had offered to have euthanised as he was concerned the pony would not make it through the winter. I asked what the pony needed and he advised just some TLC.

I knew the person whose property the pony was on and decided to give them a call. They explained that they had taken on the pony as a favour to a neighbouring family, who no longer wanted the pony after a marriage break up. They were happy for us to take him is and have a go at helping him

We took the float over on the day after our daughter’s christening. A worker at the property brought the pony out and told us how much they loved him and they were glad he was getting a chance. The little pony walked on to our float with not a hitch.

We had had a little game with our daughter ‘And here is Miss Kate x, and yes it is a clear round on Frosty…..’ so Frosty this pony would be.

Frosty stayed in the yard for the first days and ate…and ate…and ate… The dentist was already due on day 2 so he had his teeth done and was wormed. On the third day he suddenly lay down…and we learned one of the most important lessons of rescue. Take it very very slowly and carefully.

We immediately called our vets and he felt Frosty might not make it. Well luckily he did and we are more careful with our feeding regime.

Frosty lived happily on the property, always easy to handle and an absolute pleasure. One day I asked a light friend to try riding him. She pronounced him to be very good.

At age three, we started Kate riding on Frosty. He has always been the most delightful pony and was absolutely trustworthy. For fun we entered a led riding class and Frosty would unfailingly follow my shoulder.

He has been Kate’s faithful pony in topsy classes and does a wonderful impersonation of a unicorn!

A year ago we noticed that he was increasingly stressed about food, frantic for his feeds. Having already ahd experience with Cushing’s syndrome we had Frosty tested. His results were positive and he was started on Pergolide. With this he is managing very well but that, together with failing eyesight, helped us make the decision to ‘retire’ Frosty from riding.

He still helps out if Kate’s other pony is out of action for any reason. His absolute best friend is the lovely Ruben. The two old grey men have a set routine, and can always be found ready for food.

Frosty can still raise a stunning trot and loves playing at being the silver brumby. We love him dearly and thank the day we had that chance discussion.

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Wondering about Willow

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A few months ago, a good friend made contact after seeing a horse in her local council pound. On making inquiries she was told that the horse had been found wandering on the road. If no one claimed her, she would be sold at auction at the next cattle sale. My friend was concerned as she had recently discovered that two horses, put up for auction, had been sold at just $20 each to a meat buyer.

The mare had to wait out the time in case she was claimed. But as her condition was poor, and her mane long and in dreadlocks, it did not seem likely. My friend and others used the time to visit the mare, now given the name ‘Willow’, give her some companionship, and to raise some funds to assist with her purchase and initial care.

Of course, at an auction, you cannot be certain of success and all were understandably tense on the day. Some other people had gathered but on finding that a rescue group were intending to bid, they withdrew, and even better, made a donation to Willow’s purchase.

Willow was caught and moved to a pen. The bidding started, and luck was on our side, and we were the winning bid. Willow’s future was secure!

The following day I hooked up the float and arrived at the saleyards. Poor Willow had had enough though and was not interested at all at meeting up with us. Fortunately she responded to freedom techniques of approach and retreat, though it took an hour.  It was a wonderful feeling though when finally Willow allowed me to slip a headstall on and she led beautifully from the yards and straight onto the float. The float ride home was delightfully uneventful.

When we arrived Willow heard the other horses and was frantic to get off the float, to the point where we opened up the doors, and left her to it.  Of course our min/Shetland X, Shiloh, also known as Miss Meet and Greet, was there to say hello.

Willow LOVED Shiloh, to the point where she became frantic if Shiloh went on one of her regular walkabouts.

Although we have posted Willow’s photograph and details we have not been able to trace her brands or get any information on her past.

We are working on gaining Willow’s trust. Once in hand she is very easy to handle and has obviously been well handled in her past. How she came to be loose on the road, with no one to claim her is a mystery.

Willow has had a makeover. She has had her teeth and hooves done, and her impossibly tangled mane was hogged to enable it to grow back afresh. Her brand and her teeth show her to be 25.

Now sharing he house paddock with the terrible twins (chestnut thoroughbred mares Sophie and Ruth) she has the gentle Manfred as her companion. Shiloh is the occasional visitor.

Willow will continue her handling here until such time as the very special forever home is found. We are not in any hurry!

Charlotte’s fate

Fate plays a huge part in which animals find their way to sanctuary and safety.

A year ago we were made aware of an off the track (OTT) thoroughbred mare, who was sold at the sales to the knackery. Having seen her photograph standing forlorn and hopeless we decided to see if she could be purchased. We were able to do so and thus this mare was saved and a new life opened up. Her story will be told.

On the day she was collected from the slaughterhouse, the woman leading her out had to push back a large grey mare, who desperately wanted to follow. The next day she told me about this mare and hard it was to leave her behind.

I could not get this mare out of my mind. Finally four days later I picked up the ‘phone and made the call. Yes, the mare was still alive, and yes, at a price, I could purchase her. Even though we were at capacity I made the decision to go ahead. The person who had first seen the mare offered to take her, provide any training needed and rehome her.

So May 23, 2012 the grey mare left the knackery. I was asked to name her and chose the name ‘Charlotte’.

Due to other commitments, Charlotte’s planned training did not go ahead and she lived on an agistment property for the next 12 months. I was then advised that the person who had taken her on needed to rehome Charlotte, so a decision was made to formally transfer legal ownership back to Honey’s Pledge and to look for a suitable forever home for Charlotte. Heavy Horse Heaven generously offered to adopt Charlotte and assist in find a home.

I had been told Charlotte was hard to ‘catch’ and reluctant to interact. My first meeting was in a large open paddock. Charlotte immediately walked up to me, and stood so close it was almost impossible to get a photograph of her. Within minutes I was hugging her. We had an immediate bond. A bond so strong I realised I felt I could not send Charlotte interstate. I really wanted her close by.

The property owner generously agreed to keep Charlotte on until the right home was found and start some handling with her.

Around this time a lovely neighbour approached me with an offer to take on some horses. The property is an equine idyll and I immediately thought of Charlotte.

After a number of weeks while other rescues demanded our attention, Charlotte finally made the float trip to her new home. She has three lovely gelding for company, rolling hills, shady trees, and beautiful surroundings, love, and care.  She accepted her rug and has obviously been well handled in the past.

What we, and her new carer, cannot get over is Charlotte’s impeccable behaviour. She is such a sweet, loving mare.  Charlotte is stunning, in great condition, and of a lovely nature.

And yet, 12 months ago Charlotte was waiting to be slaughtered, discarded and unwanted.

Thank goodness fate intervened for Charlotte.

Loving Jake – One year on

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When we went to collect Grace (see  ) we met her paddock mate, a lovely bay standard bred gelding. He was penned in a yard, frantically running in tight circles, clearly in fear. Grace had moved into a shed to keep away and watched nervously.

After a short time we made contact with the standard bred and held him with a headstall and lead rope. He immediately quietened. We found that he too was for sale. We were told he had been put under saddle by the current owner (the husband). Having a close friend who did a lot of work with standard bred horses we decided to see if we could reduce the asking price., which was way above the market. We were able to do so, but because the float was not suited to the two large horses, we left the gelding, advising we would be back as soon as we could to collect him.

After settling Grace we set about finding a short term foster home for the gelding until such time as we were able to look at further training for him. A home was found and we made a date to collect him.

The  day it was wet, cold and windy and we nearly postponed. However we decided to go ahead and thank goodness we did.

We found the gelding in the paddock, not just shivering but  shuddering uncontrollably with the cold. He was drenched and the lack of shelter gave him no protection. He loaded easily onto the float. The lady went to find the horses’ rugs, which her husband had put away, not believing in their use. We threw the old rug over the horse to try to give him some protection on the journey.

Fortunately we did not have far to drive and on arrival we took him straight into a stable, rubbed him down and put a warm, dry combo rug on him. He closed his eyes, clearly relieved to be given some respite from the cold.

The foster home suggested we name him Jake. He stayed around two months gaining condition and confidence. However he developed a weeping and inflamed eye. We were aware he had an old injury but it became apparent that there e were serious issues with his eye and he received vet treatment.

In the week he was due to travel to us his eye worsened, and so we took him direct to our own vet hospital for further assessment.

They diagnosed a seriously ulcerated eye. Jake was given pain relief and admitted to the hospital. The next day his eye was removed as the damage was too great and the risk of further ulceration and pain was too high.

Jake quickly recovered and came back to us for paddock rest. We traced his history and he was a successful harness racer. We ge the sense though, that Jake has had to submit all of his life. We made the decision not to retrain him under saddle. We felt Jake just needed to live out his life in total freedom.

We found hm a fantastic home with an experienced horse person. His first paddock mate was to be another gelding with one eye, Jack.

So Jake again loaded onto the float and made the journey west. He immediately settled in and was sharing Jack’s hay.

He now relishes his freedom, making his own choices. He is Jake the independent and we love him dearly for that.

Saving Grace. One year on.

Garce 1 year on

Today we are celebrating the first year of Grace joining our family. This is Grace’s story.

We first saw Grace on a Facebook page. She was advertised in ‘Gumtree’. The advertiser was honest that she was not in good condition and they were struggling to provide her with the feed she needed. She was obviously an older mare. We shared the post hoping someone would be able to take her in but there were no takers.

On another forum Grace was the subject of a lengthy post which was berating the owner for her condition and that there was an asking price of $500. Unfortunately there were gross exaggerations regarding her state with claims she was’ drooling green slime’ and had a uterine infection, a leg injury, and so on.
After a few days we telephoned and spoke to the advertiser. They had had people to see Grace but they were only willing to take her FTGH (Free to good home). Anyway we negotiated a lower price and made a time to collect her.

The advertiser explained that Grace had been in poor condition when they had purchased her. They felt sorry for her and wanted to bring her up to condition and do some gentle riding. They had got a vet out who explained that Grace was much older than they had been told, too old to ride, and would need specialist hard feeding. Unfortunately this was beyond their means and Grace’s condition remained poor. So they decided the best outcome would be to sell her.

A good friend drove with me. Grace was yarded with a paddock companion. She hid in the shed as he raced around obviously distressed. We caught him and he immediately calmed. We noticed he was a standard bred and also found he too was for sale. Our float was not suited to taking both horses so we loaded Grace, she raced up the ramp, and left, asking that they hold the standard bred.

Grace travelled and unloaded beautifully. On arrival her face was full of wonder, gazing across at the paddocks.


Click on link below

Grace Arrival


Immediately we gave her a light feed and found her a rug. Immediately she half closed her eyes in bliss….a look we see every day.

The RSPCA made contact as the mare had been reported through the forum. We were able to assure the RSPCA that the mare, though underweight, was not in any immediate danger. She had been seen by a vet and would be undergoing worming, feet and teeth to start her rehabilitation. The leg wound was an old scar, there was no indication of infections, her hooves needed basic attention and she had a sarcoid on her face, a common condition in light coloured horses (and one which the advice is generally to do nothing). We asked the RSPCA to contact our vet for confirmation and thanked them for following through on the report.

Grace settled in immediately. I found her a warm snug ‘combo’ doona rug, and over rug…..she looked like a snug teddy bear. She was just so happy to be fed and warm.

She is a darling girl who has joined a small herd of two other mares, Maggie and Queenie, and the aged gelding Louis. She has obviously been a brood mare and the decision was made that she should become a Honey’s Pledge resident as she has seen many homes. This is her forever home now.

Although the previous owner came in for much criticism we see that they were always honest regarding Grace’s condition, did not send her to the market or abattoir, did not simply give her away to an unknown person which may have put her at a great risk of being sold on for slaughter, they were willing to negotiate a price and wanted a good home for her. They have taken a great interest in her progress.

Grace spends her days wandering the olive grove, coming in twice a day for her feed. She is very keen on her rugs!
Two weeks later we returned for the standard bred…….his story ……

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In court for Cody

One year ago to the day I sobbed for joy and relief in a bleak windowless courtroom in northern Melbourne.

A heart wrenching, time consuming, and expensive battle that had been waged for nearly two years was over, and we had won the right to continue to care for Cody.

Cody is a beautiful black quarter horse gelding. Timid and gentle, most of his life he has lived on a remote property in New South Wales, and since the death of his mother many years ago, without the company of another horse. He did however have the company of a herd of cattle, many of them ageing.

By a sequence of events that do not need to be retold here, Cody came into our care. What was to be a three month temporary placement lengthened to nearly a year. At the end of this time we received the only contact from his alleged owner stating he was to be collected and trucked, together with the cattle, in the care of another, to Darwin.

As part of the ensuing events we discovered Cody was still legally owned by the brother of his original breeder. When contacted they readily agreed to the legal transfer of his ownership to us.

We thought that would be the end of the issue, but unfortunately we were dealing with a person who did not have the interest of the animals at the fore and was determined to drag everyone involved through the legal system, regardless of what was best for the animals concerned.

Unless we were prepared to relinquish ownership of Cody, and abandon him to be sent by truck to Darwin, we had no choice but to fight this case.

There was an image that spurred me on. Losing this case, or capitulating, would mean I would have to stand by and watch Cody loaded onto a cattle truck, calling to Ginger, our chestnut mare rescue of 10 years. Cody has bonded strongly to Ginger, is never far from her side, and always looks to her for reassurance and comfort.

The very thought of the distress their separation would cause each of them, and Cody especially, was unthinkable.

The case was set to be heard over five days. Fortunately by day 2 it had been decided in favour of all three defendants.

The relief was dizzying.

So Cody is living out his days with us. He is happy as long as Ginger is nearby. He loves to gallop in with the herd, relishes his hay, and enjoys a warm rug in winter.

There are many fights worth fighting in this world…and Cody was definitely one of them.

As a postscript, the defendants have had to bear the cost of this vexatious litigation.