Loxahatchee, Florida – One would scarcely recognize the severely matted chestnut colt as a six-month-old Thoroughbred, much less a horse who shares the royal bloodlines of his famous lineage with Secretariat, War Secretary and War Admiral. Hardly the size of a two-month-old, the malnourished youngster and another one-year-old Thoroughbred peacefully chomped on some hay in a comfortable and clean stall at Pure Thoughts Horse Rescue yesterday.
Jennifer Swanson and Brad Gaver, co-founders of the all-breed horse rescue picked up the horses near Okeechobee and Indiantown from a pasture. For the past few weeks, a neighbor had been helping to feed the starving horses until the rescue had room.
“It’s really a tragic story, but not one that we haven’t heard before because people don’t always do what they say,” stated Swanson. “The original owner of the two horses had a stroke, and she had given the horses to a friend who promised he would care for them and make sure they were fed and cared for, but that obviously didn’t happen. Julie called us about the horses, and when the owner found out how bad the two were, she was horrified. We agreed to take them because she can’t take care of them, and we will make sure these two get the best of care.”
The chestnut colt has been named Jason, in honor of Jason Matthews an active horse advocate who just prefers to stay in the background. The young mare has been named Willow. Both horses will be allowed to settle in for a few days, and then Swanson will slowly stabilize the horses and start them on a de-worming program.
Ten years and 1700 horses later who were victims of abuse, neglect, slaughterbound or abandonment have taught Swanson how to slowly rehabilitate severe cases just like Jason and Willow.
Watching Swanson prepare the daily diet for more than 50+ rescue horses of varying stages of health, breed, size and age, one would think she was preparing a feast for a human party. Swanson contends it is not the cost of the feed which makes the profound difference in the health of a horse; more to her way of thinking are the ingredients used. The key to weight gain for a Thoroughbred for example, depends on high fiber, high fat but no more than 14 percent protein. Her favorite mixtures include garlic (for fly control), cinnamon and paprika (for richness of coat colors), black oil Sunflower seeds (for essential omegas), and Soy oil which is easy to digest.
“We’re a horse rescue where every penny counts,” explained Swanson,” and through the years I have learned what works and how well, so I just adjust ingredients depending on the horse. When they’re finished eating, they all can be heard just ‘licking their lips.’ ”
At one time, Swanson and Gaver would attend horse auctions as far away as Pennsylvania and Ohio, but since the economic downfall, backyard slaughter, killbuyer auctions in Florida and more neglect and abuse cases locally, Pure Thoughts have more than they can manage in their own state.
The rescue depends 100 percent on donations, fundraising and grants. Volunteers from Florida and across the nation have reached out to help the horses, but it is an ongoing struggle to continue to keep the doors open.
“I think donations are harder to come by because of the economy, but the amount of abuse and neglect situations we are dealing with doesn’t decrease,” stated Gaver who supervises the training and educational programs for Pure Thoughts. “Horse rescue is our passion, but we do need the funding from our supporters to do what is right for these horses. What would happen to them if we had to close our doors? I don’t want to even think of those consequences.”
Within a month, Swanson and Gaver expect Willow and Jason to make significant progress in their health.
If you would like to become involved with horse rescue – whether it be volunteering, helping to educate others about neglect, abuse and slaughter, or just following the day to day successes, please follow the group on Facebook by clicking here.
Pure Thoughts Horse Rescue is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. Donations are tax deductible as permitted by law. If you would like to make a donation, call (561) 254-0415.
If you are interested in adopting a horse, please call Brad Gaver at (561) 951-2108.
Feed donations can be made by calling Town & County at 561.746.0433
Written by Cheryl Hanna of the Examiner