Rescuing Sable the Rocky Mountain Mare
By Kevan Garecki, Circle F Horse Rescue Society
The often tumultuous world of horse rescue is most certainly a rollercoaster ride at best – from glorious victories to crushing failures, to those long nights with a colicking horse, to the utter confusion cloaking a mystery ailment – the ride our horses guide us on is never easy. Yet in some ways it is always rewarding … and that’s what keeps us doing what we do.
Sometimes we come by a horse who is just in a bad environment, while another is so physically challenged the kindest thing to do is release it from suffering. And every once in a while we are offered the chance to help without even knowing we are helping, or why.
Sable, an uncommonly sweet and appreciative Rocky Mountain mare, has given us just such an opportunity. When I was first notified about her, I did not immediately see anything that would invite me to use the term “rescue” in her case. She appeared to have a good home, was definitely fit and well fed, and apart from being neglected in a spiritual sense, most of her needs were being met. Yet in the back of my mind swelled a niggling sense of urgency that would not rest; so I agreed to look into her case.
I knew Sable when she had previously belonged to a friend, so I already knew of her demeanour and curious proclivity for preferring to be with humans instead of other horses. As I questioned my friend to get some background on Sable before heading out to meet her, I began to get clues to the premonitions I’d had.
The fellow to whom my friend had given Sable seemed to have had a rather abrupt change of heart about her, and in doing so put her out into a herd of other horses that were, like Sable, not being used. As winter approaches many operations look for ways to cut their seasonal expenses, with herd dispersal being one of the first approaches. As it turned out, Sable was among the first wave of mares to be culled as the manager’s budget dictated. But unknown to me the morning I arrived to visit her, there were also other and far darker plans already struck for this elegant lady.
As I walked up to the stall in which Sable had been kept for the night prior to my arrival, the young lady who maintains the barn strode up to me with a desperate look on her face, and indicated that she hoped I would agree to take Sable, and made a comment about “her time running out fast.” I’m very used to rush tactics by owners and their employees, so I disregarded this remark at first, thinking it was simply meant to make me circumvent our normal protocols for taking in horses. As I inwardly struggled with justifying the “rescue” of this horse, the lady looked me in the eye and said, “Well, it’s 6am now so you have two hours to look her over, because the meat truck arrives at 8.” I was about to dismiss this again but saw the desperation in her eyes, and understood that she was telling the truth. “I just don’t want to see her go that way,” the woman pleaded. So after performing a physical check on Sable and putting her through a few behavioural tests, I simply led her directly to my trailer, loaded her up, and left.
I believe our values have become skewed in this current climate of disposable and instant everything. Nowhere is that more evident than in the “luxuries,” or the category into which horses most often tend to fall. A horse, or any other animal for that matter, is not a luxury; he or she is a living, breathing, sentient being. They feel pain, know anguish and loneliness, and experience grief at the loss of a herdmate or even a special human. Horses show hints of linear thinking, have amazing memories, and can recognize faces, voices, and even silhouettes of those known to them. I also know for certain that a horse can grasp abstract concepts, such as love, kindness, and intentional cruelty.
Sable may not be the most visibly dramatic rescue we’ve ever undertaken, but her story is certainly one with the narrowest margin. Had I stopped for breakfast that morning, had the weather forecast been correct and delayed my trip, or had any of a score of potential interruptions caused me to miss that two hour window of opportunity, a horse who gave everything of herself in the service of humans would have gone to an unjustifiably terrifying end. Thanks to a handful of minutes, Sable is now a part of our “flowing herd” at Circle F Horse Rescue, a term I use as it depicts the herd as it is – never stagnant, always changing, always dynamic.
There is an old saying: “You never step into the same river twice.” I, for one, am solidly grateful I waded in when I did. I am completely confident that Sable is equally grateful, for her eyes never leave me while I’m at the barn, and she does not miss a single opportunity to nuzzle my arm.
She knows… I am certain of it.
Photo: Mane Frame Photography