Sunday, August 16, 2009

Animal Rescue: Officially the most frustrating thing on earth!

Animals rescued from Orange County Farm

Here's the part that flipped me out: I talked to this woman on the phone several times in 2007, because she launched a web site for the Polo Pony Retirement Foundation. (It was at - It's gone now and not archived) Great, I thought. Finally, someone is going to do something about all the old polo ponies, many of whom do go to slaughter which makes me crazy because there is no better little kid's mount than a twenty something polo pony. They have seen and done it all, are broke to death and are famous for packing teeny tinies around like four legged babysitters.

She was completely sane sounding and intelligent on the phone. We discussed everything from black tie fundraisers to horse care. This was not a person who was not knowledgeable about horses. I agreed to type up a bunch of materials for planning purposes and did so. When I got back to her, she did not respond, and she ignored voice mails. So I shrugged my shoulders and figured she had flaked, too bad but not exactly surprising. People want to start a new rescue about every six minutes and most of them will never go further than pipe dreams.

The news article says she blames it on health, as they usually do. But for heaven's sake, if you really have a health problem, ASK FOR HELP! Polo is a wealthy community and there are those that would have stepped up to take in her horses if she could no longer care for them.

From the news article comments:

"I am a neighbor and had not heard from Ms. Mackall in over a year. She has 70 acres. You are unable to see her horses from the road and she keeps her gate locked and she has "no trespassing" signs posted. She was very much a recluse and it was impossible to know what went on at her farm. A neighbor was asked by her on a Wednesday to go water some of the horses. That is when animal control was contacted."

THANK YOU to the person who finally reported her.

And here is an idea: When you have 70 acres, SELL A COUPLE ACRES! Then you can buy hay AND hire help, no matter how poor your health may be.

Ugh, this one makes me VERY angry. Your comments welcome.


First things first - this is from the scene:

"Okay, so hubby is in charge of the ac guys as well as others. Knowing this, I knew the day would come when I would get 'the call'. It happened. And this was the case.
Yup, she had 30 acres visible to me and was all electric taped off in sections. So she could have pastured the weaker ones together. And there was another 50 acres out back. None of it was visible from the road. And it's a busy road and loaded with responsible horse people.

The lady called a neighbor and asked her to look after the horses as she was going in the hospital. The poor unsuspecting neighbors came to the property and promptly called AC. Thanks to Trish and her crew, we spent the next 14 hours with the vet and finding homes for these horses. One stupid horse wouldn't get in the trailer. Had to get the vet back out the next day. Thanks Keswick Equine! You rock too!

We took in 10 horses. 12 are still on the property and in great health.

A stallion was locked in an enclosed trailer for a month. She had a nice big aluminum stock trailer but chose not use that one.

She had a yearling colt that finally let them put a halter on him. I could walk up to him, with my hands behind my back. Once I tried to move my hand up to him, he would run away.

The uncle who was her lawyer is taking 2 of the horses. The cops did make sure that he was going to keep them in a proper place. And actually he's keeping them at this wonderful outfit that took 4 already. And they will make sure the 2 horses don't leave.

21 dead on the property. In August, in VA. The stink is still in my nose.

Anyway, we took in a one eyed mare for a couple of days. I'm not set up for this sort of thing and especially a mare with 3 horny geldings. We sent her on to Traveller's Rest Equine Elders. THEY ROCK! And also need help."

FHOTD in: Equine Elders if you want to donate!

"KNOW YOUR LIMITS! Jeese, how hard is that? I KNOW how many animals I can comfortably care for and afford and I won’t go over that number, period. I’m beginning to think “rescue” is synonymous with “hoarder” these days. Stories like this are all too common and they make me sick to my stomach. These stories are the reason my horses are “lifers” meaning that they will be with me until they die. I’m scared to death that they might eventually end up in a situation like this otherwise.

One other thing… you can bet your ass that if I’m too sick to care for my horses for even one day I’ll be asking for help.


"That is completely disgusting. I don't care how sick you are, there is no reason she couldn't organise help for these animals.

This bit is just unbelievable!

"This horse was found in a stock trailer and it had been on that trailer for about a month. It was clearly evidence that it had not been taken off the trailer in that time period and that it had been standing in its own feces and urine for that period of time. He was covered in his own mess."

WTF is wrong with some people??? :O"

"Sigh. I really do not get people. I'm being hit relatively hard by the economic downturn as a small business owner, but I can tell you my horse is happy, plump, on a 6 week shoeing schedule and running free with his buddies on a 20 acre pasture. When I've needed help in the past because of my health, I wasn't to proud to ask and had many great friends who stepped up willingly. I made a COMMITMENT to my animals and will go without so that they are happy, healthy and well-balanced. What do these people do with their children? I hope to God they don't breed.

"Whoa, hold on a minute. 20 horses on 70 acres. That’s almost 4 acres to a horse. I have a neighbor who has two older horses on 3 acres of pasture. The horses only get about ½ flake morning and evening each (less during summer) and are morbidly obese. They are on this pasture year round, and get proper dental and hoof care. My guess is, if the two horses were on 7 acres, they would be even fatter than they are now; regardless of how much hay they got. So even with zero hoof and dental care (i.e. complete neglect except watering them) I don’t see how there is any way that these horses got to be so thin. The condition of these horses is simply inexcusable."

Regarding my comment on selling a few acres:

"It may not be so easy... I don't know if it's different in the states, but in Ontario (especially southern) it's getting harder to win a severance in the last 20 years or so. There are many little two acre plots with bungalows built pre-1980, when any farmer could sever off a big lot and build his retirement home. All it took was a few city people buying those homes and complaining about the smell and boom- no severances anymore.

For the most part, that's a good thing... farmland has to be protected. BUT I see your point. She could have found some way to use that land to make ends meet and care for her horses.

Personally I think the biggest problem is pride. She hated to ask for help. I know how that feels. But you know what? Sometimes you simply must ask for help.


(aka Heidi the Hick)"

and another comment on the land division idea:

"In my county in So. California, there is a $30,000 fee to subdivide a parcel. I am sure that Orange Co., just over the mountains, also has something similiar. So if her 70 acres was one parcel, she would need a large up front fee to be able to subdivide and sell off some of it. Also, would have to hire someone to draw up approved plans for the county, perhaps build a road to the new parcel, and who knows what else the county would require. The days of simply selling off a few acres are long gone in California as counties want as much money as they can get."

FHOTD in: Good point. But you're right - there are also ways to use land to generate income. If you can't sell, you can rent to a farmer. If you have trees, you can sell them to a lumber company.

"70 acres in Orange County California? I did not know anyone owned that much land anymore in Orange County . I am from Costa Mesa and I grew up in a little corner called Santa Ana Heights where we all had horses and would go riding at the Back Bay . Property is worth so much even in this economic times. I wonder how old this lady is – dementia? I have no idea how someone can let a horse get to this condition. I just brought home my baby mini mule. We decided to bring the mother with her so that weaning would be less traumatic. When they led the mother off the trailer, I was shocked to see how thin they had let the mother get. Not much more weight than the one pictured. The baby looks great and her excuse was that the baby dragged her down. No way would nursing a baby with proper food cause a mare to look that way. I called my breeder friends and am now on a mission to get the mother to where she should be. I just do not understand people, how they can allow a horse to get so thin."

FHOTD in: Orange County, VA actually. Which is worse - they have grass there! I can't figure out WHY these horses were starving. And no, nursing doesn't "drag mares down" if they are fed properly. Their caloric requirements DO increase so you have to account for that!

"We saw this on the news this morning - we are one county over from Orange County. Not only is Orange Co. full of polo players, it's an extremely wealthy part of the state but you can have crazy anywhere. As bad as the horses were, the dogs looked even worse and they let her keep one of them!! Unbelievable."

FHOTD in: Figures. They usually hoard/neglect more than one kind of animal. :-(

"I know that I am not "wired" to do the rescue thing. I would go to the auction and bring them ALL home. That is not a good thing.

To run an effective rescue, one has to possess the "hardness of heart" to make tough decisions, leaving some horses behind because there is only so much room, so much time, and often very limited income/resources to rescue effectively. I would rather donate "time and treasure" to an existing rescue with a track record of doing good works for horses.

An effectively run rescue has a BUSINESS PLAN that includes funding and personnel for rehabilitation and retraining so rescues can be offered for sale at a reasonable price. New Vocations in OH, Tranquility Farm and TBFriends in CA and countless others are doing exactly that, putting money into the rescues to heal, train, and market horses to the public.

Other facets that some rescues do not take into consideration are the practical aspects of zoning, adequate pens and shelters, veterinary expenses, ongoing fundraising for the day-to-day operation--and the staff to handle all of that. If one person tries to do it all, it quickly becomes an overwhelming task.

It sickens me when I see a rescue that starts out with the best of intentions and then becomes a catch-all for anything equine, especially a number of horses that will never be adoptable. If there is acreage and resources for those that will never leave the rescue, fine. But many rescues do not start out with much more than the dream, and then it goes downhill, often rather quickly, from there. If the rescue operator gets overwhelmed or if his/her health fails or circumstances change, the dynamic shifts and then you have the Orange County mess--and countless others like it.

No easy answer, no easy way out. Sad.


FHOTD in: That part about the BUSINESS PLAN is something every rescue should take to heart. It is a BUSINESS and money will no more fall from the sky than it does in any other business. But that's where I am confused again. Nancy and I talked about doing major fundraising events in New York and L.A. She KNEW the kind of funding that would be needed and how to get it. What went wrong? Doubt I will ever know.