Becky worked for a while at the Equine Rescue League in Leesburg, where she met Jean-Claude van Draft, a Belgian draft horse the league found at a Pennsylvania auction in 1997. Many of the horses in the auction were destined for the slaughterhouse, but Jean-Claude was rescued. He was only 18 months old, uncertain and undernourished. He had been left tied for so long that the tether had grown into his neck, leaving a two-inch deep scar under his mane. His feet were neglected. He had a respiratory infection and a growth on his eyelid.
When he arrived in Leesburg, Jean-Claude was exhausted and had to lie down to eat. He didn't know how to walk on a lead or how to pick up his feet for cleaning. He obviously hadn't interacted much with people. Before long, though, the gangly baby began to enjoy engaging with humans. The staff gave him a stall ball to play with. He learned that if he threw it out of his paddock, somebody would run out from the office to retrieve it for him.
Soon he was gelded, his feet were trimmed, and the growth was removed from his eye. He gained weight and confidence and grew into the healthy big horse he was supposed to be. He lived at the league for about four years, then Becky adopted him and took him to Dona's.
Becky called him Big John. His flaxen mane covered up the groove in his neck, which was good because he didn't like you to look at it. When you did, you felt utter pity for him. I think John didn't want pity from anybody. From the looks of him, he didn't need it.
Becky wondered what John about his new life with her. She heard an NPR interview with an animal communicator from the Washington, D.C. area, Diane Roadcap. Becky called into the program, related John's story, and was put through to Ms. Roadcap, who provided these insights:
- He had been chained outside a building (presumably a barn) for a long time in all kinds of weather.
- He was grateful to Becky for her love and devoted handling.
- He knew he was living the good life.