Meet the sweetest horse on the planet. This little lady, named Penny, was confiscated from her owner by Grant County's state brand inspector, the ever-cheerful-but-businesslike Buddy Eby, and turned over to Carol Johnson's compassionate care at New Mexico's End of the Road Ranch, a horse rescue facility where I volunteer.
Penny was starving when she arrived, but not too far gone to be saved. The camera always adds weight, as we who are embarrassed at photographs of ourselves know, so the photo at right makes Penny look heftier than she was at the time Carol brought her in. I had never seen a severely underweight horse until I saw Penny; her protruding hipbones and spine shocked me. Her arthritic right knee looked painful. Still, she is sweet and engaging to anybody who approaches her pen and greets us with a happy nicker.
Carol immediately put the mare on a refeeding program recommended by the respected University of California-Davis veterinary school. The program required Carol to deliver small portions of alfalfa every four hours, round-the-clock, for four days. Penny gobbled up the forage quickly and pleaded for more. Everybody wanted to appease her, but we resisted. (My cousin, Pidge, who retired as a nutrition expert from the U.S. Navy, understands well the danger of feeding the starved too much, too fast, too soon. Horses are no different from the human prisoners-of-war Pidge was trained to treat.)
Carol continued feeding portions of alfalfa a couple of times a day, and introduced free-choice grass hay, as the refeeding program progressed. It was nearly three weeks before Pennyl began to gain weight, but she did so slowly and steadily. Her mood never changed. She continued to be sweet and happy. I gave her twice-weekly laser treatments for her sore and stiff knees and for the edema in her hind legs. She loved the treatments and stood quietly, looking dreamy, for them. I feel in love with her.