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Abandoned Thoroughbreds Find Happy Endings

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Abandoned Thoroughbreds Find Happy Endings

Margo Ann Sullivan
Rescue group helps horses in peril reach peaceful retirement at last.

In the 1990s, a bay thoroughbred named Stella Artois raced at tracks up and down the East Coast. Her stable mate, a black thoroughbred named Samuel Adams, ran one race and became her companion.

The two horses had gone into retirement at a farm in Central Massachusetts, but last year, Sam and Stella's owner could no longer tend to them. (The owner had been sent to prison on charges unrelated to the animals.)

Left without food or water, the horses foundered near starvation until the MSPCA's rescue team, following up on a citizen complaint, drove the equine ambulance out to a Central Massachusetts farm and rescued the two thoroughbreds.

According to Rob Halpin, spokesman for MSPCA-Angell, the rescue team found Sam, 17, and Stella, 19, in a squalid paddock.

The horses were very sick, Halpin said. Stella's ribs showed through her skin, and a gash on her leg had become infected. Sam also suffered from malnutrition and from a litany of other medical problems.

Coaxing them into the ambulance was not hard, said Melissa Ghareeb, Equine & Farm Animal Center manager for the MSPCA. They were hungry. When they smelled food, they ran to the ambulance trailer, she said.

The plan was to put both animals on a feeding regimen and nurse them back to health, Ghareeb said.

"They were so thin," she said. But feeding malnourished horses can be complicated, she said, and although Stella responded nicely to the feeding program, Sam was not improving.

"Stella went very smoothly," she said, but Sam, who arrived in worse condition than Stella, couldn't tolerate the food.

He suffered bouts of colic as the staff labored to put him back on a healthy diet.

The staff wanted to bring the horses back to their normal weight, she said.

Stella should weigh about 1,000 pounds and Sam should weigh 1,200, she said.

Although veterinarians did not weigh the horses when they arrived at the farm in May, she said, they rated their health on the Henneke Scale used to evaluate body condition.

Sam scored the lowest grade possible, a "1," and Stella was closer to a "2," she said.

Sam and Stella also suffered from internal and external parasites and problems with their skin, teeth and hooves, she said, but despite all the medical challenges, the horses finally started to recover and their personalities began to shine, she said.

The spark came back, she said.

"These are horses who really demand your attention," she said. "Sam and Stella both have a lot of spirit, which is why they were able to survive this ordeal," Ghareeb said. And they still love people, she added.

Sam enjoyed the attention from the "camp kids," who came to the Nevins Farm, she said.

"They gave him baths and groomed him," she said.

Sam put his nose into everything, she said.

Stella, she said, was enjoying the pasture and the Nevins Farm life. She thinks it's "time to race" every time a rider gets on her back, she said.

In September, Sam was adopted by a family that agreed to keep him as a pet and not ride him. (He has a ligament injury, she said; he is "not an appropriate riding horse.")

Meanwhile, the MSPCA is seeking a new home for Stella. Or she may go into a thoroughbred retirement program.

"Stella has many riding years ahead of her," Halpin said.

"Stella has been doing phenomenally," Ghareeb said. "She has a lot of heart."

Although the MSPCA would have liked Sam and Stella to stay together, that wasn't possible, Ghareeb said.

"They definitely have a bond," she said. They would neigh to each other at the farm. But "we can't often place horses in pairs," she said. In preparation for their future, the MSPCA turned Sam and Stella out in different pastures, so they were used to being separated, she said. Someday the horses may see each other again at Nevins Farm reunions.

The alumni horses often come back to the farm for annual events, and they do recognize each other, she said.

How to Help: To help malnourished horses, the MSPCA has started the Buy A Bale program, which asks people for a $7 contribution per bale of hay. To donate to the MSPCA-Nevins Farm medical care, go to the MSPCA website and specify the Ashton's Hope Fund used to help Sam and Stella.

Pictured: Sam arrives at the MSPCA-Nevins Farm. (Photo Courtesy of MSPCA)

What do you think of Sam and Stella's story? How else can former racing horses be helped? Share your thoughts below!


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