The following is inspired by "Lily" (I am not using her real name, as I do not want to comprimise the ongoing investigation into the conditions under which she was found); an older Thoroughbred mare with whom I had brief contact. This mare probably had a story common to many OTTB's; a race career, ending for some reason or another; a "rescue" thereafter, only to fall into a state of neglect, depravity & hunger. Subsequent "rescues" followed that, until she came to be taken to a place I'll call "The Haven", where she was finally cared for, loved & regarded in a manner in which she deserved. One day, someone came to adopt "Lily". She was to be cared for, loved & be with other horses. It sounded like an ideal situation for "Lily".
I suppose up to this point I might be describing a few thousand OTTB's around the country. So what makes this mare so special? The day I arrived at "The Haven" to take "Lily" to her new home, she was quietly waiting in the driveway with her handler. I hopped out of the truck & approached them, extending a hand to "Lily" & trying not to make her nervous. She quickly sniffed my hand, then began to nuzzle my arm. I returned the favour by scratching her withers; a gesture that she made no small effort to let me know was deeply appreciated. "Lily" was unlike many other OTTB's I had met; she had a spark in her eye, & a youthful spirit that seemed unquenchable. She was a real "people horse". I grew very quickly to like this kind, elderly mare & wished her new owner well as I handed the lead rope over when we arrived. I left feeling hopeful that "Lily" had found a home in which she could retire in comfort.
I suppose the worst thing you can do to anyone is to take away the one thing they want or need most. In "Lily's" case, she craved attention, and that was what she lacked most in the last months of her life. Almost immediately, "Lily" was banished to a small, mucky paddock by herself, from which she could neither touch nor see the neighbouring horses. She received virtually no care, very little food & worst of all for her, no one for company. Over the months that ensued, she tried to survive physically by eating whatever she could to stem the steadily growing pain of malnorishment & starvation. No one will ever know what went through her mind as she whiled away the time. All through this, her tormentors sat mere yards away, eating regular meals & living their own lives surrounded by each other's company.
At length, "Lily" was rescued from her living hell, but even then her rescuers thought they were too late, as she lay in her field appearing for all the world to be dead. Her flanks were horribly gaunt, & almost every bone in her body was visibile through her shrunken & matted hide. I was called to bring "Lily" to a rescue facility where she was given the best medical care available. She was so emaciated I didn't even recognise her at first. She however, apparently remembered me, as she greeted me with a nicker & soft touch of her muzzle to my arm. Regardless of how bitter her exile was, this horse was still willing to seek comfort from a human. Not caring who was there, or about holding up a masculine facade, I cried all the way to the trailer. I saved the sobs for when I was alone on the way to the shelter where "Lily" would be cared for.
"Lily" was greeted by almost every volunteer at that shelter. She was suitably fussed over, and thoroughly examined by a vet (who graciously donated much of her services & time). At each step of the examination, we discovered yet more evidence of her cruel mistreatment. We all hung on every word the vet spoke, as she cautioned us about the many pitfalls involved in rehabilitating a severely malnorished horse. Despite her caveats, we all parted that night with high hopes for "Lily's" recovery. Three nights later, "Lily" died quite suddenly despite the best efforts of everyone involved. As if her nighmare weren't complete enough, her final horror was to go as she had lived her last months; alone. It was neither a peaceful nor dignified passing. "Lily" savagely resisted whatever demons pursued her through her last hours. She fought valiantly, and quite likely thrashed until the last breath escaped from her dying lungs. She was found the next morning, her body hideously misshapen & surrounded by evidence of her violent battle with death. I suppose I'm still describing a common story ...
I am at a loss to explain how a human being can sit complacently by & allow any animal to waste away to such a degree. What is it inside such a person's mind that allows them to think "This is OK"? How does someone become so calous, so uncaring about life that they willfully cause an animal to suffer through the pain, humiliation & emotional cruelty that is neglect? What justification do people have for making this happen? I have no answers for these, and many more questions. I do however have an idea for at least a partial solution.
Those who profess to care seem to clearly outnumber those who evidently do not, yet those who are uncaring prevail far too often. It is not the numbers that determine the outcome, but whether those who claim to be good are willing to do something about it. Edmund Burke said "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Well folks, "Lily's" fate was almost surely sealed because "someone" did nothing. My testament to this gentle, loving mare will be this; I will not sit idly by & do nothing. I will not pass by a horse in need & think "Gee, that's too bad. But s/he's not my horse". We hear stories about this horse or that who was left to starve in some barren field, or another was abused or mistreated. None of us are powerless to help these creatures. If you see a horse in distress or living in severe neglect, I urge you to call the SPCA. If nothing else, at least a professional assessment can be made of the situation. At least "something" was done.
If you don't think just one person can do much, think about this: I am only one person, but you & I make two ...
As the case for Lily has developed, it is now possible to release pictures of her. I do not have any "before" pictures, but be assured she was in good health & flesh when I originally delivered this loving mare to her owner. These shots were taken the night I brought Lily to the Surrey SPCA shelter. There are many more, which not only catalogued her condition, but typified the degree of neglect many horses like her experience. It is because of sights like this that I am so vehement about helping to rescue horses like Lily.