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Sharing Grief

I shouldn't have to write this post, but I’m going to. I shouldn't have to do a lot of the things I do here at the rescue, but I do, because I made a commitment to animals who were betrayed, abandoned and tossed aside by their owners. I made a promise to the same creature who has rescued me in so many ways, that I would rescue them too.

I try to focus on the positive, the now, and the tomorrows I can offer these horses. There is something so rewarding and comforting in taking on an animal like Bones, Guinness, Granny, Solar or Piper who were damn near starved to death and we give them something as simple as food, love, water , basic care and they recover, flourish and go on to live great lives full of love.

There are times I cry, get angry and question why I keep doing this to myself. I expose myself to the ugliest side of humans and in turn my ability to trust them has suffered. It’s no secret that I have felt and experienced as much betrayal and abandon as most of these horse have. I relate to them and their hardships. I have been in their “shoes” I know what it feels like for the most part and together we heal and move on.

But inevitably, there are days like today, where I am not equipped to handle the pain one of my horses is feeling and I’m not prepared to face my own pain in watching theirs.

Kat came to us over the summer, she was a 3 year old match racer who was dumped at auction, bought by the feed lot and was about to be sent to slaughter before we stepped up to take her. She was scrawny, drugged up, had a nasty leg wound and her forelock had seen better days… but she had movement like none other, was a feed lot favorite and just screamed, “I’m something special.”

I picked her up with a few other young mares from feed lot and we made the trek back to San Diego. Once we got here, I put her and Salma, an 18 month old filly, in a huge stall together. They had bonded on the trailer and Salma was still leery of humans so I wanted her to have some moral support through Kat. Kat was a grouchy, untrusting, I WILL KICK YOU! kinda mare who had a crest that seemed far too big for her petite body. The gash on her leg required treatment so our relationship started out “rocky” if that’s what you call an attempted kick to the face lol. Nonetheless, we saw the potential, understood her fear and let her be for a bit after the leg settled.

The feed lot told us there was a possibility of her being bred so while she got her teeth done, we did a preg test. The ultrasound showed a 45 day heartbeat and our hearts sank. We had big plans for this kid. She was only 3 years old and already pregnant!? Who does that!?

We discussed terminating the pregnancy, pros and cons and how we could make this right for Kat who was still a baby herself. As fate would have it, Kat miscarried a couple days later and the dilemma no longer existed. There was a tiny little cluster of cells that slightly resembled a baby horse and Kat didn’t seem to notice. Life went on and no one was really affected by the loss as it was so early and we were all fairly detached from the situation. Salma went home to her adoptive family and Kat began to settle into life here at HCHR.

As you have all seen on our Facebook page, Kat has continued to improve in weight, behavior, and her desire to be friends with us. She particularly took to Callie, our English trainer who has been working with her daily. Over the last several months, Kat has made incredible progress, has turned into a soft, smooshy, silly girl who acts like a normal 3 year old horse should. There are no signs of that grouchy mare that got off the trailer several months ago.

Everything seemed to be going along perfect until this morning when I walked out to feed. As I approached her stall, I noticed something on the ground. I walked closer, still half asleep and had to adjust my eyes a few times before I realized what I was seeing…it was a premature foal, lying there dead.

My mind raced back and forth, I went back to the day I found the first foal, a tiny little thing that could fit in my hand. “There’s no way! I picked up that first foal with my own hands” I thought. She wasn’t carrying twins per the ultrasound, so how is this possible?! And then it hit me…that first baby must have been Salma’s, the 18 month old filly who’s fellow herd mates, now all over the country, have been miscarrying over the last several weeks.

I was pissed off to think Kat was bred at 3, but 18 fucking months?! Seriously? WHO DOES THAT? And then dump them at slaughter? Are there really humans out there who think it’s ok to breed an 18 month old baby?????!? Apparently so, because the asshole who dumped Salma, Charlize, and the other “super model” fillies at the feedlot, thought it was wise to breed a whole shit ton of them and then turn them into slaughter. WOW. Talk about anger and rage. I didn’t need coffee today, I was wide awake now.

I threw some hay, called Callie and together we checked over Kat. She appeared fine, like her normal self and it seemed Callie and I were the ones who were most upset at that point. We felt bad that our girl had to go through this without us, that we didn't know she was still pregnant, and let’s be honest - as mothers, there’s just something about knowing another mom lost their baby that hits you in the gut.

I went to the house to retrieve a bag to dispose of the foal, and returned to collect the remains. A little filly, solid like her mama, with a couple marks where Kat had obviously pawed at her. I took the baby away as Kat ate and disposed of it. A few moments later Kat began to pace and call out. She’s a quiet girl so I knew she realized the baby was gone. She began to scream and panic, going back to where her baby was, smelling the ground.

I’ve never lost a baby. I’ve never miscarried, aborted or had a stillborn. I’m blessed. I have been pregnant two times and have two healthy children. But on the day I delivered my daughter, I heard the screams of a mother who lost her baby during delivery and it haunts me. I remember the wailing, begging, pleading and the “why’s.” I felt guilty that I got to snuggle my own little girl while she held her lifeless baby. It was horrible for me, and I can’t even begin to imagine what that mom felt. It was a helpless, empty, I-can’t-believe-I’m- witnessing-this” feeling. The kind where you want to do something to make her feel better but you know, there is nothing that can be done. So you go back and hug your own baby and cry for the loss of the unknown woman next door.

I’m the first person to say, don’t put human emotions on horses. But this? It’s not a human/equine thing. This is a mother thing. Kat is in the club now, she had a baby and even though it was dead, it was hers and her concern for it showed just how much love a mother, human or horse, has for their baby. Those screams, had the same heartbreak I heard when I was in the hospital having my daughter. You can just feel the raw emotion coming out, calling to a baby who is never going to come back.

Our poor girl. I can fix hunger, I can fix hooves, I can fix teeth, bad habits, fear, wounds…but broken hearts? I can’t fix that.

I try to take my brain to a place where Kat came from. The man who owned her, raced her, bred her and dumped her. I bet he hasn’t thought about her since. I bet he didn’t care that I would have to watch her scream and paw and pace looking for her baby. I bet he never considered that someone like me or Callie would find the baby and mourn in our own way, being mother’s ourselves. I bet he never considered a ranch full of horses who would know that something went wrong today by the desperate screams of their friend. I bet he doesn’t care that I went in the dumpster to retrieve the baby and took it to Kat to she could see her filly one more time. I bet he doesn’t care that everything we have done for Kat now rests on her ability to recover from this. I bet he doesn’t care. Because Kat was just a dollar sign to him. An easy buck to use and dispose of as he found fit.

Luckily for Kat, she’s not a dollar sign to us. She’s a part of our family and we are grieving for her and her baby. We have all been checking on her, letting her know we love her and we are sorry. As the day goes on, she seems to do better but I don’t have the heart to put her back into her stall. The smell of her baby, still on the ground…and there’s nothing I can do. We can only be there to comfort her, let her know we love her, and show her how valuable she is to us in ways that will never pay our bills.

Kat recovered from so much, and I'm sure she will come around from this too...but it doesn't make it any easier to watch a fellow mother grieve her child. Keep our girl in your prayers tonight. It's really all we can do to try and unbreak her heart