The Fallen Herd
On February 14, 2015, HiCaliber began the largest rescue operation in our history when we set out to save “The Fallen Herd” – 35 starved, broken horses, most of them former racehorses.
HiCaliber became involved when Fallen Horses Rescue’s Board of Directors reached out to HiCaliber. We were informed the rescue’s founder and caretaker had abandoned the herd and left them to starve. In the months prior to HiCaliber learning of their plight, volunteers were forced to helplessly watch horses they loved die of starvation as Animal Control failed to act.
The Valentine’s Day call came in, romantic plans were cancelled and our Emergency Response Team set out immediately to assess the situation. What they found was devastating. Warp, a nearly dead, $200k+ winning former racehorse with a maggot-infested shoulder wound was one of 30 horses who stood stoically in their stalls. Warp’s expectation of food had long-since passed and she demonstrated the demeanor of a horse who had given up and was waiting to die.
That night, Warp and Summer, the two skinniest of the Fallen herd, were loaded onto HiCaliber’s trailer and became the first of the horses to find safety and sanctuary at HiCaliber’s beautiful 16-acre ranch in Valley Center, CA. In the days that followed, we continued to pull walking skeletons out, bringing them to our facility, getting them immediate care, and documenting their condition through photos. Their broken spirits broke our hearts, their hunger enraged us.
Just days after arriving at HiCaliber, Warp went down as Channel 5 News cameras rolled. Her weak body wasn’t able to pull itself back up. It was a dramatic turn for a horse so many were rooting for. Warp was one of the skinniest horses we had ever rescued and we honestly didn't think she would survive. HiCaliber’s medical team tended to her through the night and by the next morning she miraculously stood. Over the next several weeks she fought along with us, touch and go, and winning the hearts of us all.
As the transport team pulled 29 horses to safety from the Fallen ranch in Phelan, CA, the crew at the ranch went into overdrive to accommodate the new intakes, hastily building paddocks, stalls and quarantine pens, and generally readying the ranch for the new arrivals. To say it was an undertaking of monumental measure is an understatement! Not long after the 29 were safely settled, HiCaliber was alerted to five additional Fallen horses that were residing in foster homes and one horse that had been adopted, all of which that were in need of being relinquished to HiCaliber. When all was said and done 35 Fallen horses had found their way to HiCaliber and now called it home.
For the most part, the horses thrived and the differences you could see in their progress was simultaneously remarkable and enraging. You almost want to believe that the horses are sick and can’t get any better…. to realize it was as simple as food and completely avoidable is hard for us to accept. And especially coming from a “rescue.” In addition to significant weight gain needed, most of the horses required some level of vetting and treatment including routine worming and vaccines, teeth floating, lameness, ulcer treatment and wound care. Thanks to our amazing team of volunteers who worked around the clock to see these horses to health, the majority of them saw their way to a successful rehabilitation.
Tragically, not all of the horses would be able to pull through. A heart-breaking number of horses had been left to stand at their former “rescue” with debilitating, painful and untreatable conditions that ranged from the neurological to crippling injuries. While it’s always our hope to be able to rehabilitate every horse and send them off to a wonderful forever home, sometimes the gift we can offer is a compassionate end to their suffering. We would later learn that Fallen’s Board of Directors had been instructing its founder to euthanize a number of these horses for many months and were not aware of the prolonged suffering that had been allowed to continue. We made sure the horses had days of food, pain meds and a lot of love by our incredible team of volunteers before they were let go to cross the rainbow bridge.
As the months went by the Fallen herd had time to let down and breathe. They learned that food was in constant supply and their pacing, bobbing and weaving slowed. They learned to trust our team and seemed to finally know they are safe. As of October 15, 2015, nine of the Fallen horses have found their way into adoptive homes and the rest are awaiting their turn to be trained in preparation of their next chapter in life.
The Fallen Horses rescue was an incredibly expensive endeavor that had cost nearly $50,000 to date. HiCaliber is extremely grateful to the ASPCA for coming alongside us and awarding us a $15,000 Cruelty Grant to help off-set the costs of the rescue operations. Without that early infusion of funding, we would not have had the capacity to undertake such an emergency and large-scale rescue. Individual and corporate donors have also contributed significantly to the rescue and we couldn’t be more grateful to or proud of our village for the way it stepped up to save these horses. Our costs of this rescue continue to rise as the final 15 horses complete their rehabilitation and undergo training.
If you would like to make a one-time donation or become a sponsors, we would be very grateful. The horses thank you!
FROM THE PRESS
"San Diego Group Struggles to Rescue Dozens of Neglected Horses" - San Diego Channel 6, The CW
"Rescue Horses Relocated, Nonprofit to Disolve" - Daily Press
"Most Horses Healing After Rescue" - Desert Dispatch
"Dozen of Fallen Horses Land Softly Despite Allegations of Neglect" - RateMyHorsePro.com
"Questions Remain After Animals Pulled from Fallen Horses Rescue" - Paulick Report
"Horse Rescue Steps in as Similar Facility Goes Belly Up" - Valley Roadrunner
- Big Red
- Dream Driver
Rest in Peace
- South 40