I had seen pictures of the skinny old mare, but they did not prepare me for what I saw snow-vet1-w500-h500when I walked down that driveway. A small group of people was huddled around a tiny, frail, grey Arabian mare – she was so skinny that you could see her entire skeleton despite the heavy blanket she wore.  “Diamond”, as she was called, had a bad hind leg and did not want to leave her buddy of the past 5+ years, and the horsemen who were helping us with the rescue were afraid to push her too much because of her condition. The first thing that struck me was in my entire life around horses – 35 years – and not even in my twenty years as a professional trainer – had I ever seen a horse that skinny in person.  The second thing that struck me was that she was one of the most beautiful Arabians I had ever seen! I had spent the past fifteen years primarily working with the breed, and I had grown to love not only their beauty but also their extreme intelligence and affinity towards humans. As a sport horse trainer we always criticize the halter breeders – “You can’t ride a pretty head” – but this mare was exquisite. And given her age and the rumor that she was registered and had been imported, this had been a high dollar horse at some point in her life.

snow-vet2-w500-h500I had first heard of “Diamond” when my assistant, Trisha R., asked if she could have an older blanket I was throwing out. It was no longer waterproof, and had been “much loved” by my three year old gelding. Trisha told me her neighbor had an older horse she was trying to help out with, and the blanket they had on her was way too big. The next day she sent me a photo of the mare, and I knew we had to do something quick. In conjunction with Tammy Seifert of Shy Horse Stable & Supply, as well as the executive board of Race2Ring, Trisha and I came up with a plan to try and help this horse out. We at first offered the owner help with feeding the mare correctly, but when she offered to donate her to us we jumped on the chance – and that was when Project Snow Angel was born!

Race2Ring is a 501c-3 non-profit, GFAS certified organization whose mission is to provide snow-arrival1-w500-h500professional rescue, rehabilitation, retraining, and placement for ex-performance horse athletes. However when the need arises we will step in with an outright rescue, which is what this poor Arabian mare needed. Shy Horse Stable and Supply graciously offered to provide all of the mare’s nutritional needs, with Race2Ring doing the initial rehabilitation and covering the rest of her expenses. We decided that “Diamond” needed a new name to go with her new life, and with her snow-white coat and it being so near Christmas, we decided on “Snow Angel”.

The original plan was for Tammy, her husband, and Trisha R. to pick Snowy up and deliver her to R2R in Conover, NC, but when the mare gave them some difficulty I met them at the farm in Maiden to help.  I am certainly no “horse whisperer”, but I know Arabs, and I walked right up to Snowy and whispered in her ear. Fighting back tears I told her we were there to help her, that I knew she didn’t want to leave her buddy (who by the way was young and obese!), but that we were taking her to a better place where she’d be fed properly and given the best care in her senior years. Then snowy-AR1-w500-h500Tammy took her rope, and her husband and I gave Snowy a gentle nudge to her hindquarters…and she stepped right onto the trailer!

Snowy arrived at R2R on Saturday, December 5th. At her first vet check that Tuesday, her age was estimated at between 25-27 years old. Her teeth were in horrid condition, she had an old injury to her right stifle, and some arthritis in both knees and right coffin joint. But her heart and lungs were in fabulous condition, and boy did she have attitude! Snowy measures 14.2 hands and according to the weight tape (taken both at her girth and belly at the 18th rib) she was only 600 lbs upon arrival. By comparison my 14.2 Arabian stallion tapes on average between 865-950 lbs when he is in show shape. In the one month that we have had her Snowy has gained close to 100lbs, which goes to show that being “old” is not asnow-arrival3-w500-h500n excuse for being skinny. It is my hope that through this blog I can share Snowy’s remarkable transformation, and hopefully educate horse owners on both proper care of a geriatric horse as well as the importance of careful rehabilitation of a severe neglect case. We did not know if Snowy would survive the winter, even with our intervention, but she’s showing us a “never say die” attitude that we can all learn a lot from.

Next month: Proper Nutrition – You are What You Eat!