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Daisy’s Surprise

We thought we had seen it all. After twelve years in equine rescue and many more as private horse owners, we have seen a lot things, including pregnant mares. And these are easy to spot, right? With their seriously large bellies, they are as obvious as the moon. Occasionally, we’ve run across posts online from folks that have had surprise foals, often out of rescued mares that they did not know had been bred. The posts would have titles like “Look what we found this morning!” or “What a shock!” Like many other people in the Interwebz, we’d roll our eyes and think “Seriously? How could you miss that?” And “Everyone knows they should check these mares coming in the door.”

Enter Daisy. Daisy was one of the Sparky project mares who arrived at White Bird last spring. She came with her best friend, Gatsby, who was seriously ill and very weak from myopathy. The two had been together for years and had never produced a foal. But taking nothing for granted, we had her pregnancy-checked, anyway. We did this partly because of her big belly, which was just as round as a billiard ball. We thought it likely that she actually was in foal. The vet examined her and determined her to be open, and also that she would come into heat within the week. And obligingly, she did so. That same week, Gatsby was gelded as soon as he was strong enough. That should have been the end of the story.

Over the past year, Daisy has gained weight and condition and is now a plump shiny, pony with the same round belly that she’s always had. This morning, we were astounded to discover that under that round belly, she had managed to conceal the fact that she actually was in foal. Beside her in her stall was a new colt, who is in fact a dead ringer for her best friend, now-gelding, Gatsby.

After the initial shock, we did a careful rethink of events. The two had never had a foal in the years they had been together. Check. Daisy was pregnancy checked on arrival. Check. Gatsby was gelded. Check. And he was very, very weak and not likely to be able to even mount a mare. Check. Daisy had a big belly. Check, but she started out with that a year ago when she was actually underweight, and she had gained weight and condition since then. The big question was how on earth she managed to hide this solid boy. Doing the math, she was probably only 6 weeks into her gestation when she arrived. The fact that we didn’t see her bagging up this past week was more easily explained. These ponies are shaggy this time of year and that was easy to miss.

Every horse we take in teaches us something new. Daisy taught us several lessons. First, that mares can be sneaky. Yeah, okay, we already knew that. Second, that you really can’t assume much of anything where it comes to horses. Third, the next time I see someone post about their new stealth foal, rather than rolling my eyes, I will simply wish them a healthy mom and baby.

Our little guy has yet to be named. And we can always use donations towards the care of this little family and their herd mates, while they are awaiting permanent homes. So we are having a naming contest! If you think you have the perfect name for this new member of the White Bird family, please send us a $10 donation via Paypal and add your suggested name in the “comments.” The grand winner will be announced next Thursday.

In the meantime, Mom and baby are doing just fine. Photo by Stephanie Ketcher.

Daisy and Baby


Spring! Finally!


Today, we have a nice gentle breeze, bright sunshine and temperatures well into the “not horrific” range. Spring is finally on its way! But Holy Toledo, what a rough winter! The past couple of months have been an unusually harsh one with more rain than we have ever seen and more mud as a result. It was cold, too. One morning, I saw MINUS 2 degrees on the thermometer. While our northern colleagues probably yawn over those kinds of temperatures, they are unusual for this part of Virginia. In addition to the added workload that the weather has placed on us, our long radio silence has been due to the demise of our trusty, Dell computer, which served us faithfully for over nine years. It had apparently been trying to do a slow exit for months, but when it finally crashed, it did so completely. We were able to save our twelve year’s worth of files largely due to the expert assistance of Travis and Maria Siegel, who rescued them from the smoking remains of the hard drive.

Speaking of twelve years, White Bird’s status as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization became effective on March 6, 2003, so this was a birthday of sorts. Since then, we have seen a lot of changes. Unfortunately, one of them has not been a reduction in the need for equine rescue organizations. In the early 2000’s, the northern Virginia economy was booming. Horses that required our assistance were fewer and these were generally rehomed without too much effort, even to companion homes. Today, we face a much different environment. People have been under financial stress for the last ten years. The Baby Boom generation is retiring, and many have health or financial problems that have made it difficult for them to care for their horses. Available homes are fewer and there is greater competition for them. These factors have generated an enormous number of horses and owners who need assistance. Conversely, donations are harder to come by as donors must try to balance their own needs with their desire to help others. Horses continue to be slaughtered in Mexico and Canada, though the recent EU ban on American horsemeat may yet reduce the demand for slaughtered horses. At this time, it’s hard to tell. One day though, we hope that equine rescues will become obsolete and unnecessary. Until they are, we appreciate the many donors, volunteers and supporters who have helped us reach these horses over the last twelve years.

On the legislative front, this past session of Virgina’s General Assembly contained two Bills that specifically addressed equine welfare. The first was Senate Bill 1081, introduced by Senator Jill Holzman Vogel. The Bill prohibits the intentional tripping of horses for entertainment. This is a no-brainer, right? Apparently, it was for members of both the House and Senate, who passed it with an overwhelming majority. However: there appear to be nine members of the GA (with one member abstaining) who did not agree. A big, fat raspberry to those few elected officials who still think that tormenting animals is entertainment. The second piece of legislation was House Bill 1464, proposed by Delegate Sam Rasoul, which proposed the reporting of equine cruelty statistics by localities to the Virginia State Veterinarian. Its purpose was to provide a mechanism for the collection of factual information on which to base equine welfare policy. The Bill had a short life and was tabled in committee. But we appreciate the support of these legislators on issues affecting equine welfare.

The little gelding above is “Spanky” and this boy needs a home. He was originally rescued by his owner, who rehomed him to an adopter who can no longer keep him. He is a pleasant 11 year-old, 15H guy who needs a little confidence and to be taught a job. His ideal new home will be one that can provide a solid training foundation. If you are that special person, please contact Janet at: Remember that he is not here at the rescue. He is located in northern Virginia.

Our sincere congratulations to Tyra Johnson, who has added “Murphy” to her family. Murphy was the Sparky Project stallion-turned-gelding who was such a favorite of the White Bird volunteers. Thank you for giving this wonderful pony such a great home!

Now that the weather has improved, we are actively seeking horse handlers to help out with this past year’s arrivals. These ponies are sweet and learn quickly, but need continuous handling to reinforce what they have learned. If you are in the Farmville area and can get here regularly, please contact us at:

Happy Spring!


The Year of the Appaloosa

We wish we meant this in a positive sense, but we been just inundated with requests for help this year. For some reason, Appaloosas and their owners just seem to have had a run a bad luck!

Today, we are going to start with some Clearinghouse horses. As you may recall, these horses are not at the Rescue. They either belong to individuals who meet our criteria for urgent need, or have been rescued by organizations that are trying to find adopters for them. So please don’t contact us, but please do contact the owners through the information provided, if you think are the right home for them.

Bucky:  What a cute little guy this is! Bucky is a 7-year old, bay blanket  Appy gelding who can be registered. He is not trained to ride, but he is handleable and friendly. He stands between 14.2 and 14.3 and weighs about 1200 lbs.

Breezy:  This 2-year old filly was sired by Bucky. She is a bay Appy x who is part grade mare. She stands around 14.1 and weighs about 1000 lbs. She is not trained, but is friendly and likes attention like Bucky.

Both of these horses are hardship situations and they owner must find homes for them. These horses are located in Virginia. If you think you can provide them, please contact Holly at:434 390 6912

BuckyBreezyNext, the Director of the Warren County Animal Control in Warrenton, NC is still seeking loving homes for some seized horses who deserve caring families.

The horses that are still available are for adoption are: E43, C4 and C5 for adoption. Correction! Other horses are available, also. So please take a look at the rest of them. It is vitally important that these horses find new homes. This is a rural shelter with limited funding and they cannot afford to continue caring for these horses. Information about the horses can be found in this attachment Adoption gallery 12-2014-1.

Please contact: Elma Rae Green, Director, Warren County Animal Control, 142 Rafters Lane, Warrenton, NC 27589.Ph:  252-257-6137

This past week, we have been advised that Sundancer Farm Rescue in PA must close and is seeking safe homes for their horses, which include many Appaloosas, as well as some other animals. the complete listing can be found at this link: Again, remember that these horses are not at White Bird, so please contact Sundancer if you can provide a safe home for them.

This year has been an extraordinary one for White Bird and we still have many of the Sparky Project Horses available for adoption, as well as other horses who would love to find a home and family for Christmas. Many of our horses are listed on Petfinder:   You can also locate them by searching, horses for zip code 23922.  Not all of our horses are listed on the site, so if you have a special horse wish, please contact us through the web site. We’d love to hear from you.

We have so much to be grateful for this past year and we could not have accomplished what we have without each and every one of you. You rock! We would like to wish our friends, donors, volunteers, supporters and followers a wonderful holiday season!




Happy November!

What a wonderful day for an Open House! Yesterday, we met with friends, old and new, for a day of food, friendship and festivity. We provided tours of the barns and introductions to the horses- both longtime White Bird residents and this year’s Sparky Project horses. We also welcomed  GFAS Executive Director Kellie Heckman to White Bird, who awarded us the 2014 Carole Noon Award for Sanctuary Excellence, in part for the Sparky Project.

Jorg and Tom Mayfield with Kelly Heckman of GFAS.

Jorg and Tom Mayfield with Kelly Heckman of GFAS.

JoAnne Miller of Brook Hill Farm Sanctuary and Sparky Transporter Chris Clendenin

JoAnne Miller of Brook Hill Farm Sanctuary and Sparky Transporter Chris Clendenin

We are not a large organization. Statistically, we are about average. So we are very grateful to the GFAS for recognizing that small, community organizations are working hard every day to improve the lives of horses. We also believe this award belongs to every rescuer, transporter or organization who jumped in to work side-by-side, for long hours and in difficult conditions, towards the accomplishment of a common goal- to rescue these horses. No egos, just focus and compassion. We are pleased to have received this award. But even more, we are deeply proud to be a member of this community of equine rescuers.

This has been a busy period for White Bird! We built two new paddocks and added a shelter to help us better manage our population of horses still in training. Many thanks to the ASPCA, who also helped us geld all the boys!


Veterinarian Alex Cantelmo and Sparky Trainer Theresa Roark

Veterinarian Alex Cantelmo and Sparky Trainer Theresa Roark


Cherokee and Sterling make new friends.

Cherokee and Sterling make new friends.










New paddocks and shelter

New paddocks and shelter

We Love our Volunteers #365

Dave and DonnaA big  shout out for new volunteers Dave and Donna from Long Island, NY (and now Virginians) a classic NY pairing of Irish and Italian,  nurse and NYPD.  Not only spent a rainy and cool October day cleaning stalls, but also cleared out and redid the 10-stall feed room, brushed down the stalls and emptied the sawdust fro the truck.  A fine days work.  Thank you.

Feed Room

Feed Room

2014 Top Rated Award – Closes October 31st

Want to help the White Bird Appaloosa Horse Rescue get more donations? If you nominate us for a 2014    Top-Rated Award you could help us gain an online promotion worth $20,000, or a trip to the annual Technology for Social Good event in California to meet with potential donors.   Just write a new, positive review, either 4 or 5 star, and if we receive at least 10 new, positive reviews during the campaign period (January 1, 2014 to October 31, 2014) we will be Top-Rated for the year and will be eligible for prizes.

You can help the White Bird Rescue meet its goals, reach and help more horses, and get the attention it deserves!

Click herepastedGraphic

and type in “White Bird Appaloosa”.  Write a short review, give us a five/four star rating and help us win the 2014 Top-Rated Nonprofit!

Need Homes Now!

These horses need to find homes immediately. Their owner cannot care for them and as pasture is lost due to the impending cold weather, they will not have enough to eat or anyone to care for them. They are are unhandled, but are not wild or feral and will not be difficult to train.  They are young, sound and have no known medical conditions. They are respectful of people, with no kick or bite, but they are a little timid and will need a period of gentling. They need homes familiar with unhandled horses or trainers with this experience.  Rescues are (very) welcome, also.  All are being surrendered to White Bird and are located in Virginia, so if you can offer any of them a home, please contact the rescue directly at: whitebirdapps@gmail. com. Time is becoming critical with these horses, so please don’t wait and please share this information with anyone who might be able to provide a home.

Lacey Lacey is a brightly colored Appy mare. We aren’t even sure what to call this, she is just cool looking. She is about 14.1 hands and a sturdy girl, suitable for an adult rider. We believe she is 12 years old. As you can see, she is a little timid, but is not wild. It is possible that she has been exposed to a stallion and her adopter will need to consider that possibility, though at this time, we do not believe her to be bred.  She would make a really jazzy riding horse.  Personally, I’d like to see her tacked up with some rhinestony bling.



Orion2Orion is a black Appy cross gelding with a white blaze and two white socks. He is about 5-6 years old.  He is about 14.2-3 hands. Orion likes to jump! He will jump fences by himself, just for entertainment, and he has the substance and athleticism to do this on a more professional level. Orion is a little  timid, but has a naturally calm, curious personality and will be easy to train.  I could definitely see him in competition with either a child or adult rider.  In this photo, you can see that he needs a better diet and deworming, but those things are easy to fix.




Silver Tail1 Silver Tail is a 5-year old, dark blue roan Appy about 14.2-3 hands tall. I think this is my favorite Appy color and I’ve also heard this referred to as “blueberry.” As you can see in this photo, he can use a little dietary assistance and TLC.  But you can also see what a pretty boy he is.  Silver Tail is shy and likes to hide behind Orion. But we believe he will come around very quickly with a patient handler. He is gentle and respectful.




Peanut1 Peanut is a good-looking 12- yo bay gelding with a lot of potential. He is about 14.2 and looks like a well put-together Quarter/Welsh cross, though he is actually an Appaloosa cross.  He has good bone, is very athletic and looks like a little hunter prospect to us! Peanut was gelded late, so may have some lingering stallion characteristics, though he seems to have cooled off pretty well.  In the field, he will come right up to you, so he shouldn’t take long to train.

Urgent Mom-to-Be

Today, we have a mare in extremely urgent need and we need help in finding her a new home.

This special girl is an  “Honorary Appaloosa,” a breed designation that we award to a horse who merits attention on this site because he or she is (a) in dire straits, and (b) a nice horse deserving of the kindness of strangers. This girl is in deep trouble if help can’t be found for her. We are posting this on behalf of our good friends at Western Montana Equine Rescue, who are racing against the clock to get this mare to safety.  We are hoping that our western followers  will help out by either stepping up for her, or will share this information with someone who can.

Cameo Paints in Billings, Montana is having a dispersal sale and they don’t think anyone will want this girl. She is an eighteen-year old registered paint who is blind in one eye and has limited vision in the other. The rescue reports that she seems very sweet and is possibly 4 months pregnant.  A young girl haltered her and picked up her feet, so she is a nice mare who is easy to handle. She was in with a bunch of other horses. The owners are trying to find her a home so they don’t have to take her to the auction. We do not think she will fare well there. If you know of anyone interested please have them call Tracy at 406-697-3520.

Paint1- JeffPaint2- Jeff







Planning for the Worst

Image 1 in In Memorium RodneyIn the last few decades, the products and services developed to keep our equine companions healthy and happy have vastly improved. As a result, horses are living longer than ever. At White Bird, we have several residents in their 30s and even 40s. But few of us know what twists and turns our lives are going to take over this long period of time. Suppose the unthinkable happens. Suppose you lose your job, your farm, or even your life. What will happen to your aging companion?

People with foresight and resources sometimes provide for their horses in their wills. These folks are doing the best thing possible for their equine friends and they are to be applauded for their good planning. But most of us don’t do that. Why? Because we just don’t believe anything bad is going to happen to us! And it might not take anything more than the loss of a good job or an illness to make caring for your horse impossible. If you have no friends or family willing to care for them, at some point someone will think to contact an equine rescue.

We get these kinds of calls frequently. “Owner died” or “serious owner health problem” are surprisingly common reasons for people to request our help. But all over the country, equine rescue groups struggle to make ends meet. The fact is, without support, they cannot be there for either you or your horses when you most need them.

Supporting your local rescue is an insurance policy. It ensures that if something happens to you, there is a healthy organization there to step in for your horses. Developing and maintaining a good relationship with your local rescue can be lifesaving if disaster strikes.

For your horses’ sake, we ask that you:

1. Make prior arrangements for your horses in case of your death.

2. Consider leaving a contribution to an equine rescue organization.

3. Donate regularly to your local rescue to keep it strong and functional.

4. Volunteer! This will also help other horses who may not be as lucky as yours.

The world is an uncertain place. That is part of its beauty. But if tragedy strikes, you will want to be sure that your horses remain safe and cared for.  Please support the rescues that will be there to help, when others cannot.

Top: Our beloved Rodney Dangerfield, who passed away in his mid 40s. Below: Oreo, also in his mid-40s, enjoys his retirement at White Bird.



International Award for White Bird

Cover 2Part of the Sparky Herd April 2014

We are and pleased and humbled to announce that White Bird has been awarded the GFAS 2014 Carole Noon Award for Sanctuary Excellence for the Sparky Project, our ongoing large herd rescue project in northern Virginia.  This is a tremendous honor and we are grateful to the GFAS for this recognition.

This award is especially meaningful to us because, as a relatively small rescue, we sometimes struggle for resources and we are limited in the number of animals that we can take in. After all, we don’t want anyone to need to rescue them from us! When we were contacted about this herd, we knew we’d need to be very innovative in order to handle this large number of animals (and stallions!), especially as they were unhandled, many needed medical care and the site presented a number of challenges due to its large size, layout and topography, lack of fencing and occasional weather-related, impassible conditions. We also knew that we would need the support of the entire equine rescue community.

  And support we got! We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our fellow Virginia rescue organizations. We are fortunate to live in a state where the bar for rescues has been set so high. Some states have virtually no reliable organizations on which to draw.  Virginia has a wealth of rescues with many years of experience, and we are grateful to every one of you. We owe an equally large debt to the ASPCA, who unflinchingly granted us the funds to cover the substantial medical costs for this operation. Their generosity allowed us to concentrate on the rescue itself when the situation was urgent, rather than having to spend that time fundraising.  We thank the GFAS for helping us to get the word out about the need for assistance. We also appreciate our donors, who stepped up with hay and funding to help this effort succeed.

Last and most important, we’d like to thank our volunteers, trainers and fosters.  Simply stated, all organizations are made up of the people who actually do the work.  No catchy name, slogan or web site will ever take the place of the people who show up. These “boots on the ground” have worked many long hours in very stressful conditions to get these horses to safe havens.  And some do this every day, regardless of the time demands or weather, for only the satisfaction of knowing that  they are doing something important for horses who need their help. These folks are the lifeblood of any rescue, and they have been the lifeblood of the Sparky Project.

So, it gives us great pleasure to recognize the entire Sparky Project Team in receiving this Award.  You have literally been lifesavers.

 The Team

On Site Veterinary staff: Beth Eichberger, DVM, Ray Hyde, DVM, Hanina Hyde, EqDT

Loading and Transport: Chris Clendenin, Sam Jessee, Allie Sowden, Chyna Hudson-Berben, Mike Smith, Meredith Barlow, EqDT, Tina Gysin, JoAnne Miller, Sharon Hancock, Cindy Smith, Tom and Jorg Mayfield, Claudia Sadler

Site logistics and corrals: Chyna Hudson-Berben, Justin Berben, Mike Smith

Emergency Hay Donors: Traveller’s Rest Equine Elders Sanctuary, Paul Frappollo, Alice Chitwood

Gelding Team:  Ray Hyde, DVM, Hanina Hyde, EqDT, Beth Eichberger, DVM, Tom Mayfield, Mike Smith, Chyna Hudson-Berben, Chris Clendenin, Tina Gysin, Dustin Berben

Training and handling at WB: Allie Sowden, Tina Gysin, Claudia Sadler, Tom Mayfield

White Bird’s Sparky Project Fosters: Traveller’s Rest Equine Elders Sanctuary, Theresa Roark and Jamie and Wes Woodruff.

And the Assisting Rescues:  Traveller’s Rest Equine Elders Sanctuary, Brook Hill Farm Sanctuary, Blue Horse Mukwa, Central Virginia Horse Rescue, Lily Pond Foal Rescue, Middleburg Humane Foundation and the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch of Murchison, Texas.