We are pleased to announce that the Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority Sisters of the Longwood University Chapter have adopted White Bird as their local charity cause! Our relationship with the Sisters goes back over three years, thanks to the enthusiasm and hard work of Emily DeMasi and the energetic young women who have come out to the rescue and volunteered throughout that time. It has always been a pleasure to host Tri-Sigma, and we have appreciated their hard work, which has been performed rain or shine. We are particularly happy to give those Sisters experiencing withdrawal symptoms from being away from their own horses, the opportunity to return smelling of barn, horse and tack. For some, our residents have been their first exposure to horses, rescued or otherwise, and the many issues they face.
Thank you Sisters! We are honored and we look forward to many more years of collaboration in supporting rescued horses.
Below, Saturday’s group of smiling faces, along with Bugle the rooster (Tuna the cat was unavailable for this appearance), after a hard morning’s work spent making the stalls ready for the evening routine. A great job Sisters!
Since 2003, the White Bird Appaloosa Horse Rescue has come to the aid of Appaloosas and other at-risk horses. We rescue them, bring them into the best condition possible, correct any behavioral issues, and then find them caring and permanent homes. But over the last few years, this last service has become increasingly difficult.
Where we once took in a horse or two at a time, the number of animals needing immediate assistance has skyrocketed and we are now being asked to take in groups at a time. Within the last three years, Virginia has seen three large-scale seizures or surrenders that have required extensive resources and the participation of multiple rescues. At the same time, competent, capable homes are diminishing in number. As “Baby Boomers” age, many of the most experienced horse owners are unwilling to take on more horses because they no longer ride, and they may also be facing their own health and financial challenges. Their considerable knowledge is being lost. Meanwhile new horse owners are becoming fewer, as the economic realities of the past decade have discouraged horse ownership. There are also fewer emerging trainers, as this is no longer being seen as a promising career path, despite its critical importance . Given this unfortunate convergence, as the poet Yeats once wrote, “the centre cannot hold.”
So what is the answer? We believe it is two-fold. First, we believe that horse owners must face squarely their responsibility for horses they may have owned for decades. If they surrender older or unsound horses that have no real market value, those horses can go anywhere- from Craigslist, to auctions, to neglectful situations, to slaughter buyers, or to hoarders. That is the point we are making in publishing “Mr. Bowersox,” who served as a real life example of this downward spiral. Unless you have absolutely no other choice, please reconsider this decision. Second, we must address the current shortage of safe havens. To that end, we are reaching out to knowledgeable horse owners and pleading with you to consider opening your barn doors just a little wider, as an act of mercy and compassion. Are you a Boomer who doesn’t ride anymore? Great! There are plenty of older horses who simply need a roof and a meal, and we are betting that you have gained a lot of experience over the years. You may be the very best person to help an older guy finish his life in dignity. Are you a younger person with training skill? Fantastic! The foundation you provide for a deserving youngster will change his life forever. If you think you are up to the job, please contact us at: email@example.com. We would love to hear from you.
It is our goal to provide every single horse with a loving and permanent home. This is what one looks like. Our most sincere congratulations to Michael Rossner and Dr. Caroline Rossner (Southside Veterinary Services) on the newest member of their family, Blitzen (good-looking bay dude on left).
In October 2010, we were contacted by a person in Montana who had just rescued an abandoned pony at an auction in Montana. The pony had been run through the pit at Missoula Auction, but when the auctioneer and gallery realized he was blind, no one would bid even a dollar for him and the owner just drove away.
This was the beginning of our relationship with the famous Mr. Bowersox, whose amazing story so perfectly illustrates the problems that horses and ponies face in this country, today. The issues are many. They include the view of horses and ponies as utilities, the tendency of Appaloosas and other horses to suffer from blinding disorders, the overbreeding of equines, a lack of knowledge by unskilled owners, the perceived decline in market value over a horse’s lifetime, and a lack of awareness by many owners about how their actions can affect their horses. Their animals’ lives begin with doting owners in good homes, and end up on Craigslist and in sales lots, destined for foreign slaughterhouses.
Mr. Bowersox’s life was a good example of other things, too: Such as how a discarded, worthless animal can become a rock star to so many people, and how wrong people can be when assigning value to an animal. Because we would not have taken a million dollars for him. For the rest of his life, Mr. Bowersox was the grand, old gentleman of White Bird, respected for his bravery and loved for his kindness.
I AM Mr. Bowersox is his story, and the story of countless other horses and ponies just like him. It is suitable for the entire family (parental guidance suggested) and teaches children valuable lessons about responsibility and compassion. Your purchasing this book will ensure that other horses and ponies are able to find a safe haven, as 100% of the net proceeds will go directly to their care. Please help us to honor Mr. Bowersox’s life, and be a hero for so many others out there who are literally dying for help.
The digital version is available today, by simply clicking the banner at the top of this page! The paperback versions will be available later this week through the same page. These have beautiful, glossy covers and will make terrific Christmas presents for the horse lovers and children in your life!
Thank you so much for your support.
Mr. B and Mona
Mona crossed the rainbow bridge on Tuesday evening to be with her White Bird companion Mr. B. She didn’t show it, but she definitely missed him after he passed in June. He had been her permanent safe spot from when she first met him, following him around and rarely far from his back right leg. Never very demonstrative, and not a great people lover, she did enjoy the regular groomings that the volunteers gave her. So it was yesterday evening after a relaxing brushing and combing, and some mouthfuls of grass we said goodbye to this little old lady.
Mona looked like a Mini-Shetland pony cross, and we never knew her actual age. Already rescued once before, she had had a hard life, and came to us thin and weary having been overused as a kids ride at picnics. Blind in one eye and with poor vision in the other, Mona was very wary of people, but was a natural companion for Mr. B after his Allison died. Mona easily settled into the Rescue routine and gave very little concern, apart from the occasional “snotty” nose and an alarming tendency to foam at the mouth, both of which were seasonal and easily treated.
Tuesday morning she refused her feed, highly unusual for her. By the afternoon with her heart rate and respiration high, she was in that awful position that we reach with these old horses of deciding how much more she should go through. Our grateful thanks to Dr. Scarrow for his attendance after a long day and drive. His actions had this been a younger horse may well have had a happier ending.
Mona had a happy time at the Rescue and for that we are satisfied that she got, albeit short, her due retirement. If you ask why we should rescue these old guys when there are so many younger, well-trained horses out there in danger, our response is that they earned it. By doing what their owners asked of them. Mona had a clean, warm place to lie down in, and a good companion to share her time with. She was well fed and had space to roam. We believe we did right by her in recompense for those that treated her less well.
Goodbye little Mona. Run free with your good companion and the other White Birds out there. We will miss you and we will remember you. Rest in Peace.
This sweet guy really needs a hand. His current caretaker rescued him and has cared for him since last year. While her efforts to support him have been truly heroic, she cannot afford to continue caring for him.
Over the years, we have seen a lot of horses like this. They may not have much market value, but they ask very little of us. All most of them need is food and shelter and some compassionate friends. In return, we have found them to be among the most immensely rewarding of our charges.
Apache is blind and 31-years old. He has some minor issues typical of horses his age. He is also loving, gentle and easy to handle. Seriously, that face tells you everything you really need to know. We would take him, but he is too far away, and his situation has become urgent. Will someone in CA, or within driving distance please consider taking him in? His caretaker can be reached at: (661) 429-0428
, or firstname.lastname@example.org
The mare and two geldings were found this morning in the road in Nottoway County, VA. If you own these horses or know who the owner is, please contact the kind folks who picked them up at: 804 972 0447.
Mr. B with Jeff and Virginia at White Bird
Late yesterday evening we said goodbye to a highly popular, and much loved member of the White Bird family. Mr. Bowersox, or Mr. B to all who made his acquaintance, has been with the rescue for nearly five years. Blind, and some years over 40, he was the mainstay of our Equine 101 for new volunteers. Young and old, with or without horse experience and even a little afraid, Mr. B treated them all with a kind snicker, put up with the clumsy attempts at fitting his fly mask and halter, and reveled in the extended periods of grooming which were his reward. Rescued from the auction house in Missoula, Montana, by the wonderful Jeff and Virginia, the awful predicament that his owner left him in was turned around as he found friendship and security. Persistence, and J & V’s huge hearts got Mr. B to White Bird via a three day trailer journey, and the “best horse I ever trailered” report from the hauler.
We never discovered how his life ended up at that auction house, or at what stage he lost his sight. A Cushing’s horse, he bore his ailments stoically and, never failed to whinny back at “Hi Mr. B”, that is until the night before last. Our usual hello was met with silence, and his untouched food bore testament to something wrong. Well, untouched food by a 40 y.o. is not unusual and some tempting alternative will usually get them going again. This time seemed different and with an elevated heart rate (but no fever) our Vet was called. Initially, looking like a choke, the final verdict was a probable tumor completely blocking the esophagus.
There is little more devastating for a rescuer than that there is nothing to be done. We all know that we must part at some stage with the horses we take in, but that doesn’t make it any easier. We try not to have favorites, but some rescues are special and Mr. B was to many volunteers what White Bird was about. He did indeed live out his life in safety and dignity, and was stoic to the end; curling his nose back in response to his name to show he heard. He will be missed by everyone who knew him, and not least by Mona his companion, who was with him to the end. Goodbye old friend, enjoy your freedom – reunited with Alison BFF.
One of the most difficult decisions that any rescue organization has to make is who to rescue. The reality is that none of us can save the world. By focusing on one species, breed or special condition, rescuers can often serve as a point of contact between the animals they rescue and the people interested in adopting them. But there are other considerations.
Twelve years ago, White Bird first defined its mission to specialize in Appaloosas. If you are a fan of these horses, that needs no explanation. We love their calm temperament, intelligence and stoicism, as well as their endless variety of coat patterns. Specializing allowed us to focus on the disorders that are more prevalent in this breed than others, including uveitis, glaucoma and skin cancers. In addition, we chose to rescue horses in order of priority. Those in the most urgent situations would go to the head of the line. But that also meant that many of the most urgent need horses would not be Appaloosas. That’s okay with us. We have always had the opinion that a bottle of “White-Out” could put spots on anybody, if it was really that important.
But this second criterion is also our recognition that sometimes, what these horses most need is time. People contact us because they have lost their jobs, health or homes. They are simply unable to care for their horses and are trying to do the right thing. In most cases, horses can find homes through networking or advertising. If they can find homes through those avenues, they don’t need to be rescued. But others, especially those that are aged, or have health or soundness issues, may have few takers and the clock just runs out on them. Sometimes, their owners are just unable to fully face the situation until the last minute. The end result is the same: the horse needs a safe landing place immediately.
Given time, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot, a new home can often be found. But at a point, time is the critical factor.
Noelle is a Thoroughbred mare who was purchased at the Camelot auction, still lactating and clearly just separated from her foal. She was sent to a rescue whose volunteer rider bonded with her strongly. Over time, the rider moved way and the rescue subsequently folded. Noelle and her equine companion were sent to White Bird. But Noelle’s friend never forgot about her. And after three years, she went looking for her. Her search led her here and back to her old friend.
Noelle went home with Amanda this week. We were so happy to send this sweet mare back to the person who knows her so well and who loved her enough to keep looking. And we were happy to be there when she needed help. Not every horse that we accept is a rack of bones when we get them. But they are absolutely at risk if they have nowhere to go, and without help, many will go downhill fast. They are also prime targets for resellers and slaughter buyers, who may have no competition.
There is a lot that went right in this story. We had a compassionate volunteer, a responsible rescuer and a second rescue with the ability to serve as a safety net. Without these elements, Noelle could have ended up right back at the auction, or worse. But rescues need support in order to fill this critical role. Please help us to do that. And then help us thank everyone who has been there over the years to make this story possible- and provide the happy ending.
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.
Update! Our new guy has a name! He is….(drum roll)…Mr. G! The submitter of this name suggested something unusual: that we ask the foal what the G should stand for. We did, and his preference was to be called “Galloway.” However, the submitter also suggested that the G could stand for alternate things, depending on the mood or occasion. For example, he could on some days be “Grumpy” and on other days be “Gallant.” We appreciated this fresh approach to names. In fact, I considered that it might apply well to humans, too, and that we may benefit from thinking further out of the box in assigning personal identification. But many thanks to Lea Gallogly for this original approach that has named our new foal, and our appreciation to everyone who submitted entries.
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: email@example.com. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.