Senior animals may spend less time with us, but their lives are no less precious and their hearts no less loving. In spite of that, senior animals are less likely to be welcomed into new homes. It’s even less likely when those senior animals are horses, who are often sent to auction — an almost certain death sentence. But in the case of Smoke, an emaciated horse who had been sent to auction, she was given the chance at happiness that every senior animal deserves. On a sunny day with clear blue skies, Tawnee Preisner, co-founder of the Horse Plus Humane Society, received a call from a local horse auction about a skinny old mare who needed her. No words could have prepared her for the condition of the mare whose life she was about to change. After she arrived at the auction house, workers lead her to the stable where she first met Smoke.
The emaciated mare stood in her stable with her head hung low, the look of fear and misery in her eyes. Judging by her teeth, Smoke was well into her 30s, but there was no telling how many of those years she had suffered neglect.
According to Preisner, “She had a distinct smell about her. I’ve smelled it before, it’s almost like the smell of death. I’ve been told before that it’s organ failure that causes the smell.”
Preisner brought Smoke back home and lead her to her new pen. She feared that because of her extreme condition, Smoke wouldn’t be able to walk. But when the old mare stepped onto fresh, green grass and saw Ace, her new pen mate, Preisner could tell that she would be happy to have a friend.
Smoke spent three wonderful days in her new home, grazing with her new friend, Ace. It was during this time that Preisner noticed Smoke had marks on her withers, the ridge between a horse’s shoulder blades. Her previous caretaker had ridden her recently, without regard to her age or condition.
The next day, Smoke laid down in the hay under the warm sun. “When horses in Smoke’s condition lay down, it is extremely hard for them to get back up. I went out to her and she seemed very relaxed but tired,” Preisner said.
Later on, Smoke made several attempts to stand, but in spite of her renewed spirit, her old, neglected body would not cooperate. As Preisner stroked her neck and face, she knew it was time to say “goodbye” to Smoke and placed a call to the vet.
Smoke experienced what must have been a life of pain, neglect, and humiliation that ravaged her body until she was too far gone. But, she was given the most valuable gift that we can give any senior animal: her final days were the best that they possibly could have been. In the three days after she was rescued from certain slaughter, Smoke grazed on fresh, green grass with a new friend who welcomed her into his pen, she felt the warm rays of the sun on her emaciated body that was likely kept confined to a stable, except to be ridden, and she felt the warm, loving touch of a human who loved her. At the very end of her life, Smoke knew mercy. Preisner concluded Smoke’s bittersweet story with words of wisdom: “I will always remember Smoke, her beautiful kind eyes and her body that was so emaciated and falling apart around her beautiful spirit. I’m glad that I could be there for her and that she knew I cared for her.”
All image source: Horse Plus Humane Society