It’s a win-whinny for abused horse and new owner

Morgan Hill police responded at 10:30 a.m. July 20 to reports of two mares wandering around the middle of Murphy Avenue in Morgan Hill. The equines were malnourished and abandoned by their owner. The mare and her 2-year-old filly have been rescued and tak

Two abandoned horses discovered wandering by the highway four months ago have gone from walking skeletons to walking tall.

The pair of equines appeared to be in fine form during a recent follow-up visit to the ranches where they are being cared for separately.

While the younger horse is still awaiting permanent adoption, the animals have come a long way since the morning of July 20, when a concerned Morgan Hill resident called the police after she spotted the equines wandering around Murphy Avenue near her house.

Executive director Martha McNeil with the local nonprofit DreamPower Horsemanship was called to the scene to transport the horses to her ranch on New Avenue in Gilroy, where they were kept for two weeks. DreamPower has since changed addresses and is now located at 7460 Crews Road in Gilroy.

Affectionately named “Naomi” and “Ruth” after the Biblical heroines who were homeless for a time, the bay-colored, 12-year-old quarter/thoroughbred mare and 10-year-old quarter horse/pony cross are still healing from months – perhaps years of malnourishment and neglect, McNiel said.

It’s still a mystery as to where the horses came from or who their previous owners were. Their story, however, is transitioning from a bleak beginning to a promising future.

Ruth and Naomi recuperated at DreamPower before they were moved to Perfect Fit Equine Rescue on Barret Avenue in Morgan Hill for rehabilitation. The nonprofit currently houses six horses, with the goal of giving homeless equines a second chance at a happy life.

When Ruth and Naomi arrived at Perfect Fit on Aug. 4, the pair “couldn’t do too much more than just eat,” recalled Laura Hensley-Trouard, who founded and runs the nonrprofit.

Hard work and careful feeding has brought Naomi – the more fragile of the two horses who measures in at 15.2 hands or 62 inches tall – from a one on the body condition scale to a five. The body condition scale is a widely-used tool in the horse industry that determines the ideal weight of an animal. The measurements span from a one to nine, with a six being ideal for most horses.

Already graceful and statuesque, Naomi is looking more the part of elegant thoroughbred these days.

Getting the famished equine on a carefully measured diet regime was key, McNiel previously explained.

“If you feed (the horses) all they want, they will look fine for two weeks and then drop dead from liver failure,” she explained in July. “So our goal is to avoid that.”

One person who witnessed the horses’ initial arrival at DreamPower back in July was MaryAnn Opet of San Martin, a volunteer there who lives at the ranch. When Opet saw the two horses – their rib cages showing and coats flecked by scars and open sores – her heart went out to them.

“I promised Naomi and Ruth that things were going to be better from here on out,” she said.

Opet accompanied Naomi when the horse was transported Aug. 4 to Perfect Fit. The pair bonded during the course of that week, but were unexpectedly separated when Naomi was later transferred from Perfect Fit to a foster care in Los Gatos.

Opet was saddened by the disappearance of her newfound equine pal, but was later pleasantly surprised when one of her friends – who was looking for a boarding facility in Los Gatos – stumbled across Naomi.

“She called me up and said, ‘I found Naomi,’” smiled Opet. “At that point, I knew it was meant to be.”

Naomi was officially adopted in November by Opet.

The horse has since steadily progressed, gaining more energy and even testing her owner’s patience with occasional mischievousness.

“I will probably be able to ride her at some point; maybe early next year,” said Opet, noting that the horse still has some health issues with her back legs. “It’s just a matter of adding what she can do and evaluating where she is.”

Though a novice horsewoman, Opet’s love for equines started young.

“I was a little girl who always loved horses and couldn’t have one,” she said.

Wondering if she would ever follow her dream of owning an equine counterpart, that question was answered when Naomi came trotting into Opet’s life.

“The timing was just right and everything,” Opet gushed.

Rehabilitating the mare and providing her with new life is an ongoing process that Opet assumes willingly and happily.

“It’s going to take time, a lot of love, and a lot of care, but I want to do it,” she smiled.

Hopefully an adopter with the same fortitude will come along for Ruth, who is slightly behind Naomi’s progress and still awaiting a new home.

Hensley-Trouard and her team of volunteers have worked tirelessly in hopes of finding Ruth the same wonderful ending as Naomi.

The sassy mare has enjoyed learning from her human friends at Perfect Fit, who describe Ruth as curious and inquisitive.

With a “great, workable personality,” Hensley-Trouard explains that Ruth is “going the training route” and being taught skills from the remedial to the advanced.

After operating Perfect Fit for over four years, Hensley-Trouard knows that taking on a rescue horse means working with their unknown history.

“We try to know as much about the horse as possible to put together their background without any background information,” she said.

There are still no leads as to who abandoned Ruth and Naomi in their sad condition, according to Hensley-Trouard, who has followed the investigation with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office.

Ruth and Naomi’s story is no outlier, for that matter. Their circumstance epitomizes a frightening epidemic sparked by the recession and, more recently, the exponentially skyrocketing prices for hay and alfalfa. Feed prices have spiked from $8 a bale 10 years ago to somewhere between $17 and $25 today.

The repercussions of these price increases can be seen in the steady rise in the amount of abandoned horses, according to Supervisor Albert Escobar with county animal control. In 2012 there were 19 abandoned horses throughout the county, compared to eight in 2010.

McNiel hopes Ruth and Naomi’s story can impart the most important takeaway – that there are options out there: Lots of them.

From rescue organizations, to hay banks, to farms that do accept owner-surrendered horses, “there are resources out there for horse owners that are struggling,” McNiel previously advised. “Just because the person who owned them can’t take care of them anymore, there may be somebody who can. And I think they should at least be given a chance.”

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