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Rescue horses given third chance | News

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Rescue horses given third chance
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"It was daunting to say the least and very overwhelming."

Ninety-one horses. Some of them old with health issues, others 2 and 3 years old with no training. That was the scenario when El Dorado County Animal Services took control of them from the now-defunct Grace Foundation of Northern California animal rescue facility last November.

And it wasn't the first time many of the equines needed saving. Grace Foundation had taken 51 of the horses from what was described as an abusive and neglectful boarding situation near Susanville less than three years before. In that case, stallions were running with mares and 14 of the mares were with foal when Grace Foundation brought them to El Dorado County.

Lisa Dowling was the ranch manager at Grace Foundation and was there when the situation deteriorated as the executive director and banks wrangled over money.

"It was extremely disheartening to watch the degradation of Grace Foundation … I stayed with the horses to make sure they got taken care of, but it was just really dark days," she explained. "When animal control stepped in and seized them there was so many rumors flying around as to what was going to happen to them."

What happened was Animal Services and horse-loving volunteers readied the horses for adoption in January. Many looked like pasture pets, but there were surprises in store.

"How am I gonna pick one and how are they all gonna get homes?" was Samantha Ellis' thought when she went to view the horses in January. Samantha was taking over a local, longtime boarding and training facility, bringing back the name Cedar Springs Arena, and was just looking for one "project" horse to train.

That's when a 7-year-old palomino named Tag-along picked her.

"I'd picked another one out. She had a lot of potential and I turned around and she (Tag-along) was right there. I put a harness on her, played with her a little bit and OK, it's gonna be that one. They really do choose you."

Tag-along turned out to be a registered Missouri fox-trotter, a bred known for good temperament and an exceptionally smooth gait that's suited for trail-riding over long distances. They were used on Missouri plantations in times past.

Samantha said Tag-along has been a wonderful surprise. Prospective owners could not ride the horses before adopting them for $150 each.

"It's amazing that a horse with really good bloodlines, really good conformation [was in a rescue situation]. She's really phenomenal."

Lisa said people who love horses came from all over to save the herd. Mustangs were taken in by a Texas ranch. Several horse rescue groups adopted some. Susan Oliver, the widow of Sacramento County sheriff's deputy Danny Oliver who was killed in the line of duty last fall, adopted a newborn foal. Lisa said the Olivers had bought property with the hope of having horses.

Six of the Grace Foundation 91 horses had to be euthanized after being evaluated by veterinarians, but homes were found for the other 85 in just six weeks.

Samantha was one of those who opened her heart and Cedar Springs to more than Tag-along.

"I came home with four!"

One was Roi, a 20-year-old thoroughbred that Samantha discovered had level-three dressage skills. That is just below grand prix dressage – the level at which Olympic Games horses and riders perform. Another was O.C., estimated to be between 25 and 30 years "young." With a little "tune-up" training, Samantha has found him to be a perfect horse for young riders like 6-year-old Chloe.

"I can do walk, gallop, and um, trot," said Chloe, who said she'd like to come every day to ride.

"[O.C.] loves kids. That's his thing," said Samantha. "Someone put all the time and training into him and now he gets to train them."

So now, dozens of rescue horses, who appeared destined for an unhappy ending, have new, and hopefully, forever homes.

"It could have gone the other way but [it's] just people loving horses," Lisa said. "You know, people want the best for any horse and nobody wants to see a horse not succeed."


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