This article was written by
Heather Goninan, owner of the Second Chance Whiskey Ranch
For me, quarantine started very small, like throwing a rock in the lake.
Now I see the ripples spread out to what it has become. Taking in an unknown, sick horse when I had only had healthy horses and learning the hard way that horses are more thoughtful and insightful than I knew. I have learned that a horse who is bonded with his or her horse family will scream at the top of its lungs, hoping for a reply, even after hours and days. It is a sound like what I imagine when a parent has lost a child, a wail that cannot be controlled or stopped. I have seen a horse have Strangles abscesses rupture and heal- only to get more; thinking every day, how can it survive and still want me to rub its nose and take this treat? The inhumanity of the whip that has ripped flesh to the bone, and the horse that stands stoically so I can clean, scrub and medicate the wound every day- with an only a flinch then gratitude showing through its eyes. The near death experience of a horse starved, with teeth that were so razor sharp that I cut my finger when I reached in to see if there were “Points”. A horse who every hour I went to feed and thought for sure she would be dead, to watch her survive and fight for her life. The working ranch horse who hates his stall, hates being sick and coughing, but lets me give him a shot every day, and temp him- even though I am a stranger.
Every day, the horse that you took to auction – who may have been sent to slaughter unknown to you or may have been rescued by a group or an individual — is somewhere possibly sick beyond your imagination, infected by the thousands of horses that were there or had come before it. I am the one, with the help of my husband and children, who is loving and caring for them. I am singing to them and telling them they are beautiful as I scrub the mud off them, that they need to fight as they are emaciated and giving birth, that they will heal when they have huge abscesses draining all over their bodies and when they are fighting pneumonia or bronchitis, covered in lice or ticks with hooves that can barely support their weight. I cry silent tears so they only see me smile, I scream into the trees, I am the one who gets the bite or the kick because of human cruelty. I silently distrust all humans because of what I see them do to these majestic creatures. I wonder why they are now less than what they were before- when they gave you everything they had and then got discarded like a leftover sandwich you wanted to have but left out and it rotted.
I long for the day when commitment to the horse who helped the world evolve and helped your family move from one side of the country to another, was your history. When rescue was not a word I heard dozens of times a day. I wish, I wish, but for now- I will clean their wounds, I will bandage their lacerations, I will temp them daily and medicate them and make special food concoctions to meet their needs. And I will sing at the top of my lungs. I will continue to teach my children that it may not seem like we are changing the world, but we are changing the life of that one horse, who will then change the life of one person and the ripple continues on the lake.
Any horse you purchase, please assume it may become sick and keep them isolated from healthy horses until your vet clears them with a health check. Know that they get depressed just like you do, they feel deeply, and mental trauma causes blocks of trust for them just like it does for the one who had their heart broken by the person they thought would love them forever.
You don’t have to be perfect- just be there for them, listen quietly and you will learn. They tell you where they are broken.
I am quarantine.
Second Chance Whiskey Ranch is a quarantine facility at 29500 CR 77, Lake George, Colorado.
They are a 501 3c- all donations are tax-deductible.
Call them today at 719-748-0155 for more information or check out their Facebook page!