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The Gift That Keeps On Giving      By Anastasia Burke and Craig S. Miller


Happy Endings        Story and photos by Polly Dignan
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We've all heard sad stories of abused and neglected horses. BAEN wanted to share a "happy ending" story, in which horses rescued from a feed lot in southern California found a caring home here in the Bay Area. Many folks in northern California have opened their hearts to needy horses from TIER and other rescue agencies; the following is just one story of many that could be told...




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With great anticipation we awaited the arrival of our "Girls". It was a warm sunny day in March 1999. Amazingly we had found these horses on the web. Never before had anyone at Golden Gate Park Stables bought horses on the Internet. This is all thanks to the amazing efforts of a woman named Gail Garrett of True Innocents Equine Rescue, Gail lives close by to a "Feed Lot" in southern California, a place where no horse should ever end up. Gail checks out the horses and tries to find them homes before they go to auction or slaughter out of state. Horses available for adoption are posted on TIER’s web site, and many also are posted on BAEN.

We had no idea what to expect; when the truck finally pulled up and the trailer door opened we all gasped. These horses had such a look in their eye, one of complete despair and almost lifeless. They did not bound out of the trailer as most horses do at a new home. They came out very carefully and slowly protecting their various wounds and ailments. There were five in all - two Thoroughbreds and three QH/cross horses. The last horse to come out was in the worst shape we had ever seen. She could barely walk and looked so thin and sick. We named them Bramble, Hilda, Eina, Granny and Lucky. Lucky suffered from an ailment called purpura haemorrhagica and was the sickest of them all, hence the name. In the days and weeks to follow we gave them plenty of good food, vet care and love. Unfortunately, Lucky did not survive more than two weeks; she was so sick that no amount of vet care seemed to fix her. We were so sad to loose such a lovely mare, she became much brighter during the few weeks she was with us and even gained some weight, but her disease was too far advanced and just too hard for an old horse to battle.

BrambleThe other four mares continued to improve, the look in their eyes changed to one of happiness and life, they ran and bucked and played when turned out and seemed to be happy. Their coats shed out, displaying a glossy, smooth summer coat. They filled out and started to develop some muscle. We felt they were now ready to ride, and what great horses to ride! How could horses like these ever have ended up in a feedlot, we asked ourselves. Bramble, Hilda and Eina soon became favorites of our lesson students, showing many people how to ride. Granny was not ridden, as her hind end seemed so weak, she had difficulty getting up in her stall and the turn out. We decided to give her time and see if she improved. However the vet was not so hopeful as she was unable to pick up a hind limb without falling because her other leg could not support the weight. Sadly, Granny did not improve, her condition worsened, and we were forced to put her down in the fall of 1999.

As for the other three horses, they continue to do well. Hilda and Bramble have been turned out to pasture for six months for a holiday (all GGPS horses get regular "R & R" turn-out). Eina is on vacation at our stables, nursing her feet which have given her trouble on and off for several months.

Even though we have lost two of our girls, we know that we saved five from the worst fate known to horses. No horse should ever have to end up in a feed lot. These noble animals who faithfully carry us, our children and friends, and give so much love and pleasure, deserve more from their human guardians. We’re glad that we were there to give Bramble, Hilda, Eina, Granny and Lucky the "happy endings" they deserved.

Do you have any "happy endings" horse rescue stories that you'd like to share with BAEN visitors? Send them to us at  Want to learn more about organizations performing horse rescue in California? Visit

Readers respond...

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  Polly Dignan operates Golden Gate Park Stables, a riding facility located in the heart of San Francisco in America's largest urban park.  She first joined the facility in 1986 as a riding instructor, and along with her partners assumed the long-term lease of the facility in 1990. Polly grew up around horses in Ireland, participating in pony club and competing all over the country in eventing and show jumping. After moving to England she continued competing, took the BHS exams, worked at a racing yard and hunting yard, then moved to the Bay Area. Most of Polly's training was completed at The Yorkshire Riding Center in England run by Jane and Christopher Bartle, members of that country's 1984 dressage Olympic team. You can write to Polly at .

Copyright ? 1999 Polly Dignan and The Bay Area Equestrian Network. The above story and photos are the property of the Author and may not be duplicated or redistributed in any way without permission.

Readers Respond:

Ladies! Wonderful job! Is it okay to put the link on our webpage? Polly, I am saddened to know you lost two horses from the feedlots. I was aware of the first mare having to be put down, but didn't realize there was a second. Thank you both for being there for the horses. Without people like you, horses like these would have never had an article written about their new lives or their passing. They would not have known a kind word, soft touch, plenty of food. Neither would they habve been able to be a testament to what happens to our horses and how they can be brought back. How they are able to give and to receive love. Thank you both for what you do, have done and continue to do for the horses!! Gail Garrett, True Innocents Equine Rescue