Duchess Sanctuary


Two Horses Rescued from Starvation Are Recovering at Duchess Sanctuary

Captain and Anna, left to starve by an owner who could no longer feed them, are now safe and happy at our Duchess Sanctuary

October 28, 2014


Dutchess Captain
Captain when he first arrived at Duchess. His bones are sticking out and you can see the sores on his hips.
Photo by Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

It has been 90 days since Captain and Anna arrived at Duchess Sanctuary in Oakland, Oregon—and their transformation from dangerously thin and neglected to happy and healthy horses has been nothing short of amazing.

When authorities in Nevada originally seized Captain and Anna after being abandoned by their owner, their appearance was quite a shock—particularly Captain’s. He scored barely a two (on a scale of one to nine) on the Body Condition Scale and most of his skeleton was visible. Anna was not as thin, but was covered in rain rot and old scars and had a sore, swollen knee. Both horses were long overdue for farrier attention, with extremely long, cracked feet.

In the three months since their arrival, both have improved tremendously. With careful feeding four times a day, Captain has gained about 150 pounds. Bathing and regular grooming have removed all the fungus and dirt of the past, and their new coats are shiny and healthy. Our farrier has paid extra attention to their feet, which are now in great shape, and with another couple of months, Captain’s old foot abscess should be completely grown out. A daily joint supplement is helping to improve Anna’s comfort level.

The duo received the necessary vaccinations and have been treated for parasites. It took about 60 days to bring their condition up to a level at which we felt comfortable sedating them for dental work, and when Captain’s mouth was opened up for his dental, we were all surprised to discover a tattoo on his inner lip. While efforts are still being made to decipher it, we can say for certain that this means he was on the racetrack at some point. We hope with the assistance of the breed registries we can determine his real name, and maybe some of his history.

Captain and Anna are still very much attached to one another. They had a couple of weeks turn out in a grassy paddock together and enjoyed the sunshine and grazing. Now that wintery rain has arrived, they are back in the barn, with turn out into a small pasture as the weather allows. Both will be fitted for waterproof blankets to protect them from the elements.

Many staff and volunteer hours have gone into this recovery, with professional assistance from our veterinarian and farrier, and we are grateful for the efforts from all involved. It is because of your generous support that we are able to provide such expert care to animals in need like Captain and Anna, and we thank you for that.

Original story: August 1, 2014

Last week we welcomed two new horses to Duchess Sanctuary who were in desperate need of our help—a mare named Anna and a gelding we call Captain. They were rescued by the Nevada Department of Agriculture from an owner who could no longer afford to feed or care for them. The Department then approached an advocate group to find a home for the horses rather than having them end up at a public sale, where anyone could purchase the horses.

That’s when horse advocates from around the region began to collaborate to save them. Without the help of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, Equine Welfare Consulting Services, and the donors who helped make the placement happen, the rescue could not have happened. Working together, we rescued Anna and Captain and brought them to sanctuary.

After their rescue, the horses were transported with great care to Duchess Sanctuary by Wild West Horse Transport. Jennifer Kunz, the ranch manager of Duchess, recalls watching them step out of the trailer for the first time:

"To watch them step off the trailer was very emotional. Even though we knew they were in good hands being transported by Wild West Horse Transport, it was obvious that they had been saved from terrible circumstances. With a body condition score of barely two, Captain had us holding back tears."- Jennifer Kunz, Ranch Manager Duchess Sanctuary

The Equine Body Condition Score (often referred to as the Henneke scoring system) goes from one to nine, with one being emaciated to almost the point of death, and nine being obese. As Jennifer noted, Captain scored a two. He was dangerously thin with sores on his hips and other body parts normally protected by a layer of fat. Although Anna had a few more pounds on her, she had still suffered a lot and had a lot of scars on her legs, fungus on her back, and a swollen knee. Both of them are estimated to be at least 20 years old, and along with the lack of food, they have had no farrier care in months.

The bond between the two horses was obvious, and heartwarming. When the two arrived at their quarantine pen, Captain walked around a few times then dropped down in the big pile of shavings for a lengthy roll. Anna headed straight for the feed and has been parked there for a week straight, which we couldn’t be happier about.

Now the transformation has begun. Although they are safe, there is much to be done to get them back to healthy and happy horses. A lengthy grooming session removed a lot of old hair and layers of dirt, but drove home the point about the severity of starvation as brushes bounced along bones we don’t normally feel, let alone see. Luckily they have good appetites, but because we assume neither horse has had dental attention in quite some time, we are offering them soaked feed four times per day along with good quality hay. Thankfully the horses are literally eating it up and are visibly improving each day.

We have provided them with fly spray and fly masks to make them more comfortable in the summer heat. Deep layers of bedding in a generously sized shelter provide a comfortable place for them to rest and recover. Their long, cracked, neglected feet will finally get some attention once they are both settled and stable enough to stand for foot trimming. And once they are strong enough for vet care, they will get a full work up, including dental work.

Captain and Anna’s suffering is over. They have found safety at Duchess Sanctuary, where they will take the long road of recovery back to the healthy, shiny horses they are meant to be. But we can’t do it without your continued support. Please consider making a donation to The Fund for Animals to help Captain and Anna on their road to health and happiness.