Denny had just returned from his “overnight” where he had spent sixteen hours of enrichment, grazing and socializing with friends. Most of his breakfast had been eaten and he was half dozing in his stall, awaiting his morning enrichment and herd time, when I walked our visitors into the barn. Denny sensed Jenny’s presence before she came into his line of sight. They hadn’t seen each other in over eleven years, but their reunion was palpable, emotional, and raw. Even with his face obscured by his red plaid fly mask, it was impossible to miss his electric expression, pointed ears, and massive body as he strained to get closer to “his girl of a lifetime”. Jenny and her mother stayed for a great many hours, seemingly unable to pull themselves away from a horse they clearly loved. We did not dampen the visit with the narrative of how a horse such as Denny would have somehow made his way precariously into that of the unwanted.
Over Denny’s impressive show career, he won a myriad of awards ranging from engraved trophies and platters, wool coolers, Hunter Derby and Jumper purses, and a great many personalized championship leather halters emblazoned with the distinction of his award. Yet, when he was unloaded from the trailer and took what was for him a walk of shame down the ramp delivering him to Red Bucket, we were asked to return the halter which belonged to the hauler…Denny had been sent with nothing at all.
In our decade of saving and serving, we have learned that horses think, feel, and love. We have also learned with too much familiarity that they also suffer, and that the profile of the high-risk horse is changing. The unwanted come from everywhere…dry riverbeds, under freeway crossings, kill pens, vacant lots, tied to fences, abandoned without water or food, and yes, even show rings.
At Red Bucket we are committed to saving the suffering, forgotten, and unwanted. Denny, Jenny, and her parents are eagerly awaiting Denny’s home coming this week. Jenny has purchased a new leather halter with a shiny new brass name plate, new wraps, and Denny’s favorite gourmet cookies for the long plane ride home.