DOB: Unknown, Arrived: 3/12/2019 (Rescue), Completed Rehabilitative Care 6/15/19 (now a Session Horse and permanent Ranch resident)
Joseph is looking for his sponsors! Click here to learn more.
Joseph, formerly hip #1790 was rescued from an auction house in Middle Tennessee. He was found standing in a pen with about 100 other horses who all awaited the same fate: to be purchased by the highest bidder with no regard to their welfare, condition, or destiny (many from this particular auction of which end up at feedlots and in slaughter trucks). Having researched well how to rescue from this auction without adding money into the kill buyer's hands, our volunteers were able to pull him on the night of March 12, 2019. He is a middle-aged gelding that we believe is a Saddlebred cross (though he was listed as a mare at the auction!).
The instant he walked out of the auction house he let out a deep sigh, as if knowing he had ended up in caring hands. He loaded onto the trailer, and slept most of the drive back to the Ranch.
He was evaluated by our vet: infested with parasites, needing to gain over 300lbs, and lacking basic maintenance care by his previous owner so a plan for his rehabilitation was made. Some of our participants have already been able to meet him and have been strongly impacted- seeing themselves in his story. They will be an important part of his hands-on healing process. We know God has incredible plans for this horse who genuinely engages with everyone he meets. He is very resilient despite what he has been through... just like the participants that come to the Ranch.
Joseph's full story as it unfolds will be documented here. We'd love for you to follow along in his healing.
What a month it has been for Joseph! He's beginning to learn the routine of life here at Freedom Reigns. He is still enjoying his extra large (12x18') stall, eating about 30lbs of Alfalfa/Orchard Grass hay per day, and continuing to enjoy limited grazing time. We did have a little setback due to an episode of colic. Thankfully, we caught it within the first hour, were able to get the vet out quickly to get him treated, and he recovered just fine. Refeeding starvation cases is such a delicate balance and no two are exactly the same. The process is a lot like healing from trauma, if you do too much too fast it can completely overwhelm an individual and they begin to shut down. That can happen physically with starved horses. With Joseph, we knew from his teeth that he had likely eaten tree bark, and from his fecal can conclude that he ate his own feces to survive. The spring grass here in Middle Tennessee is full of sugar, and despite our introducing pasture very slowly, his system just wasn't strong enough to handle the influx of nutrients that quickly. He has stabilized, though, and is enjoying some hand grazing each day. We're looking forward to introducing a low-starch grain next month and trying pasture again when the initial spring grass has been cut.
Training wise he has done FANTASTIC! We've been warned that as he gains strength that he would likely become a different horse so it's been important to instill excellent ground manners using natural horsemanship techniques from day one. He's got a little bit of a stubborn streak, but that's probably what allowed him to survive what he did. He has remained sweet and continues to greet us with a warm nicker every time he hears someone walking up to the quarantine barn.
We've been able to introduce him to our Junior Ranchers and a few participant families (while still following a pretty strict quarantine protocol) and it has been powerful. We're seeing the beginnings of the ministry this sweet horse will have with the families that come to Freedom Reigns. It was perhaps best stated by a mom when she said "it's really neat... he's going to get to heal as my family does".
Thank you to the many individuals who contributed to his care this first month. So many of you donated through the Facebook fundraiser, and by sending donations directly to the Ranch. It's certainly an undertaking, and he definitely knows you were generous since he wanted to visit the vet a couple times this first full month. HAHA.
"He literally looks like a different horse!" is the phrase that has been echoed over and over when people have seen Joseph this month. Some have even went so far to suggest that he literally isn't the same horse and that we somehow magically swapped horses. His transformation has been (and continues to be) truly remarkable! As we look back at the photos from those first few days and weeks, it's hard to imagine the fragile, skinny, sun-bleached, wormy-bellied, rain-rot covered, exhausted gelding pictured is the same Joseph we now are greeted by as soon as we go to the barn. He enthusiastically greets visitors at the gate and commands their attention with his endearing presence. He is strong, expressive, genuinely sweet, and would follow you everywhere if you let him.
Joseph had his first ride under saddle later in May and did phenomenal! He is calm, responsive to leg, and acts like a total gentleman with a workmanlike attitude. While our rides for now are very short and light as he continues to gain weight and now muscle, he demonstrates a desire to work and be involved in everything going on. He stands at the corner of the arena when other horses are working, almost as if he feels "left out", and gives a little "pick me!" nicker when he sees people coming toward him. He does ride like a typical Saddlebred who was shown with a very high headset and still has the "upside down neck" to verify that. We'll be working on helping him develop muscling to use his back to reach down and forward in a comfortable position that will allow him to be ridden for many years to come.
He genuinely LOVES being around kids, and stands alert yet calm whenever they approach and immediately has soft and quiet eyes when they start brushing him. If it was possible to stand and be brushed all day, he would gratefully accept it. He has explored our many "play" objects (a tarp, a tire, small jump, large ball, water bottle pit, umbrella, hula hoops, weaving cones) in the arena and is fearless.
He has gained enough strength to be able to be introduced to the rest of the herd and did fantastic. He is now enjoying 24-7 turnout with his pasturemates and getting 10lbs of Triple Crown Senior along with supplements (broken up over multiple mealtimes) each day. We're very grateful to not have to feed him the 35-40lbs of 75%Alfalfa/25%Orchard Grass he was eating each day at the beginning of the month!
We'll have an official new weight number for him in June and will be sure to share it with you!
What an incredible month Joseph has had. It is with great excitement that we share that Joseph is released from Rehabilitative Care and fully into our session program as a trusted riding horse for participants!
When we got him under saddle at the end of May it became even more evident that he was trained well at some point in his life. He knew his job and he likes to work. He passed our "session test" with flying colors and remained calm and workman-like despite every silly thing we did. No buck, no rear, no bolt, nothing but a stoic calm.
He continues to be the "silly extrovert" in the pasture. He is always the first one to leave the herd and greet people at the gate. He continues to be "Mr. Talkative" and nickers to get people to come and pet him or give him any form of attention. He has quickly become a first choice session horse for volunteers and participants alike.
His story is of triumph over adversity and against the odds that were stacked against him. His is a story of the power of community and of what it means to be literally plucked from the chaos of uncertainty and placed into a herd where he is treasured and has a place of significance and great worth. Where he has purpose, and can now give back by giving to those who have yet to experience what he now carries.