I always wanted to be liked. But that changed the day I saw a pony tethered to a fence at the side of a road covered in mud. I didn’t know it changed; necessity changed it. Years ago, necessity required my apathy when it came to people’s opinions of me. It didn’t get my permission, it just took it.
You see, the minute I saw her, I was shifted from my semi-selfish world to a selfless one. Again it was not by choice. Necessity moved me.
Before I knew it, I was buying hay, before I knew it, I was climbing mountains for this pony. Before I knew it, one bale a day became seven, sometimes ten. Before I knew it, I stopped feeling the pain of a bad back (an injury I got when I was wearing 5 inch heels on my way to interview a DJ for a magazine! I slipped on tiles and fell badly. How my life changed – for the better!) Yes, before I realised it, I was feeding sometimes 10 to 25 hungry horses a day. One day I fed a 100, in fields, along motorways and tied in sites – before a curfew landed due to extreme weather.
Yes, before I knew it, I was gathering a fan base of people who gave out about me. People who believed traveller horses should starve to death and people who thought rich farmers would never ‘not feed’ their animals. People said they wouldn’t feed them once I was: when the reality is, they don’t care if they are fed or not. Some people believed that if you rang this magic number, the department welfare vets would descend and sprinkle fairy dust to magically fix a real tragedy. Horses were dying of hunger. They neither came or helped.
And then along came a spider…. yes, like one of those venomous ones. She pulled up – probably on her way to mass, and told me I was a disgrace for feeding traveller horses. I pointed up to a farm and told her I’m feeding three donkeys there that the farmer is not feeding. She ignored that point, because she knew him, and went on to tell me I should be ashamed of myself. I held a bale as she spoke, I never let go, despite the twine cutting into my hands. There was a horse over my shoulder waiting for that hay to sprinkle her patch of ground that was hard after severe frost.
I never gave her my reasons that day, because I was tired of always explaining my reasons for feeding hungry horses: my reasons for nearly giving up everything I ever had-both monetary and personally to keep horses both alive and free of suffering – I did it because I believed if I could keep them well and alive – one day I would get them out. If they couldn’t be seized, if they were let down by authorities, I would find more money to buy them (I know – part of the problem!)
The mare looking over the gate and over my shoulder was a beautiful majestic girl. I fed her from a bucket at a few months old when she was ripped from her mother way too young. I loved her from the moment her shiny baby head tried to reach over the council steel gate to feel some comfort.
And the years passed, I watched her grow, always promising her – one day you will know green fields and care. A promise I made to many. She was moved with the others from field to field, from bits of ground to other bits of ground. And yes, I followed them with hay – day after day.
And then came her day. I couldn’t believe it. Finally it was over. The plan had worked….keep her alive till her rescue day came.
But the best plans can be invaded by cruel endings and before you know it, steal the ones you imagined. One quickly replaces the other.
Today I tried to drive but I had to pull in. I couldn’t see through my tears. Today I heard she died. And before I knew it, my heart broke another bit, for another beautiful brave horse that had tried to survive against all odds.
Another rescuer told me today that sometimes animals who are treated badly, when they get to a safe place, they can give up. Because it is safe and OK to do so. I told another rescuer, that she had died, and he told me to remember the ones we do get to save and do get to go on to have a life. And that is how some rescuers keep going through the constant loss and heartache.
But today was about her. Remembering her. And realising I’m not a disgrace after all. I can’t do what I use to do for all these horses around me that are still starving and struggling. There is no money left – a bit to feed 2 or 3. But worse again, I have lost my courage. Grief I think had stolen it too. But I have this voice that wants to scream. I decided today I was going to drive to the owner and tell him what he did to her – his treatment a few months before her day to get out, signed her fate. Someone stopped me. He said ‘he doesn’t care.’ You see, they don’t. They really don’t. Yet they want horses that they don’t have to care about. Those that starve horses may not care but those paid to care need to do more. Remember this story when you go to vote. Horses are suffering unimaginable pain because the law is not being enforced. They are another disgrace – they that leave this work to rescuers to do.
We are a developed country. This cruelty should not exist in an advanced society. No, it may not be a voting issue for some. But it should be a voting issue for those of you tired of animals suffering out there.
Remember that word ‘disgrace’ next time someone asks you for their vote. Remember this foal that grew up to die at four.