He stood in crippling pain on four bad feet. Most who looked at him just shook their heads. His condition seemed hopeless.
But not to Brenda Lewis. She disputed what two horse rescues said, when they briefly considered and then declined to help a Thoroughbred named Chance. And she bristled when warned not to go near the starving wretch “with a ten-foot pole” because he would never recover.
Lewis had seen a hell of a lot worse in her life; she witnessed her mother and three siblings die from the ravages of Huntington’s Chorea, an incurable genetically transmitted disease that attacks the brain.
Sire: Crown Ambassador
Foal date: May 15, 1999Looking at Chance, who could barely stand as he starved in a field eight years ago, she saw nothing but possibility.
She embraced Chance (Jockey Club: JB’s Crown) and the opportunity to help him. She would do everything in her power to bring him back from certain death, and take a place in this world by her side, which had been so unfairly vacated by her three younger siblings and mother.
“When my brother and sister were diagnosed, and I wasn’t showing symptoms, and I was the oldest, it was clear I wasn’t going to get the symptoms. But watching my little brother and sister dying, when there was nothing I could do” was the most desolate experience imaginable. “This is why I started rescuing horses.”
Chance was her first hopeless case.
He arrived so lame back in 2005 that he took 20 minutes just to hobble off the trailer to his new stall.
Immediately her farrier and veterinarian swooped in to do what they could—his shoes, carelessly nailed to soles were pulled off, and other other ministrations. But she was warned, he would likely not make it through the next three days, but if he could make it through ten, he just might.
She second-guessed her decision many times while forcing the crippled horse to walk, just a little, on her veterinarian’s admonishment that the horse would not heal if he did not move.
Up and down the barn aisle they went, she in tears, he nearly falling into her, day after day.
“He walked like a person does when they’re really drunk. He’d take a step and nearly almost tip over. The lady that owned the barn where I was at the time warned everybody else not to go near him because she was concerned he might fall on top of someone,” Lewis says.
After their walks, he stood perfectly still in his stall. He didn’t swish his tail or twitch a muscle. He moved his head between his water bucket and hay, but otherwise waited it out with a glazed look in his eyes, she says.
“Then one day, it was around the 10th day I had him, he swished his tail. I couldn’t believe it. I ran out of my barn yelling, ‘He’s going to live!’ ”
Not only did he eventually blossom into a beautiful animal, who, while no spring chicken anymore, could still run around a pasture and fall in love with her other permanent Thoroughbred, Lady Bug.
And Chance inspired her to do more.
She founded her Grafton, Ohio-based horse rescue Another Chance Equine Rescue, named it for him, and dedicated it to helping other hopeless cases. Since its inception in 2009, the nonprofit agency has rescued some of the sorriest-looking animals, brought them back to health and re-homed them. Proving to her, she says, that there’s a perfect person out there for most of these horses.
Part of the rescue’s mission is to help horses who have been forgotten, and to find permanent good homes for horses who had “no chance” and to end the suffering of a horse that without intervention would die a slow and painful death.
“People often try to thank me for what I do. I always tell them that there’s no need to thank me. When I lost my family, I turned to horses, because I loved them so much as a child. And they saved me,” she says. “My heart is filled because I can save these horses. No thanks is ever, ever needed.”