Hoisted to his feet, a second chance comes

This was the scene last March when Rubber Duckie had to be hoisted to his feet after lying down, unable to get up on his own. Photo courtesy Bev Strauss, MidAtlantic Horse Rescue

This was the scene last March when Rubber Duckie had to be hoisted to his feet after lying down, unable to get up on his own. Photo courtesy Bev Strauss, MidAtlantic Horse Rescue

In the dark of midnight tractor lights lit up his fine head, which lolled as his long Thoroughbred legs dangled like a marionette’s limbs, only inches above the ground.

‘”Damn it! We should have put him down. We shouldn’t have put him through this!” said Beverly Strauss at the time. The director of Mid-Atlantic Horse Rescue recalls saying those words as her throat caught, and she watched him dangle like a ragdoll last March.

As hope of saving the young bay gelding faded, a man who assisted in hoisting the starving animal up after he had been down and unable to stand for hours, gently took the racehorse’s head in his hands, and shouted: “Come on! Stay with us!”

Rubber Duckie
Sire: Duckhorn
Dam: The Chase Affair, by Black Tie Affair
Foal date: March 28, 2005
And the poor guy must have heard because he picked his head up and looked toward the sound of the voice, and then he began to thrash.

Those frantic movements marked the return of ex-racehorse Rubber Duckie—a horse who bounced back from the nightmare of starvation.

Duckie was discovered last year on a routine veterinary call, and was handed over to Strauss, and to Tina and Marvin Clark of Windmill Farm of Elkton, Md., to oversee his treatment from malnourishment, Strauss says.

After a week in their care, Duckie went down one afternoon and didn’t get up. By the time a crew from Da Vinci Equine Transport, with equipment to hoist the horse up could be assembled, it was midnight.

Beverly Strauss says Duckie's condition was so poor it appeared he was too far gone to help.

Beverly Strauss says Duckie’s condition was so poor it appeared he was too far gone to help.

With hope fading by the hour, Strauss and the Clarks watched every shallow breath the gelding drew, and fed him handfuls of grain, which he could barely lift his head to receive.

And by the time the gentleman yelled at Duckie to stay with him, Strauss was bracing for the worst as the animal was lowered so slowly to stand on his feet. If he could not stand, he would have to be euthanized, she says, explaining that the way he looked that night, it seemed a done deal.

But Duckie surprised them.

At first, it looked bad: “They lowered him to his feet and within a few minutes they took the sling off and he was walking like a drunk,” Strauss says. “He walked in little circles, and the more he walked the better he got.”

But then came a glimmer of hope: “After about 15 minutes he was pulling Marvin over toward the grass to eat. So they walked him to a stall, and he had his dinner as though nothing had happened,” Strauss recalls, chuckling. “He didn’t go down for a while after that. And when he did eventually lie down again, he was strong enough to get back up.”

After the ordeal, he received painstaking rehabilitation and careful re-feeding under the 24-hour watch by the Clarks, says Strauss, noting that the pair of horse lovers watched the animal like a hawk in the critical days and weeks following the scary episode.

In time Duckie rebuilt his body mass, and Strauss discovered that he remained a really good horse: a kind horse, a healthy horse.

Kathrin Shenk was worried about "adopting a celebrity" after Duckie's story and struggle became famous on social media.

Kathrin Shenk was worried about “adopting a celebrity” after Duckie’s story and struggle became famous on social media.

“After all that, he still really loved people,” she says. “He was just so wise.”

When it came time for Strauss to find a new home for Duckie, she chose from among the droves of people who had followed the animal’s story on Facebook.

Kathrin Shenk, a financial supporter of Strauss’ charity, and on the lookout for a new mount, was just one of those followers. But she hesitated when Strauss first suggested the plucky gelding might be a good match for her.

“I remember when she first suggested Duckie, I told her I didn’t know, because it would be like taking a celebrity. I was nervous that my every move would be scrutinized,” Shenk says. But even her husband encouraged her to try the horse, who he had been following on Facebook as well; so Shenk agreed.

In August, Shenk drove out to try Duckie and four other horses.

“The first horse I was given to try was Duckie. After we brushed him off, and got him ready, I got on. I knew instantly. I just got this vibe, and I knew it would work out. So I told everyone not to bother bringing out the other horses!”

She has no regrets.

Behold! Duckie appeared at a Thoroughbred charity event at Pimlico, stopping to pose for a picture in the winner's circle.

Behold! Duckie appeared at a Thoroughbred charity event at Pimlico, stopping to pose for a picture in the winner’s circle.

Under saddle, he is proving to be exceptional in many ways. “He’s incredibly responsive and so willing that if you ask him to do something, his next question is, ‘What else can I do for you?’ ”

And when Shenk brought him to the Pimlico racetrack in May to participate in Canter for the Cure, he was a ball of nerves, but never once refused anything or acted up.

“We walked the entire track together, and he never lost it. We kept it at a walk, and he kept it together,” she says.

He even stopped to pose for a photograph in the winner’s circle, all muscled up and proud-looking. Well, he certainly stopped in the right place: The winner’s circle!


22 responses to “Hoisted to his feet, a second chance comes”

  1. Lisa Melone

    OK, got me in tears–so glad this story had a happy ending. What an amazing pull through for this guy. Nothing like the heart of a TB!

  2. Andrea

    This makes me think of my sweet OTTB that I recently lost. He was rescued from a starvation situation as well and blossomed into a handsome wonderful horse. We shared almost 10 years together. Brings a tear to my eye. Keep up the good work Midatlantic Horse Rescue!

  3. Fran

    Great story- Great horse – Great JOB Bev Strauss @MidAtlantic Horse Rescue and Nicole / Da Vinci Equine. who brought and assisted hoisting him up in the sling… this was an amazing team effort…And Tina too!!!

    I was in charge of the winner circle traffic during the Canter for the Cure (where that photo was taken) When I saw him and heard that was Duckie it brought tears to my eyes!

  4. MP Clark

    What an absolute knockout of a horse! He is gorgeous. I am sure his lucky adopter is aware of this horse’s looks and potential.
    She was smart to get him for herself and work. She now has a gem for her own.

    If this horse is not enough reason to find a way to adopt one of these OTTB’s, nothing will be. Imagine having one of your own. At these adoption fees, that dream is finally possible.

    I had an OTTB and would certainly adopt one again. These horses can do everything and look good doing it.

    End horseslaughter now: http://www.USA.gov Pass The SAFE Act and the PAST Act now

  5. Heather

    What a terrific ending to a sad story. Yay Duckie

  6. Ginger Maxwell

    So happy for the horse and new owner. Wonderful story about the will and love of this horse and the people who helped.

  7. Coreene

    The look of eagles 🙂

  8. Ellen Brayshaw

    Truly this is a wonderful story of hope, love, honor and determination. All this horse needed was support and encouragement from such incredible team of anjels. Once Duckie had that, he took over the reins and ran the greatest race of all…life…!

  9. cheri vaughan

    Simply beautiful.

  10. Jennifer

    That is such a fantastic Happy Ever After story!! So glad that someone had faith in him. What a stunning guy!

  11. Barbara Griffith

    Was anything done to the owner that starved him like that? The people that treat any animal like this are guilty extreme cruelty that should result in felony charges. Judges generally only hand out slaps on the wrist and a few weeks of community service but in some states things seem to be changing for the better.

  12. Jill M.

    Amazing story! It was very sad that he was almost starved to death. So glad he turned out to be a such Lucky Duckie! He looks WONDERFUL now!

  13. Darrell C

    How I appreciate and enjoy ‘Happily Ever After’ stories! If only everyone that chose to breed and produce foals took lifelong responsibility for the beautiful souls they are part of bringing into this world there would lighten the burden on rescues. I encourage anyone looking for an equine companion to consider rescue first…

    ~”By saving horses, I’ve lost my mind but found my soul!” – Author Unknown~

  14. Claudia Ward

    Amazing Story, everything was against him, but his inner strength pulled him through and the kind voice, willed him to live. You all did a wonderful job bringing him back to full health. He looks great now.

  15. Paula

    Lovely story, he really is one lucky duckie.

  16. R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    So glad Duckie pulled through. The will to live is amazing. Bravo.

  17. Joan B.

    Absolutely gorgeous horse. So happy that the gods smiled on both of them!

  18. Susan Crane-Sundell

    It’s a miracle Rubber Duckie is alive. The remarkable recovery of Duckie defies the odds. He looks in perfect health now-he has really thrived from all the efforts of Beverly’s team of dedicated rescuers.Essentially, he has turned out to be a truly determined Thoroughbred. Perhaps his name should be Lucky Duckie!

  19. Rebecca Fetterman Vensel

    (Edited) Thank God he is okay and has the love and care he deserves.

  20. JK4M

    WOnderful story—I love reading these successful rehab stories, but I am so sad that there are people who let horses get like this that they NEED to rescued…what is wrong with people?

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