The 16-hand “walking skeleton” abandoned in the Kentucky woods with dozens of other Thoroughbreds before authorities intervened in early August was in a condition so alarming that Jeanne Mirabito knew if she left her, she would be “signing her death warrant.”
“I knew that she was so close to death that she would lie down and die in that field,” says Mirabito, president of Our Mims Retirement Haven, a Kentucky facility serving older broodmares. “So I said I want that horse. If I couldn’t save her, at least she was going to leave this earth being cared for and loved, and her last days on earth were not going to be alone.”
So on Aug. 22, Mirabito agreed to find a stall in quarantine for the ex-racehorse identified as Jo Jo’s Gypsy via her tattoo and photographs, and shoulder the cost of care for one of 42 horses discovered in a wooded area on the Bourbon County line in early August.
Jo Jo’s Gypsy
Dam: Camptown Gypsy
Foal date: April 25, 2005The mare was trying to survive with approximately 35 other horses, mostly Thoroughbreds, on a 100-acre lot with a mud bog as a water source and little forage, according to Dr. Walker Logan, a veterinarian contacted by Animal Control. She and her husband, fellow veterinarian Dr. Zachary Logan, were on scene to evaluate the animals.
“On the 6th of August we went to assess the situation and found horrible conditions. There were several mares who were heavy in foal … and one mare was trying to care for her newborn foal on the side of the road,” Walker Logan adds.
Bourbon County Attorney G. Davis Wilson, in a telephone interview, says the animals were declared legally “abandoned,” and on Aug. 7, the veterinarians, various rescue groups, and volunteers removed some 32 horses. Two more trips to the location netted an additional six horses, and two foals, who died.
In the ensuing days, as individuals and rescue groups across the country stepped up to offer homes to the horses —horses were shipped to Michigan, New York, Virginia, North Carolina and the Kentucky Equine Humane Center, which took five mares, one with a mare by her side— Mirabito decided that although she is prohibited by the charter of her nonprofit to accept a horse as young as Jo Jo’s Gypsy into her charity, the Kentucky bred deserved the dignity of dying close to home.
“Because she’s only 9, I couldn’t take her in as part of Our Mims. It would be against our mission statement,” Mirabito explains. “But I couldn’t leave a horse like that, so I took a grand leap of faith that my buddies would help me, and I took her as my own personal horse.”
Last Friday Mirabito led the spindly, sickly mare into a 16 by 20 quarantine stall, and gave her everything she could. With her volunteers by her side, Mirabito washed the horse gently in iodine to remove the traces of her chronic diarrhea, and she fed her good quality hay; as much as the poor animal could eat.
“In her first 24 hours with us, she drank 20 gallons of water and ate an entire bale of hay. On her second day, she drank 25 gallons of water and ate a bale-and-a-half. Then she started to taper off … I think she understands that she’s full, and there’s another meal coming,” Mirabito says. “My vet says we can’t ask for better than that. She is doing her part to stay alive.”
It will be touch and go for a while. Jo Jo is not even close to being out of the woods. But on Monday, the consistency of her poop was normal, and Mirabito and her volunteers screamed and did a “happy dance” in the barn aisle.
“I’ve never seen a horse with this strong of a will to live,” she says. “By all rights, she should have lied down and died already.”
Mirabito notes that even as Jo Jo came from the such dire circumstances, the beauty of the episode has been the incredible kindness and assistance of the rescue community. Charity organization One Horse at a Time voted immediately to grant Mirabito $1,000 in emergency funds, and is actively raising money to help Mirabito’s new horse.
Meantime, there are six horses still available for adoption, says Walker. “Five of them are perfectly sound and ready to be rehabbed for a new career,” she says. Those interested in adopting may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact her through her Facebook page.