Limeheart, a $120K yearling rescued for $0

Limeheart arrives at Matthews' farm

Limeheart arrives at Matthews’ farm

There was nothing so remarkable to see, really, but Denise Mathews had to look twice.

Plain and brown, the fragile mare had a body score of 2 out of 9 on the weight chart, meaning she had dwindled to a dangerously low weight; she looked more like a tufted mutt who’d scampered from a back ally than the robust racehorse she once was.

“The thing is, I’ve seen so many horses on Facebook who need help,” Matthews says. “I probably keep up with 50 different rescues, and when I see pictures of these desperate horses, my heart goes out to every one of them.”

But in all her years she never felt compelled to race right out and adopt one, not until last month, when she happened upon Limeheart’s soulful photo gazing out to her from a Facebook post.

On Nov. 16, California-based Thoroughbred advocate Deborah Jones posted a photograph of Limeheart, and a dire warning that the animal who, Jones reported, had sold for $100,000 as a yearling, but was now scheduled to be euthanized unless someone stepped up to the plate.

“I can’t tell you what it was about her. She’s a solid bay and she’s certainly not flashy. She’s not the type of horse that’s really going to catch anybody’s eye,” Matthews says. “But, as soon as I saw Deb’s notice, I wrote a comment asking what I could do to help.”

Almost as quickly as she typed those words on Facebook, Matthews agreed to take the scrawny animal for free, and transport her from a nearby facility to her Virginia home.

Racename: Limeheart
Sire: Limehouse
Dam: Misty Gallop
Foal date: May 4, 2007
When the sweet-tempered five-year-old tried to walk off the van, she moved like an elderly animal. “She could barely walk,” she says.

Her front feet were in such poor condition that an abscess had now created a painful hole, which wouldn’t be right until she endured the long process of growing a new foot, Matthews explains.

“With the abscesses, our farrier thinks she stepped on a little piece of gravel, and that since nobody cleaned out her feet, it got stuck, and eventually found its way through the layers of the foot,” she says. “This eventually caused her coronet band to blow out and get infected.”

Her feet were so infected in fact, that the farrier had to cut almost to coffin bone to dig it all out, followed by two weeks of antibiotics and an Epsom salt and gauze wrap, to draw out the infection.

By week three, says Mathews, little Limeheart was standing far more comfortably on her hooves.

In a few more weeks, she hopes they’ll be healthy enough to accommodate new shoes, which is the ultimate goal.

Looking better already

Looking better already

But at least for now her pain is gone, however, and she is packing away food and gaining weight at a healthy pace.

“She’s probably put on between 75 and 100 pounds. She gets all the hay she can eat; she’s consuming about a bale a day. And she gets about 10 quarts of feed a day, along with rice bran oil to help with her rain rot,” Matthews says.

While Limeheart’s recovery will not be a walk in the park, Matthews, who works as a nurse by day, sees this recovering patient as one of the most deserving she has cared for.

“She is such a sweetheart! Some nights, when I’m working late, my neighbor comes over to bring her into the barn,” she says. “He told me that tonight, when he came to get her, he didn’t even bother with a halter; she knows where she’s going and just followed him into the barn!”

The longtime horseman, who got her first pony when she was 5, has found that at age 40, the care she is giving this unremarkable looking animal is one of the most fulfilling things she has ever done.

“The first two weeks she was here, I was with her from six to eight hours each day, feeding her, walking her, and treating her rain rot,” she says. “I don’t want to know how this happened to her, or who did this to her— she’s only 5.”

It is Matthews’ goal to bring Limeheart along as a pleasure horse someday and to restore her health so she may live to be at least 20.

Those wishing to follow Limeheart’s progress should check out her Facebook Page, Rescuing Limeheart

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7 responses to “Limeheart, a $120K yearling rescued for $0”

  1. Jean White

    I’m so thankful for people like Denise! We need more like her. I’m so glad Limeheart is in good hands and is on the road to recovery. Best of luck Limeheart. Here’s to a long and healthy life!

  2. Lynne Jones

    Ms. Mathews: God Bless you for rescuing Limeheart. She looks like she will be a great horse when she recovers from her ordeal. I wish the person that let her get in this horrible conditions gets the same, or worse. It’s unbelievable that there are such horrible individuals in this world. These animals are so smart. I have rescued three horses, one I am treating for laminitis and I hope we can save her as she is such a sweetheart. Good Luck with her and please let me know how she is doing in her recovery. I wish you lived in Southern California and I would try to help you in her new diet. Much success and please give Limeheart a kiss for me on her nose. My horses are at a sanctuary in Southern California and it is owned by a retired nurse, one who has survived an extreme case of tongue and throat cancer and she has more rewarding experiences of her treatment of her charges, many times staying in the corral or pasture with her charges to care for them hoping they will get better or seeing that they are cared for until they die a natural death because they are so ill. Your rewards will come with this new horse and much success together.

  3. Jo

    Well, Denise Matthews should be a tax-deductible organization. These repetative $$ hide $$ and $$ seek $$ games and days of childish minded horse owners & breeders (accepting zero commitment) has to change too. Amazing, what a few groceries and a mature minded caring person can do in 6weeks.Lots of people in race industry wouldn’t be surprised to learn Denise’s 5yo TB mare was likely $120K throwaway TOY! 4years later, practically starved on deaths doorstep. I’ve seen this quite a bit now in only 8 years of owning horses.So wrong,it makes my blood boil. Here in Ontario,farmers and rich kids etc.are all on Time Out. Calling each other irresponsible cash grabbers,& deal breakers. $ OHRIA $ and $ GOV $ Denise,so great that “she is such a sweetheart”. Thanking you everyday! No longer in pain and loving dinner again. So nice to read that. I know I’m no longer willing to give 10 cents to a single racetrack anywhere for a long time.I still think Standardbred owners and breeders are the worst though for ditching their horses.God the number of times and people who told me to just give my race finished TB’s away.. turn the page…move em on…just get rid of them…stop the $bleeding$…send em down to Penn…etc. actually taught me the exact opposite! Now is the time to Support Bill c-322 and push race commissions to enforce proper horse retirement.Wonder if racetrack Breeders had to pay licences each year,had more restrictions on what produced for where and when, along with after racing take back plan/or options …how many then would chance life of starvation or slaughter…. a lot less? because so fewer would be born. Is that a bad thing? Racing needs to decide better future more realisticly positive for horses.

  4. Delrene Sims

    Happy New Year Denise and Limeheart/ I got your address and will forward a check tomorrow. Never enough, but something toward her for a happy, healthy New Year. In honor of racing gray, Tweebster, who was euthanized Dec. 30 after a race at Santa Anita . Very sad. May she continue to thrive in your care. Cannot save them all, but she is one of the extremely lucky ones.

  5. Elaine Nash

    What a great story! Can we clone Denise Matthews- about 100,000 times?

  6. denise

    Thank you for taking the time to write her story, so far, and to everyone who reads this!! Limeheart ( Leema) is doing great, steadily putting on weight, and thriving! I’m asking everyone to please go like her on Facebook, RESCUING LIMEHEART, and consider making a donation towards her care and recovery. I am not a tax-deductible organization, it’s just me, and I really am relying on the kindness of others to help Leema. Every dollar helps, and it all goes straight towards her care..thank you all for caring, sharing her story, and helping me get this lady back where she belongs!! <3

  7. Rebecca

    What a wonderful story! So glad you found her and saved her. May 2013 bring all the good karma and nuzzles and nickers you so deserve!

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