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.
Dam: Misty Gallop
Foal date: May 4, 2007When 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.
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.