It took 4 days before dumped horse could rise

Defense Team couldn't get to his feet unassisted for four days after he was rescued from the roadside by the South Florida SPCA.

Defense Team couldn’t get to his feet unassisted for four days after he was rescued from the roadside by the South Florida SPCA.

On a rocky Florida roadside where nothing nutritious grows stood a horse whose body had sunken from starvation.

With no walls to confine him, he stood rooted to the roadside and to his fate, with no spirit to escape. The fight, says his rescuer, had gone right out of him. He seemed to accept whatever life held for him.

But on Feb 17, instead of death, came four angels in the form of three officers from the Hialeah, Fla. police department, along with Laurie Waggoner, director of ranch operations for the South Florida SPCA. Together they eased the horse away from that barren place, and onto a trailer heading to safety.

Defense Team
Sire: Out of Place
Dam: River Love
Foal date: April 6, 1999
“He was a little hesitant to get on the trailer, but I told him it was the last trailer ride he’d have to take, and that he’d be okay,” Waggoner says.

The skeletal, chestnut Thoroughbred named Defense Team didn’t wobble or fall as he shuffled onto the trailer. But as soon as arrived at the SPCA farm nearby, the exhausted animal went down. Too feeble to hoist himself back up on his feet, he remained down until four volunteers lifted him back to his feet.

“He didn’t have any muscle anymore. All the muscle had started to metabolize and he didn’t have the strength to get up once he went down,” says Waggoner. “It took two of us pulling at his head, and two men, who had to get a rope under his hind quarters, to get him back up.”

Defense Team teetered on the edge of death.

After 22 years of rescuing horses abandoned on the back roads of Florida, Waggoner gave Defense Team no better than 50-50 odds of surviving.

South Florida SPCA workers didn't think he was going to make it.

South Florida SPCA workers didn’t think he was going to make it.

“I honestly didn’t think he was going to make it,” she says. “So we kept him outdoors, and when he would lie down in the afternoon, I’d make sure I had friends I could call on to help get him back up again on his feet.”

It was hard to leave the emaciated animal outside in a paddock overnight, wanting of course to tuck him into a stall in the barn. But, for those first four days, when Defense Team seemed half-dead already, Waggoner had to think in terms of carcass removal. “It was much easier to get equipment to the paddock, and I wasn’t going to have people take down walls of a barn” to remove him, she explains.

She adds, “When we had him in a stall, he would make an attempt to get up, but couldn’t.”

From Feb. 17 to 21, Defense Team ate, drank his water, and lied in the dirt until volunteers picked him up again.

Then, on the fourth day of his rehabilitation, Waggoner and a crew of volunteers arrived at the paddock to help the resting horse back to his feet and beheld a small miracle: He was standing!

“Earlier in the day I’d looked out and saw he was lying down again, so I’d gone around to some friends and made arrangements for them to come help get him to his feet again, later,” she says, noting that seeing the starved, emaciated survivor standing upright was a sight that gave her hope.

Though he wasn’t out of the woods, his returning strength was a sign that the careful re-feeding regimen was working to rebuilt fat stores around vital organs and bone marrow.

His hair is falling out in patches, but new hair is coming in. Though he will take a while longer to look better, Defense Team is on the road to recovery.

His hair is falling out in patches, but new hair is coming in. Though he will take a while longer to look better, Defense Team is on the road to recovery.

“When a horse is that starved, as you start re-feeding them, you don’t see the results right away. The first thing that happens is the bone marrow gets rebuilt, followed by the internal organs,” she explains. “It takes about six weeks before you really start to see a difference.”

Though his ribs and hips still jutted out, and patchy hair loss gave him the appearance of a discarded rag doll, Defense Team felt better than he looked. And on day 10 he trotted! And Waggoner, who gets a little choked up to describe this moment, knew then that another discarded horse would see his next birthday.

Yesterday, a sheet carrot cake was presented to Defense Team on his 15th birthday.

He barely made it. But he did. He is a sound animal whose personality is beginning to emerge, and who will be placed on the SPCA’s adoption list down the road, after he has had much more time to recover and regain his foothold on life.

He may have been plucked from the roadside but he’s on the right road now.

43 responses to “It took 4 days before dumped horse could rise”

  1. Gloria

    I so hope he makes it. Charges need to be filed. The more people get away with this cruelty the more they will do it again and again. Please update his progress. May he find all the love and care he needs.

  2. Kim MacArthur

    Here is his pedigree and breeder’s name. Perhaps that’s a place to start.

  3. jill alzina

    So happy Defense Team was saved. I love hearing this kind of story. Thank you for the good people out there who have big hearts. My deepest respect to you.

  4. Nancy

    Wonderful story but one thing that upsets me is Defense Team was promised, by Waggoner that the trailer ride would be his last. I hope he gets adopted by someone wonderful but I hate that he will have to go into a trailer if he is, after being promised he wouldn’t have to do it again.

    I know it’s silly but I hate lying to animals. Something tells me they know.

  5. Tanya Oltjenbruns

    God bless you Defense Team for not giving up your fight to survive!! Thankyou so much to all involved in his rescue. May you live the rest of your years with a loving forever family. Hugs to you sweet boy!

  6. Angie Francart

    Oh you know how this makes us sick and cringe. It just so sad. We have taken in many – some on the same edge of life. So glad to hear he is doing better and our hearts and thanks are out to the team and their efforts. Why don’t people call a rescue like us. While we are not in Florida, there are many rescues willing and ready to help. Crap just pick up the phone please.

  7. Elizabeth J Dana

    There is a place between Heaven and Hell and it is called Earth. The Angels care for the abandoned and worthless babies while the Demons “just don’t” care. It is that easy and simple. When this war between Good and Evil is over, the Angels go to Heaven and the Demons “just don’t”. That explains why we have more Demons here.

  8. Daryl

    This was heart wawrming story, true story’s don’t turn out okay but he seems to be doing much better, Bless you all for the job you did not letting him just die there..Keep up the good work fellow, hope to hear more about you later and see more great pic’s.

  9. cheri vaughan

    God speed you to a full recovery soon, Defense Team. God speed, dear boy! You are loved!! More love to come your way!

  10. Ellah Dubeau-kielty

    I am happy Defense team is starting to feel better. It is so sad to think people can just dump horses like trash. I hope this horse gets a chance to know love in a forever home.

  11. LL

    This is one of the saddest stories you have ever presented. Unfortunately, the people who should be reading this (perpetrators) would probably never even come near this site.

  12. Liz Schaab

    I have tears in my eyes knowing how much this horse had once been loved and then being so easily discarded. It’s tragic, and whoever left him to fend for himself finds themselves one day doing the same, with no savior.



  14. Sylvia Young

    We have several rescue horses in our family…our beautiful Maverick (Palomino) looked as bad as Defense Team. Mav is now plump and happy, living his life in our Oklahoma pastures. There is no greater joy than to bring one if these majestic beings back from the edge of death.

  15. LinBro

    Sorry to hear about the horse’s suffering. However, the person who writes these pieces needs to go back to school to learn to write in English. Such an egregious grammar error, I just have to say something:

    “Defense Team ate, drank his water, and lied in the dirt until volunteers picked him up again.”

    What lies did he tell in the mud?

  16. Janet

    Outrageous. Where is he exactly?

  17. Audrey

    Here in Ontario almost 40 thoroughbreds were abandoned by the owner and the resident caregiver never called for help. 34 of those horses were auctioned off on April 5, 2014, some were saved some were not. SPCA was called in 2 yrs ago due to the condition of the horses (just over 50 head at the time) and refused to even walk the property, due to a vet that was covering for the owner and the caregiver.
    Several have died and still no help. Now some will face their last trailer ride but not to safety. All the horses (broodmares to yearlings) are a body score of 1 or less and infested with lice and rain rot….still no-one did anything. A group of people cared enough to save as many as possible., the rest will be forever lost.

    Thank god the SPCA in California cares enough to save an animal.

    1. Vicki

      Audrey, assuming you are referring to the 34 TBs at Carson’s? Where did they originate from?

  18. Cathy Beaudoin

    Thank God for his rescue! Thank God for caring people!

  19. Beth

    It’s my birthday too, Big Red 😉 once upon a time I think we were floating in the same boat… But my heads above water and I hope yours gets there too <3 Thanks, Rescue Angels, for making sure he has tlc <3

  20. Sandy Carr

    God Bless you and all the work you do…you are all angels!

  21. Patty Hamilton

    Thank you to the Florida SPCA and the Police Officers that rescued this poor disgarded race horse. What is a disgrace is the owners that left this poor animal to die a slow disguisting death of sarvation. I only hope that they find these bastards so that they do not have the opportunity to do this to another horse. Long life to Defense Team.

  22. Michelle

    Kudos to the Florida SPCA and the police officers. Hope karma bites the person(s) responsible for leaving him to die.

  23. Shirley VH

    Was this a deserted road, or had “people” actually passed him by? I can’t imagine anyone doing that. Maybe at first when he was in better condition. Reading these things horrifies me. I donate to several rescues. Mostly the Mustangs, but my heart is just breaking over the beloved TBs.

    1. Susan Salk

      Shirley, I don’t know the area, but can tell you that Laurie Waggoner says it’s a relatively deserted road. He was discovered by a farmer who reported him to the police and SPCA. The road cuts near a construction zone, from what I understand.

  24. Ann Banks

    XOXOXO – KUDOS, to caring spirits!

  25. Susan Crane-Sundell

    A horse with a great will to live and even in his deplorable condition,the intelligence and intuition to trust that he had found people who would help him, not harm him. I hope he thrives and learns to be a horse again. It would be marvelous if the Hannahs took him in. They would do wonders with Defense Team. Thank you Laurie Waggoner for your dedication and patience.

  26. Liz Innes

    Congratulations to the caring people who saved this horse’s life. God bless you for caring, you make our world a little better.

  27. Christine Carroll

    God Bless all of you happy this boy survived.

  28. Robin

    How we treat the elderly and the animals in our care is a surefire way of determining the character of a person and of a nation.

    1. Linda

      Amen, Robin. It seems in our disposable culture too many humans have little or no compassion or empathy for animals or the elderly. These are treasures that I wish everyone could take the time to appreciate and take good care of. I have two senior off-the-track thoroughbreds that are spunky, love life and appreciate being cared for. I pray Defence Team will get a home like mine have.

  29. leona

    Terrible to se a horse dumped in the matter and starved damn near to death,what are these people thinking?.If you can’t afford to keep your horse find him a good home,full of love and other horses he can be apart of herd….

    1. Kim Wetmore

      Re-homing a horse is tougher than you would think…sadly!

  30. Robin Hannah

    He looks like such a sweet boy. Reminds me of our Prodigioso…I would love for him to come and live at Sherwood for his forever home!!! Thank you for all you do.

    1. Marilyn Lee-Hannah

      We have followed Defence Team since his story emerged…this group of people and volunteers are indeed angels of mercy…thank you. We encourage anyone and everyone to donate to them when possible, in order that they can continue to carry out their wonderful deeds of compassion. We thank them each day we see our happy and health Prodigioso.

  31. Leslie M. Bliman-Kuretzky

    Bless the people for saving him

  32. Emma Brady

    He has my horse’s birthday! Only seven years earlier 🙂

  33. SpotOn

    people like those that did this to this horse. make me sick

  34. Susan Kayne

    Glad he is safe. Did an investigation reveal how he ended up on the roadside?

    1. Susan Salk

      I asked if there were charges resulting from an investigation and learned that there were not. I don’t know if that means that the police did not try to find out or not. But, sadly, this is not uncommon in Florida, to abandon a horse this way.

  35. cynthia minchillo

    Yea SPCA. I hope you consider retiring him forever.

    1. Grace Delanoy

      Until South Florida SPCA has the means to become a sanctuary, it cannot retire its rescues permanently. Hopefully that dream will come true someday soon.

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