‘If I left her, it would be her death warrant’

Jeanne Mirabito of Our Mims rescued this Thoroughbred, ID'd as Jo Jo's Gypsy, from a herd of horses deemed to be abandoned by the County Attorney of Bourbon County. Jo Jo was identified by Dr. Walker Logan and the Jockey Club.

Jeanne Mirabito of Our Mims rescued this Thoroughbred, ID’d as Jo Jo’s Gypsy, from a herd of horses deemed to be abandoned by the County Attorney of Bourbon County. Jo Jo was identified by Dr. Walker Logan and the Jockey Club.

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
Sire: Johannesburg
Dam: Camptown Gypsy
Foal date: April 25, 2005
The 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.

Jo Jo is in quarantine, receiving special feed and supplements. She is also hand grazed for a few minutes.

Jo Jo is in quarantine, receiving special feed and supplements. She is also hand grazed for a few minutes.

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.”

Jeanne Mirabito says Jo Jo looks better in photos. Though her survival is not a certainty, the mare is being made to feel loved.

Jeanne Mirabito says Jo Jo looks better in photos. Though her survival is not a certainty, the mare is being made to feel loved.

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 walkerjlogan@gmail.com, or contact her through her Facebook page

28 responses to “‘If I left her, it would be her death warrant’”

  1. Michelle Y.

    That is great news!! Please keep us updated on her!!

  2. Jeanne Mirabito

    Great vet report on Jo Jo! All tests results from yesterday show her organs are healing. We are moving in the right direction.

    1. Suzanne Parent

      Great news re the Vet’s report. There is good reason to cheer & hope for a full recovery for Jo Jo Gypsy!

  3. Liathain O'Maoldomhnaigh


    “Cruella” (7-26-13) never misses a day looking down into the pastures of Mims Haven yet, also never stops marveling how large your heart grows, faster than ‘new grass” or so she claims!


  4. Susan Walsh

    This story is both hearbreaking and uplifting…..I hope that those responsible for those horses
    plight is being prosecuted.

  5. Jeanne Mirabito

    Thank you, Susan, for telling Jo Jo’s story! And many thanks up all who are praying for her and wishing her well.
    Yesterday was not the best of days. Today is better. She will have both good and bad days , that we know, we are doing all we can to help her through. Hopefully, damage to her organs has not gone too far. Jo Jo has a long road to recovery. If the will to live is enough (combined with our intensive care program) Jo Jo will pull through. She wants so badly to live.

  6. cheri vaughan

    Someone has brought shame to KY and I hope the greasy, cowardly devil is brought to justice. Really and truly. However, The beauty of the athletes and mothers and babies will be restored by loving humans… How triumphant!

  7. Barbara Meyer

    I certainly hope someone can get KY lawmakers to listen. This kind of abuse goes unpunished on a daily basis . Ky has some of the most lenient laws in the country when it comes to equine abuse.Being the horse capital of the world, one would think that the would take care of an industry that brings them so much profit!! What a travesty! Bless you all who look after those horses in need!

  8. Gloria Stagmer

    She is so sweet. I am so hoping she makes it. I can not imagine what she and the others went thru. We have been a horse owners for 17 years. I have a lump in my throat just thinking of how she suffered. I know all those who have commented above send there love and concern for her. Please update this post with her progress. May it be a good one for you both.

  9. Lisa Neely

    At a time with so much sad, bad news…it’s a beautiful uplifting story you’ve shared..thank you!

  10. Jamie

    I hope that one day I can be financially stable enough to foster rescued horses. I would love to volunteer but I haven’t found any rescues in my area. I love in lafayette louisiana.
    I think that volunteering would be a good thing for my 12 year old niece also.

    1. Carol McIntyre

      U feel the same way. Wish I could also afford to have the horses. Omg! I would even share them with someone!

  11. Brigit Paul

    Never give up! you can step back and take a breath, but never give up. Without all of these decent, savvy Horse loving people that have written in and stated their thoughts, It is because of all of you, that these horses can be saved. Never, Give up!.

  12. Suzanne Parent

    Thank you for taking her in; please keep us apprised of her health & recovery.

  13. Michelle Y.

    Thank God for those that stepped up for all these TB’s and for Jeanne Mirabito for taking Jo Jo. I sure do hope Jo Jo makes it but like Jeanne said, she would be cared for and loved for the rest of her days, however long they may be. I will never understand how people can just abandon innocent animals who rely 100% on them for their survival. No heart, no soul.

  14. Robin Burns

    God Bless you for what you are doing. Made me cry to think of the mommies trying to take care of their babies and how these poor souls have suffered. I hope they find whoever did this, lock them away and give them only water and bread every couple of days, let them see how it feels. I am a huge horse person, I love them and wish I had a place to have one.

  15. Cynthia M.

    I hope that someone is prosecuted for this. This is unreal to me and makes me sick. Thank you to all of those featured in Susan’s stories, and Susan for everything. And I hope Jo Jo Gypsy and the surviving TB’s are happy until their death.

  16. Karlie Heron

    Carolyn Miller, where in New York do you live? I live in Upstate, near Saratoga and I know for a fact that there are loads of rescues looking for a helping hand.

  17. Victoria Racimo

    Once again, Jeanne Mirabito and the angels who continue to support her, emotionally and physically, to do God’s work on earth….helping to right the wrongs so horribly inflicted on the horses who always remain at our mercy, have moved mountains and stepped up to the call. If one’s heart is not deeply touched by this story then there simply is no heart there. A thousand wishes and prayers that Jo Jo makes it…..if anyone can help along, it’s the one and only, astounding, human being, Jeanne Mirabito! Thank you Susan for jumping onto this story and getting it out there.

  18. Carolyn Miller

    This story touched my heart as do many of the others. It is hard for me to believe that this abandonment can happen in Kentucky. This mare has the true heart of a thoroughbred and you are her angel. I hope she recovers fully and lives out the rest of her life in your hands.

    My dream is to help a thoroughbred like that someday, although I know it would be a very difficult emotionally, the rewards would be worth it. I want to find a rescue group in my area of NY where maybe I can volunteer. I wish I had some funds to donate to you but I don’t, sorry.

    Thank you for what you do, you are a strong person.

  19. Anna Christopher

    Only a true animal lover would rejoice at the consistency of a sick animals poop.

  20. TBDancer

    Only us horse folks understand doing a happy dance in the barn aisle because a horse has “normal poops.”

    Prayers and many fingers crossed to JoJo’s Gypsy and Jeanne Mirabito of Our Mims. Many angels in this story. :o)

    1. Kate

      TBDancer — I think human parents of sick children, and human caregivers of sick dogs, cats, ferrets, and birds would also understand!

      1. Brigit Paul

        Yes! yes! normal poops, mean there is hope, that the sick are getting better. I have rescued many horses…it gives me a joyous feeling when all is normal.

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