Kelly Smith of Omega Horse Rescue in York County, PA, sees heartbreaking and inspiring situations every day. So when she has a story of an amazing horse, it really is amazing.
This is the story of a horse that saved his own life, then survived another near-death.
While talking with a kill buyer this spring, Smith learned about a horse that had jumped a fence while being loaded onto a truck headed to a Canadian slaughterhouse. The horse had been on the truck when it was refused entry by Canadian border guards because it was transporting an injured horse. The driver was sent to a feedlot on the New York/Canadian border, where the horses were unloaded and the healthy ones reloaded via a ramp with a very high fence on either side to contain them.
“One little black horse, just 14.3 hands, saw an opportunity and jumped the fence,” Smith said. “The feed lot owner told the driver no other horse had ever jumped the fence, which he estimated to be five feet high.”
The little black horse, who had gone through an auction in Tennessee before being shipped to Pennsylvania and then onto the Canadian border, eluded capture long enough that the truck left without him. He jumped into a field with other horses, where he stayed for two weeks, impossible to catch. The feed lot owner eventually roped him from horseback.
He was loaded successfully this time and shipped back to Pennsylvania to be retagged for slaughter. USDA inspectors inspect each horse, provide paperwork and attach a tag that indicates the horse is slaughter bound. Another trip to Canada was in his immediate future when Smith heard about him in the conversation with the kill buyer.
“I called the buyer in Pennsylvania who owned him to ask that he sell him to me,” Smith said. “After hearing a story like that, who wouldn’t want to save him? After several phone calls he located the horse. He said, ‘Kelly, we are going to put a halter on this horse and put him in a pen for you’,” she recalled. “Moments later he called again to say they could not get a halter on him. He had knocked to the ground one of the workers and, frustrated, they were putting him on a truck headed for a Mexican slaughterhouse. And he hung up.”
Devastated, Smith answered a call an hour later telling her that they had succeeded in getting a halter on him and he was in a pen waiting for her.
She found him a stall for 30 days of quarantine at Brandywine Equine Veterinary Associates where she was finally able to see him. He was covered in scrapes and scratches, matted and mangled. “He looked like he had been through a war,” she said. “He was somewhat friendly, but standoffish, he was shy and unsure of people, for good reason.”
Trainer in Florida
Next on the agenda was finding a place for him. A good friend in Florida put her in touch with an upper level trainer in Ocala who was willing to foster, rehab and train him. Carolina Vargas has worked in South America and for Margie Goldstein-Engle and Nona Garson as a rider/trainer.
It was April, and horses were shipping north from Florida. Empty trailers were heading south. Vargas posted the horse’s story on Facebook, hoping someone would help with shipping, which ranges from $800 to $1,200. Two days later, Hennessy Horse Transportation LLC, called and offered to ship him for the price of gas, about $300, if someone could get him to I-95 in Maryland. Vargas asked for time to see if she could collect the money and arrange for transport. Less than a hour later, George and Cynthia Hennessy, owners of the trucking company, called back. They had discussed the situation and decided to commit totally to the rescue of the horse Carolina was calling No Name. They offered to not only transport the horse at no charge from Pennsylvania to Florida, but also to pick him up at the quarantine facility, knowing that multiple transfers would be stressful to an already anxious equine. The horse, amazingly, loaded willingly up the ramp to a stall in the front of the trailer and by 10 p.m. on April 29, No Name and George and Cynthia Hennessy were heading south on I-95.
But the fates weren’t finished with the little black horse. At a rest stop, they moved the horse to a stall in the back of trailer where it was easier to water him. Later that night, on Interstate 95 outside of Spotsylvania, VA, George Hennessy, 79, who was driving, suffered a massive heart attack. The 2007 Volvo tractor ran off the right side of the road and struck a utility pole. He died the following day at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, VA. His wife Cynthia, 57, was seriously injured. The trailer was a total loss. The little horse, amazingly, was uninjured.
But he was even more traumatized. State Police opened the door and he charged at them, teeth bared. They slammed the door and called animal control, which opened the door much more slowly. Eventually they were able to get him to a farm.
Smith learned of the accident the next morning. “That’s not true,” she recalls thinking.
On May 1, George Hennessy’s family called Vargas and requested that they be allowed to finish what their father and mother had started as they could think of no better way to pay respect to their parents’ generosity. The family paid the horse’s boarding and vet bills. They contacted J. R. Hudson, a family friend, who had a tractor-trailer. He readily accepted their request for help and offered to transport the horse for free. In honor of George’s sacrifice and the Hennessy family’s compassionate determination, Smith and Vargas asked if they could name the horse Hennessy G.
“They were so wonderful,” Smith said. “Not only did they send a truck for him, but they paid his vet and boarding bills and made sure everything was taken care of.”
Now Under Saddle
Four months later, Hennessy G has a home and his own Facebook page. A YouTube video of his second day under saddle, July 31, shows the little horse with a small white star on a lunge line, his dark bay coat now unblemished and shiny. Relaxed, a little unsure, he learns to walk with his owner/ trainer in the saddle. Ears still relaxed, he progresses to a bit of a trot, to Vargas’s delight. In the twelve minute lesson he progresses from stopping, confused, to trotting steadily under saddle.
“From day one, he has never tried anything mean,” Vargas said. “He’s very sweet, he trusts and gets along with everyone. He’s now walking and trotting under saddle. I do two to three minutes on the lunge line, then hop on for a few minutes and hop off. When I introduce new things I first show him how it’s done on another horse. He’s very smart.
“I don’t know what he is. He’s rounded like a Morgan, has a beautiful, muscled neck like a stallion. Maybe a quarter horse? He looks most of all like a petite warmblood,” she said.
“The original idea was to give him some training and move him on, but now he’s our pet. He fits our family well – it was my husband’s idea to give him a forever home. He lets you do anything to him except I had to sedate him to have his hooves done, which were in terrible shape. I don’t like to have to sedate him so I bought a rasp and I am trimming them myself. He loves warm baths so I hose his legs while trying to pick up his feet, which he’s starting to let me do.
“Other than that, nothing really bothers him. I don’t know what the future holds. He has a big stride and he moves well,” she said.
And, obviously, he can jump.