What a difference TLC makes!

 

A nightmarish scene awaited the ASPCA crew as they arrived at the Arkansas property in late 2010: more than a hundred neglected horses—starving, diseased, many with such overgrown hooves they could barely walk. Some lay lifeless on the ground. The ASPCA successfully relocated the abused animals, but during months of investigation and court negotiations, many volunteers were required to help care for the horses. That’s when the call came in to the Williamson County Sheriff’s Posse. Rebecca Boyd, captain of the Posse Drill Team, headed for Arkansas to help. That’s when Rebecca found her “baby.”

The frigid January air frosted white as the horses snorted their greetings to the volunteers. Rebecca was put in charge of a group of volunteers caring for forty horses—one full row of stalls lining both sides of the barn. They cleaned stalls, provided fresh food, and checked the horses’ water frequently to make sure the huge tubs hadn’t frozen over in the low temperatures. But as important as the horses’ physical care was their emotional care. They needed to be comforted by touch—brushed, patted, and reassured.

One of Rebecca’s charges looked at her with his hope-filled orbs, begging to trust her. Rebecca decided to name this emaciated, scarred, and scared horse Baby. Trying and failing to touch Baby, Rebecca sought the advice of another volunteer more experienced with rescued horses. Rebecca explains how she learned, with her eyes to the ground, to “move slowly towards him. Then if he moved the slightest bit, I would take one step back away from him . . . over and over, like a dance, until I finally was able to touch his front right shoulder. His whole body visibly shook . . . reflected his fear, and his eyes longed for reassurance that I would not hurt him.” Rebecca’s perseverance paid off. Baby began to trust her.

Her week flew by, and soon Rebecca was headed home. Volunteers could put in requests for any horses they might want to purchase once the case was finalized, and Rebecca requested Baby. Time passed and, hearing nothing, Rebecca thought it might be for the best, as her family probably shouldn’t incur the cost of another horse.

Then another call came from Bonnie with the ASPCA. No one else had asked for Baby. She said, “Rebecca, you saw what I saw, that nobody else saw. You’ve got to take him.” As further incentive, the ASPCA would give Baby to Rebecca, and Bonnie knew some men willing to bring him to Texas. Rebecca said yes.

When she picked Baby up, the men cautioned her that it took three of them to load Baby into the trailer, but Rebecca loaded him herself in less than ten minutes. “He remembered me,” says Rebecca, “and I don’t know how.”

In the first few days at his new home, it was clear Baby trusted Rebecca. “One of the most vulnerable positions for a horse,” Rebecca explains, “is when he is lying down, and he let me lie on him that very first week.” Rebecca’s loving care helped Baby change from a physically and mentally scarred animal to a strong, happy one that loves to play with his pasture buddy, Beau. At twenty, Beau isn’t always eager to play, but four-year-old Baby nips and pesters until Beau takes up the challenge.

There was one final call when Baby arrived, and that was the call by her family to change Baby’s name—a name they didn’t understand at all. So Baby became Shilloh, a name that fits the transformed horse. Rebecca says, “He gave me a special purpose because he chose me.” And there’s no doubt how Shilloh feels as he nuzzles her.

By Karen Pollard
Photos by Carol Hutchison

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