Sansa’s Story, as told by her first responder

Why is adoption and rescue important? Whats so great about a rescue horse? and why should we support those partnered with The Right Horse, like Heart of Phoenix?

This story may make you a believer

Even three and a half  years ago, the memory still sticks in my brain like yesterday, although I sometimes cant even remember where I put my car keys.

It was mid afternoon in May of 2016 where spring was trying so hard to arrive. As I had finished up my outside work, I sat down to start my paperwork duties as a animal control officer. The phone rang and the caller ID said “Marion county 911”

With curiosity and a little dread I answered. It seemed, they were looking for “some gal there that does the horse stuff, one of our deputies needs your help bad”

As I listened to the details, I knew without a doubt, that I had to help in some way. Sometime late the night before, they had responded to an animal complaint. What they found upon arrival, was gruesome cruelty, but also no stranger to those of us who work in rescue and animal control. There were several horses, (5 to be exact) and several skeletal remains found in a remote field in Mannington WV. They deputy said to me ” I dont know anything about horses except one end eats and the other kicks, but someone told me you could maybe help” That deputy, did however know enough to know they needed immediate help. He removed the living horses that night and placed them with a local who stated they were a “animal rescue” and worked “with the humane society people” A few quick phone calls drew blanks as no one had heard of these folks. So the next step was to reach out to Tinia and Heart of Phoenix, in hopes they could help these horses. I knew our county did not have the resources, nor did myself personally. Tinia answered right away and said they were overfull, but she would try to work something out, and she put out a plea for fosters.  The more I spoke to the deputy the more concerned I became, and I started a plan right away to travel the next day and see what was going on.

With the help of a good friend Bridgette, early the next morning we hooked up the horse trailer and off we went. I had spoken to a local horsewoman and friend Sharon the night before, and she had agreed to temporarily house a horse or two in the worst case scenario. Sharon’s generous, bleeding heart and God answering prayers is the ONLY reason this little filly, who you all have came to know and love survived. This fillys name is Sansa, and her journey is great, and will one day change the world even more then she has already. Most of you know Sansa’s story once she arrived at HOP, but now you will know her story leading up to HOP, and just how much of a miracle mare she is.

After getting lost a few times and winding down narrow, one lane roads with no cell service, we finally arrived at the location where Sansa, her father Sirat, Drogo and 2 others had been relocated to around 36 hours ago. We were met by some folks who told us all about how they were going to start a rescue, and they were going to use these horses to secure donations, so they could rescue and then sell animals. As we walked into a small pole barn, the reality of what we were about to face slapped me right in the face, much like the smell of musty hay and cheap cigarettes. To the right stood Sirat, a mare,and the owners personal yearling “stud prospect”. They were separated by 1 set of 2x4s that fashioned out a crude stall. No water, no hay and no bedding present in these glorified “tie stalls” the property owners proudly explained that they offered the horses water from a bucket 2xs a day.

Outside contained in 1 strand of electric fence and plastic posts with an attached chicken coop stood drogo and a sorrel mare. Even from a distance, you could see every rib, the hip and pelvis on this draft cross. His shoulder stood out like a campfire in the middle of the night, as he drank green water from a kiddie pool.

Sirratt quietly knickered at me pleading for help. He stood gently and patiently while I took photos of the others and him. What a good boy you are I whispered as I stroked his forehead, don’t worry, help is coming.

I immediate messaged Tinia and said ” horses need out ASAP, they are no safer here than where they came from,” as I tried to politely talk to the property owners about the proper way to re feed  and the need for water and salt/loose minerals 24/7. In fact, I just happen to have extra with me and i would be glad to leave them here. Suddenly I realized we are missing a horse. Wait, I ask, isn’t there one more??

Oh, they said you mean that one little foal? Yeah she is over there. In the far left corner of the barn, raised about 2.5 feet off the ground was a tiny room, no bigger then a 6×6. When I looked into what I assumed was their feed room, I saw a tiny skeleton of yellow. I had to look twice to see if there was a heartbeat, as it laid there, eyes closed, head on the floor and propped on the wall.


I slowly removed the plywood they had propped over the opening as a door, and crouched down beside a tiny little filly, who weighed no more then myself. As we put a halter on her and coaxed her to her feet, I begged, hold on, the worst is over. stick with us little girl.I tripped over a 5 gallon bucket that was half full of sweet feed. Oh, they explained she hasn’t seemed to want any of it yet.”

Heart of Phoenix picked up the two from the herd able (but barely) to make the trip to their barn hours away.

For Sansa, it was a long slow walk to the trailer, and as I captured video of her struggling to walk without collapsing, I tried to hold back my emotions. Too weak to step into the trailer, Bridgette and I picked her legs up and gently loaded her. In less than a half mile from the house, we stopped to check on her, and my fear was confirmed, she had went down in the trailer.

She seemed content, so we decided to leave her laying down, so she did not have to try and balance her tiny depleted body. On the drive to what would become her foster, and saviors house, I kept thinking to myself that at least we had a place to bury her, and that she would have a much kinder fate then where she was headed 48 hours ago. As we pulled up to the large safe and well kept barn, we were greeted by nickers from all of the high dollar quarter horses that lined the fields. What a surprise Sharon has in store for her I thought.

When we opened the trailer door and gently took Sansa off we noticed that the presence of the other horses had seemed to lift her spirits and put a spark in her eye. It was then that I got my first good look at her. Her tiny legs were so crooked and crippled I was amazed that she could even walk. Her back pasterns and ligaments were drawn upward and formed a C shape, while her front legs had the tendons so stretched her ankles touched the ground.

Sadly, I shook my head thinking, while the odds were slim she would survive the starvation, the odds were even less that she could ever be sound. The only thing keeping her from great pain was the fact that she weighed less than 200 lbs. As we continued her exam, her skin was so thin that you could see her pulse in her neck. She was placed in a stall, and stood legs splayed, bracing herself trying to stand. It was then that the thermometer told us the worst news, a body temp of 104.5 Knowing that her ravaged tiny soul could not handle much more, we decided to get clippers and body clip her, to remove her long brittle winter coat that she was holding on to. This was our only immediate hope to lower her temperature.

For over a hour, this little filly who had never seen a  halter, a kind word, or a warm touch stood still while we raced to try and save her. After removing her coat, we found open, oozing pressure sores on her spine. Now, I’ve rehabbed my fair share of skinny neglected horses in my life, and I am no stranger to pressure wounds on the hips, but I had never seen a pressure wound on the spine, where here skin was literally sitting right on the bone. This poor baby had zero muscle.

We began to take small amounts of water on her top line to try and gently cool her, without putting her into shock. She was offered a very small amount of alfalfa pellets soaked in warm water, as I began to farther document what i believed would turn into a felony cruelty case, as she was unlikely to survive. Sansa was given a dose of antibiotics, and I prayed the whole way home, that this would be the little filly that could.

As I kissed her dirty little nose goodbye, I saw a flicker of life in her eyes. She went over and began to eagerly eat, and even called to one of the horses in the field. Maybe, just Maybe I thought. She had shown signs of some improvement and was looking around her deeply bedded stall and her pile of hay.

Once I got service, I began to send Tinia some photos, and called her. After talking, she said, “I’m really sorry, but she is too far gone, I fear. Perhaps, it is kindest to let her go.” Now, I am a big supporter, and have had plenty of times where help has came to late for a animal, and agree the kindest way to rescue those in that shape sometimes is to end the suffering. But this time I couldn’t forget that glimmer of hope I saw because I was there in person looking at this little filly. “Let’s wait and give her 24 hours and see what happens.”

As I awaited the phone to ring and it got later and later in the evening, I began to dread. I knew that her foster mom would of been home from work hours ago and would of discovered this tiny helpless baby right away. Finally, around 1030 pm my phone rang. I braced myself for either “she didn’t make it” or “what in the hell did you drag into my barn,”  but I heard a sob on the other end, and Sharon said, “I just don’t understand… how could someone even think this is ok?”

Sharon had been home for a while, and she had just sat quietly in her stall, begging her to eat, coaxing her to lick grape Gatorade from her hands and hugging her while crying. The good news was her temp had dropped to 103. Sharon said quietly, “my husband went ahead and made sure the back hoe would start.”

I apologized for leaving such a poor, sick filly there, but she could not make a further haul to the rescue hours away. And she could not even survive a 2 hour haul to my own barn.

The next morning, I was surprised to get a report that Sansa met Sharon with a nicker of “feed me” even though Sharon had went back and spent most of the night in the barn. Sansa, it seemed preferred to eat from Sharon’s hands, not a silly feeder. We made an appointment to get a vet to see her ASAP. Because of being a small town, the two local vets both were familiar with Sansa prior owner, so we had to secure a vet from farther away, in order to make sure there was no conflict. Over the next 5 days, Sansa continued to spike, and then drop her fever, and spent her days having her every need met and then some. On day 4, Sharon called me and said, I think this baby is going to make it, we just went for a short walk.

On day 5, I gathered some friends and made the trip again to check on her progress, and we anxiously awaited the arrival of the vet Heart of Phoenix had sent well over a hundred miles to see Sansa, Dr Clara Mason, who is America’s leading authority on equine neglect.

Even the deputy was smitten, standing quietly and stroking this little yellow fillys head.

How much progress she has made already we commented. Still completely skeletal, but she had already started to fill out in spots. Bridgette commented, “I cant believe she is even still alive, let alone looking so much better already.”


The crunch on the gravel announced Dr. Masons arrival, and I held my breath as she walked into the barn. . .

Sansa defied all of the odds, and once stable, she headed to Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue’s main location.

She recovered there, she grew, and eventually, she went on two years later to be in the Appalachian Trainer Face Off, trained by Brenda Hanson, and adopted out for $8,000 –

Great horses end up in rescue.

That is what the partnership of the #RIGHTHORSE MEANS TO ME, and
I support Heart of Phoenix by volunteering and helping care for adoptable horses. I want to help horses transitioning into good new homes because I personally know how GOOD these horses are and deserving. I want to find #goodpeople for the horses I am helping!


3 thoughts on “Sansa’s Story, as told by her first responder

  1. Reading such stories, you wonder at the indifference of people, how they bring animals to such a state. It’s just awful and illegal!!

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