A Horse Rescue

My girls: Standardbred Bernadette (Left) & Appaloosa Mae (Right) in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

My girls: Standardbred Bernadette (Left) & Appaloosa Mae (Right) (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

My love of horses started early on, as I was always fascinated with their grace and beauty. In my early teens, I came upon an abandoned horse in a field about two miles from my home. I started riding my bike every day after school bringing food, but he didn’t come near me for over a month. Finally, Chester and I became best friends, and his owner (who had purchased him for dog food) sold him to me for one dollar. I kept Chester at a local farm, but he was elderly with a breathing disorder called heaves, and he died about a year later. Yet, during our brief time together, I loved him more than life. We hung out every day, rain or shine, and Chester even followed behind me (without a halter or leadline) as we walked along the roadside to my home, where he would graze for the weekend. Years later, I still have horses, all rescued from homes where they were unwanted (and sometimes mistreated). These majestic animals have left an indelible mark on my heart and it is with the deepest admiration for both the horses and their caregivers that I share the following story with you.

Patty with Doc, a Quarterhorse Gelding in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Patty with Doc, a Quarter Horse Gelding (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

**Did you know that 2014 is THE YEAR OF THE HORSE ?

My younger sister, Patty, also has a great love for animals. But instead of rescuing an animal here and there as many of us have, she took it upon herself at the young age of 17 to start rescuing and rehabilitating unwanted and abused horses. Since then, she has saved (with the help of many dedicated volunteers) almost 700 horses over the last 33 years. Her organization, H.O.R.S.E. of Connecticut (www.horseofct.org), has focused not only on rescuing horses, but also educating the public on proper care, to help prevent further abuse. I have gone along with Patty only once before on a rescue, and it was so traumatizing to me (the horse, Daring Do, did survive, and lived a long and happy life), that I never asked to go again. That is, until this summer . . .

Romeo (rear) & Juliet (front) are both Thoroughbreds in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Romeo (rear) & Juliet (front) are both Thoroughbreds (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

There is always a feeling of apprehension when you’re going to rescue horses, and today was no exception. Patty Wahlers, President and Founder of H.O.R.S.E. of Connecticut, asked two volunteers to assist with this particular case; one to help with loading the horses and one to take photos for documentation. As the designated photographer, I was able to experience firsthand what it is like to go to an unknown residence to rescue horses in dire need. After witnessing the expertise and knowledge portrayed by Patty as she patiently and confidently handled these two equines, I felt compelled to share this encounter with you.

Star is a Morgan-Arabian Cross Gelding in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Star is a Morgan-Arabian Cross Gelding (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

When we pulled into the owner’s driveway we were greeted by a scene of disarray and neglect. It saddened me to see a home and property that was once stately reduced to such a derelict state. And the worst part was that two horses were living in a dilapidated structure next door, surrounded by weeds and filled with dust and flies. As John (long time volunteer), Patty and I approached the barn, the horses began to call out to us. Although Patty had explained the horse’s condition, neither John nor I were prepared for what we saw.

Wibur is a 32 Y.O. Standardbred Gelding in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Wibur is a 32 y.o. Standardbred Gelding (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Let me first state that unlike many of H.O.R.S.E.’s rescues these horses were not intentionally abused, rather the owner was elderly and unable to care for them properly. Sadly, she lacked the basic knowledge and understanding of horse care, which resulted in two horses that were underweight, one severely, both exhibiting overgrown hooves and critical breathing issues, the latter due to containment in stalls for an extended period of time.

Justice is a Connemara-Quarter Horse Cross Gelding in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Justice is a Connemara-Quarter Horse Cross Gelding (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The first horse to come out of the stall was Josey (name changed), a very thin bay mare whose sides heaved dramatically with each breath. She gladly welcomed the carrots and apples John fed to her while gently stroking her head. Patty immediately administered a shot of cortisone to aid her breathing and make her as comfortable as possible for the trailer ride.

Alabama is a Morgan Gelding in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Alabama is a Morgan Gelding (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Brandy (name changed), a tall 16.2 hand liver chestnut mare was in a little better condition than Josey, and as such was a lot more difficult to handle. Patty wisely used a chain over her nose to help keep her under control, which was a good thing as Brandy proved a bit difficult when we tried to load her in the trailer. Josey loaded fairly easily by being lured in with treats, but Brandy backed out several times before successfully loading into the trailer. Time and again, Patty calmly spoke to Brandy and slowly led her to the ramp, repeating the process several times without showing any sign of impatience. I was amazed not only by Patty’s confidence in getting this thousand pound animal into the trailer, but also by the way she handled an unfamiliar horse capable of hurting her badly on several occasions.

Thoroughbred Fiona (left) & Belgian Draft Duke (right) in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Thoroughbred Fiona (left) & Belgian Draft Duke (right) (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Once both were safely loaded, we headed home without further incident, but Patty continually monitored to be sure both heads were up the entire ride. When we arrived at the farm I was amazed to see how the other horses reacted; every horse in the vicinity was immediately aware that there were new members coming in. They ran and called greetings as if to say: “Welcome, we can’t wait to meet you!” When John and Patty unloaded each horse, friendly whinnies were called out repeatedly and several horses came up to the fence to introduce themselves to the newcomers.

Brandy looking out at her new home in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Brandy looking out at her new home (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Concerned about getting them settled and into their pasture with fresh food and water, Brandy and Josey were quickly led to their new home where they could roam about outside and nibble some grass. For the first time in many years, these precious creatures were able to live life as they were meant to; to frolic, to roll, to drink and eat as they pleased. From now on they are guaranteed to have regular, nutritious feedings, clean water and proper veterinary care. And best of all, lots of attention and love from Patty and the many wonderful volunteers at H.O.R.S.E. of Connecticut

To learn more about H.O.R.S.E of Connecticut, please visit: www.horseofct.org and please consider supporting your local animal rescues in any way possible.  Every little bit does help!                       *Note: Except for the first picture, all images are horses that have been rehabilitated at H.O.R.S.E. of Connecticut.


  1. Thanks, Sis!!! What else can I say? Love the pictures, & for reminding Me, I live a Fairy tale life! Love, Patty

  2. Amy (Purcell)Cota says:

    I loved this! I went to high school with Patty and I wish I knew a Quarter of this then. She is an amazing person and I am so glad that she does this. I haven’t had to recently but she is always there to answer and give advice to us not as knowledgeable horse people. So again I say Thank You Patty for doing what you do!

    • Thank you for writing, Amy. I agree that what Patty does is indeed very special. I have the greatest respect and admiration for all that animal rescuers and caregivers do, it is a labor of love for sure, and we (and the animals) are so lucky to have them ~

  3. Moreen Zachariasen says:

    A wonderful story and beautifully and lovingly written. I am a great admirer of all that Patty does!
    I have adored horses all my life but never got to own one. I live vicariously through
    H.O.R.S.E. and get their updates on Facebook as well as your gardening tips! You are both quite a fantastic pair of sisters indeed. Keep up the great work and thank you so very much!

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Moreen! It is so wonderful to know that my story has touched you, and I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Patty and I have been animal lovers our entire lives, and one of the greatest rewards is meeting people like yourself ~

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