HAIL TO THE CHIEF
The job of rescuing horses can be an emotional rollercoaster ride filled with enormous joy and profound sadness. The story of a Thoroughbred that we came to know as Chief is a classic example of how our team can experience all of those emotions.
Chief was a kind and gentle horse that was part of a group of horses that we referred to as the Indiantown Twelve. They came to us when the Martin County Sheriff’s Office called us about a group of twelve horses that they found abused and starving in Indiantown.
While all of these horses were in dire straits none were in more trouble than Chief. Chief was severely emaciated and weighed less than half of what he should have weighed. He was so weak that he could barely stand. Our staff was concerned that he wouldn’t last through the night.
When Chief arrived at our facility our ERAF staff and veterinary team turned our barn into what looked like a local trauma center and used every trick they knew to get Chief through the night. Their efforts were rewarded as Chief was slowly nudged back from death’s door.
Over the next few days Chief became a bit of a celebrity as local news stations became aware of this particular rescue. Chief became the poster boy for the group in that you need not know anything about horses to understand the horror of what happened. He was frail with almost every bone is his body visible through his thin and rotting skin. Even the most jaded could not look at him and appreciate the pain and the suffering that he had been subjected to.
Over the next few weeks Chief became one of the favorites around our barn. His kind and gentle disposition, his willingness to engage with staff, and his willingness to fight on made everyone love him.
We collectively began to think that our love and attention may have allowed Chief to cheat death. Unfortunately that was not to be. The years of abuse and neglect had taken their toll not only on what everyone could see but also Chief’s organs. Despite our best efforts Chief could not escape from the very deep hole that he was so unfairly placed in.
On June 2, 2017 lost his battle and died during the night.
While we mourn the loss of every horse the fact that we couldn’t save Chief seemed just a little more tragic. Often when we rescue horses there’s one member of our team that develops a special bond with that horse. In Chief’s case absolutely everyone was in love and emotionally invested in helping him survive.
This article was written to celebrate a horse that did nothing wrong to anyone. It was also written to point out that actions have consequences. When owners abandon their horses in open fields and allow them to slowly die a gruesome death they are guilty of unforgivable cruelty to an innocent creature that deserves so much more.
If you’re reading this article we hope that your eyes well up for just a moment and that you feel, even for a brief instant, how tragic Chief’s death is and how much he will be missed by an entire team that gave their all but in the end came up short in trying to save him.
Chief will be long remembered around the ERAF barn but his death will serve as inspiration for us to do what we can to not let this happen again.
We ask that you too remember Chief and that you actively engage with ERAF to stop sad stories like Chief’s from ever happening again.
Chief, we will all miss you. We will cry for you, but then we’ll pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and return to the job of saving horses. You will remind us daily why we work so hard and you will inspire us forever.
A special thanks to our staff and Vets. for all of the hard work they put into trying their best to save Chief.
Chief, we thank you for the little time that we had together. We are sadder but better for having known you.
Hail to the Chief!