BY CHERESE COBB, FREELANCER

Seven years ago, Rudy—an emaciated Arabian horse trapped in knee-high manure—popped up on Chelsea Harley’s Facebook feed. His owner had already surrendered 60 horses to Shawano County authorities (all shipped to slaughter) before threatening to shoot him if Amazing Grace Equine Rescue (AGES) in Elkhart Lake, Wis., didn’t remove him immediately.

Harley shook when she read he’d been down for several hours and staff couldn’t get him up. So she dumped materials for a sling into her bag and drove nonstop from Chicago, Ill. Every weekend for a month, Harley slept in the barn with Rudy while offering massages to 12 other horses. After being hired by AGES founder Erin Kelley-Groth, she spent 40 hours a week rehabbing Rudy while caring for her two blind horses, two special needs dogs and a young cat with chronic kidney disease.

For the first few weeks, the sorrel stallion was in a sling. Each time she removed it, Rudy collapsed and it’d take a skid-steer and six people to get him back up. “During his recovery, we learned to be mindful of flying hooves and teeth. Several of us have scars and broken bones as a result of his desperate need to protect himself,” she says.

“Many of our horses also have some kind of lameness, and that can be challenging when we want to get them adopted.” For example, Grayce was pulled from a kill pen in Oklahoma. and had a miscarriage in quarantine. She has cartilage and bone fragments floating around in her joints causing her to throw her body around.

Grayce receives daily anti-inflammatories and herbal supplements like Devil’s Claw, Yucca or Boswellia. But she can’t handle a higher workload. “I encourage people not to ask, ‘What can that horse do for me?’ Be open-minded to meeting senior or special needs horses,” Harley says.

“You can still have a wonderful relationship while doing groundwork lessons and providing a forever home.”

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