ASHLAND — Johnny Boy, a 3-year-old thoroughbred stallion, came to the Equamore Sanctuary through the sheriff’s department Oct. 5. He was raced this year, then sold to someone who didn’t feed him, recounted the sanctuary’s Executive Director Linda Davis.
When he arrived at the sanctuary, Johnny Boy’s body condition — judged on a scale from 1-9, with 5 being the ideal — was a 1 on “death’s door,” with ribs and hip bones clearly visible on a ghostly frame, and rotting hooves barely holding him up.
Body condition can take up to three months to start recovering, Davis said, but with no major dental issues and an affection for eating, Johnny Boy is recovering swiftly at the sanctuary — on Wednesday, Davis judged his condition to be around 2.5.
Treatment on his feet began almost immediately with antibiotics, pain medications and foot soaks. His front shoes were removed and hooves trimmed Oct. 7.
“When he came in, all four feet were extremely painful, and today he is limping off only one hind foot, and each day we see improvement with that hind leg as well,” Davis said Wednesday.
The Equamore Foundation provides care for neglected, abused and abandoned donkeys and horses, while striving to improve awareness about healthy, lifelong equine care in the community.
This October, the first volunteer pledge-a-thon combined a fundraiser with recognition of the contributions each volunteer makes to further the sanctuary’s mission. Some volunteers have dedicated more than three years to the sanctuary, Davis said.
“In the past year, we’ve developed a stellar team of 17 volunteers,” said volunteer and horse care coordinator Peter McCarville. “We thought, what a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of their excellent attitudes and their desire to help out. They have really done the work.”
A new group of volunteers recently joined the team through lessons. Volunteers can go straight to work cleaning stalls and water buckets, or take lessons in care and safety if they want any hands-on experience with the horses, Davis said, emphasizing the need for consistency across daily duties.
The team volunteered 300 hours during October, and invited the public to donate to the fundraiser for each hour of work. The foundation’s board of directors pledged to match donations up to $15,000. As of Sunday, volunteers had raised $14,200 for feed, bedding, hoof care, emergency and routine veterinary care, medical supplies, supplements, facility repair and maintenance, grooming supplies and fly masks.
“One of the reasons we teach horse care classes is that sanctuaries wouldn’t need to be here if people realized the amount of responsibility that goes into taking care of a horse,” McCarville said. “One of my hopes in the back of my mind is that once people have learned a few skills, that they’re going to start seeing the world differently when they’re driving down the road and maybe they’ll see a horse in need and maybe they’ll be able to do something about it too.”
The sanctuary provided care for a 43-year-old horse, and the animals often live into their 30s — a commitment people must acknowledge prior to taking on a horse, said Davis, who has worked in horse care, boarding and training since 1975.
“People tend to get a horse, not thinking about that, and then when the horse becomes unserviceable or they change their mind, then it’s dumped in the most needy years of the horse’s life,” Davis said. “Until that awareness changes, the problem will never improve.”
Throughout November and December, the sanctuary will solicit sponsorships for horses and donkeys. A $450 sponsorship per animal per month covers a calculated estimate of the cost of care.
Davis said she hopes to secure sponsorship — from individuals or sponsor teams — for all 57 horses and three donkeys prior to the new year. A few of the horses already have full or partial sponsors, including Johnny Boy.