I couldn't believe he was serious. It was a 12 hour journey down there, then load up a horse in who knows what condition, and 12 hours back. He asked when I was off work, and he would make all the arrangements. It didn't matter to him how hard the task was, there was a wrong to be righted, and an innocent life to save.
I spoke to my lawyers, and with them wrote a letter of demand, asking for the full amount or return of the horse, and sent it certified mail. No reply. I sent a second letter, stating I would come and get the horse if the price was not paid. Again, no reply. I did this to insure all the legal steps were taken. I gave them a week to reply, then we planned our trip.
I had friends there who would help me with a place to stay, and to load the horses. I took halters, hay, grain, water buckets and a first aid kit, and we left one early morning. We drove straight there, getting to my friends house after dark, and just collapsed.
The next morning we met a few houses down from where Shadow was at 9 am. My friends there told me Shadow had changed, and wouldn't let anyone catch her. No one had touched her for months. They wouldn't come with me to the farm, because they were afraid of the people.
I had prepared a letter to leave at their house, so they would know what I had done. We walked down the road and knocked on the door. No one answered, but the dogs were there, so I will never know if they were home or not. I walked to the pasture and called Shadow. She came right up to me and put her head in the halter.
I believe that was one of the hardest moments of my life. Shadow was a literal rack of bones, with long, wormy hair. She looked like an ancient nag, and she still had a milk bag, so still was nursing the baby (now a yearling). But in her face was no recrimination, no reproach for leaving her, just "You came for me." I wanted to sit in the ditch and bawl at how she looked. At that moment, I decided the baby was coming too. She was still nursing, and no way was I leaving her to starve. I couldn't legally touch the other horses, but I could take my two.
It took a bit of time to walk Shadow the short distance to the trailer. She dragged her feet, and walked very slowly. Not because she was protesting, but because she didn't have the strength. I began to wonder if she could make the trip home. I may have come all this way just to put her down. The baby followed along, but wasn't halter broken, or even handled. We were able to get a halter on her, but the yearling size I brought was too large for her. She was smaller than most weanlings.
Shadow walked right into the trailer, and leaned against the side. She was having trouble standing. The baby we had to drag in, not so difficult since there was nothing to her, but she actually passed out for a moment from the halter pressure. Once they were loaded, we left immediately. We had a long road back, and I was worried if either could make it.
James Kofford at Dressage at Devon
1 week ago