It was decided that they would adopt the filly. It was a case of the horse picking the owner, and to this day and am delighted with how that came out.
It's good we had these little victories, because the abusers were not letting go easily. They contacted a police officer that was a friend of theirs, and fed him a long tale of theft and harassment. This officer contacted me and my friends in that state threatening arrest, etc if the horses weren't returned. It seems the abusers though the horses were still in that state. Not knowing any better, we tried to deal with that officer, and the phone calls and threats got worse. The officer harassed us at all hours of the day and night. We all started to worry about our physical safety, especially as I had spoken with the breeder of the Arab colt who fathered Shadows filly, and she had warned us these people were the kind to torch your house if you crossed them.
Meanwhile we were still trying to bring these two horses back from starvation. I moved Shadow to a facility with acres of grass, and starting feeding her, worming her, trimming her feet, updating vaccinations, all the normal things you do with a horse you own. All the things that hadn't been done in 2 years for her.
This was Shadow after 6 weeks of food and care. Better, but still a long way to go. I had to drive 60 miles each way to go take care of her every day. Meanwhile I had the added stress on wondering what to do about the nasty calls.
I had no clue what to do, after all, the police were calling me, they should be on MY side! I called my lawyer, and we prepared a package of all the documents, the bill of sale, bounced check, copy of the papers still in my name, the letters of intent, and a notation of the relevant laws of that state. My lawyer sent this to the police officer, with a note that if necessary it would be forwarded to his superiors with an accounting of his harassment.
Suddenly the calls stopped. I found out there never were any charges filed, it was all a bluff to try and get the horses back. I was still getting calls from the abusers though, and letters that ranged from pleading to threats.
Meanwhile, the filly just blossomed! With good food, regular worming, and lots of love, (the vet said her liver damage would repair) she starting growing like a weed with the typical uneven growth spurts babies get. First her neck would grow, then her back legs, then her back, then front legs.
She recovered a lot quicker than Shadow, who still looked thin. I decided to move Shadow again, and advised the new owners of the filly, to move her as well, and not leave behind any information on where they were going. I would not have put it past the abusers to drive the distance just to hurt the horses if they couldn't steal them. By doing this, if either was approached we could in all honesty say we didn't know where either horse was.
The following fall we got together and took some photos. These are 7 months after the rescue.
I moved and changed phone numbers, and finally stopped hearing from the abusers. I was cautious for many years though. Through this I learned good lessons.
- All the contracts in the world can't really protect your horse, but if you have one, at least you have a legal option if something goes wrong.
- Never sign the papers over until you are paid in full, and you are satisfied with the home.
- Always go the legal route. Get a lawyer, do your research, make sure you are on the right side of the law if you have to do something about the situation.
- Document, document, document! I had every letter, every document, the bounced check, the sale contract, plus a statement from the vet on the condition of the horses when I got them back. If there was any question of ownership, I had enough documentation (I hoped) to insure the horses never went back to them.
- Never give up. I spent 9 months talking to lawyers and animal control, a couple months planning the legal docs and the trip to get them. It took a year after I found out the situation to get Shadow back, but here she is now, 19 years later. 23 years old, happy and healthy.
She took a while to recover emotionally from the abuse, and has never been the same horse I sold them. Back then she was a mischievous little rascal. Always into things, playing, nippy and full of life. Her experience sobered her, she was quite serious, and quite worried for a long time. I would take her to a show, or trail ride, and if I moved out of her sight, to go register or change, she would break her leadline and follow me. She was so afraid I would leave her somewhere again.
Eventually, she has realized she will never be left again, and has become confident and content in her place in my life. We have shown, traveled, experienced many things together (including many hilarious events). She is a TWHBEA Versatility Champion, we have done everything from Hunter paces to western reining to Competative Trail. She is my heart horse, I have promised her she would never have to worry again.