If the desperate horse had been able to cry, its tears would have filled a watering trough to overflowing. Near the point of certain death in late spring 2013, the starving mare could barely stand in hopelessness.
“It was horrible circumstances, knee-deep in poo,” remembers Linda Christiano about the first time she saw the emaciated 12-year-old’s deplorable living conditions. “The shelter had nails pointing down. I couldn’t even stand up in there.”
No food. No water. An offspring nursing at the malnourished breast of its mama, even though its “daughter” was already 6 years old.
That’s what Linda, owner of Spot-O-Faith Farm in Pasco, found when she pulled up to the ramshackle property with horse trailer in tow. Even so, a plea from the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, to rescue not only the mare but also two other horses had brought her a brief moment of hesitation.
Already the horse lover had rescued, rehabilitated and re-homed around 30 abused and neglected animals, but the then nonprofit wasn’t even breaking even. With mounting debt and not enough cash or hay donations, the former nurse had dug into her life savings to the tune of $15,000.
Nevertheless, Linda couldn’t close her heart when she learned one mare wouldn’t last another 24 hours.
“Her feet were in very poor shape,” the compassionate horsewoman recalls about the cruelty and neglect, “and bones were protruding through her skin.”
Only sparse and matted brown hair covered its skeletal frame; teeth were missing from lack of nutrition. On a scale of 1 to 10, the mare was at the very bottom with a poor prognosis.
“The first few days were touch and go,” Linda says of all three horses' tipping points, “and they could physically go down.”
First, there was emergency care at a local veterinarian followed by a team of Spot-O-Faith volunteers who hand-fed at the barn every two hours for a period of 12 hours. But to save the mama mare that was in the worst condition, it would involve even more constant care.
“It took at least a month of feeding her six times a day to see a major difference,” reflects Linda who by summer had the other two horses on a friend’s pasture. “When it was 112 degrees out, she was very thin and I tried to take her where she could get shade — and she almost fell on me.”
Its lingering memory of horrific suffering in an enclosed space had the fearful quarter horse refusing to enter the barn for shade. Fortunately, caring people came to the rescue, building a new shelter and spraying water on the tragic figure every four hours during the very hot days.
“She was sad,” Linda reminisces about the rescued mare at the beginning of its journey, “but we knew she could turn around and get better – healthy.” Then Linda pauses, “Faith can move mountains — even mustard seed faith.”
These days it seems a mountain has been moved by a bit of faith and a lot of love. Newly named Mona Lisa — and beautiful, too — now trots briskly around the Spot-O-Faith farm, ready for adoption.
And if one looks closely, it appears Mona Lisa is wearing a smile.
Anyone who wants to donate to or volunteer at the rescue farm can contact Spot-O-Faith Farm Inc on Facebook or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, Columbia Grain and Feed in Pasco, Farmers Exchange in Kennewick and branches of Yakima Federal Savings and Loan Association are taking donations.