Linda Christiano vowed to stop accepting neglected horses for rehabilitation at the start of this year because she couldn’t afford to do it anymore.
That all changed last week when Franklin County Sheriff Deputy Terry Brown came knocking at the door of Spot-O-Faith, Christiano’s horse rescue farm.
Three horses were being neglected outside a house in Pasco, Brown said. They had no food or water, and one mare appeared on the verge of death.
Brown asked Christiano to at least come take a look at the sickly mare to see if she could help.
“I told him I’m not taking any more horses,” Christiano said. “He said, ‘If you don’t take this horse, she will be dead in 24 hours.’ ”
Christiano went to the property and saw the horses. Their ribs were visible, their shoulder and hip bones protruding. Their coats were matted, and the hair was sparse.
The registered nurse and horse lover didn’t have to think too long or hard about what she had to do. She loaded up the horses — two mares and a gelding — and took them straight to a veterinarian’s house.
“It was pretty obvious to me all three needed to go,” Christiano said.
The diagnosis on all three was bleak.
The mare Brown thought was on the verge of death indeed was, Christiano said. If she would have been left out a day or two more she would not have survived. She’s between 12 and 15 years old and so skinny she had no fatty tissue anywhere on her body. Her spine, vertebrae, ribs, hip joints and lower pelvic region were protruding from her skin.
“She does not look very appealing,” said Christiano, who still lists the horse in critical condition.
The second mare, 6 years old, was in slightly better shape, with a little muscle covering her vertebrae and multiple bones visible, Christiano said.
The 8-year-old gelding was in the best shape of all. He had a little fat on his body, but was still thin and worn down, Christiano said.
The Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office is reviewing the case to decide if any criminal charges will be filed, Brown said.
For the past week, Christiano and her team of volunteers at the farm have been caring for the three horses day and night, feeding them every two hours for 12 hours. The horses consume around 50 pounds of grass hay and 10 pounds of alfalfa hay each in that time.
“They have done nothing but eat,” Christiano said.
The horses are quarantined from other horses on the farm and will stay that way for the next 45 days as they continue to get their strength back.
It took Christiano about three months to get another group of eight horses she accepted last October back to health. She expects the same timetable for the three Pasco horses.
“The critical part is getting them to return to their normal digestion,” Christiano said.
Since Spot-O-Faith, a nonprofit, opened in 2010, it has rescued and placed around 30 horses, Christiano said. The farm’s motto is to rescue, rehab and re-home. It’s never had a horse die under its care.
The main reason Christiano has stopped taking horses is because she can’t afford the feed it takes to nurse them back to health. She estimates she has spent $15,000 of her retirement money on the rescued animals in the past two years.
“I don’t think people understand how much it costs to feed a rescue,” she said.
The alfalfa, which has been hard to come by as of late, provides the horses with the protein they need to regain their strength, Christiano said. She will continue to keep the horses on the hay diet for the next month before switching to a grain mix.
Once the horses are healthy again, which Christiano is optimistic they will be, she hopes to get them adopted.
“If I can find pastures for them to continue to graze in and be happy in, that’s my goal,” she said.
-- To donate or volunteer, contact Spot-O-Faith Farm on Facebook or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Accounts have been set up for feed or money donations in Spot-O-Faith’s name at Columbia Grain and Feed in Pasco, Farmers Exchange in Kennewick and Yakima Federal Savings and Loan Association.
Editor's note: Corrected to fix email address and farm name.