Tess was a racehorse, but she was never a very good one. And in her late teens, retired but healthy, she was no longer wanted by her then owners.
So they called Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals, a horse rescue organization based in Windham, and offered her up — with an ultimatum. They either take Tess, or she would be killed.
MSSPA usually only takes in Maine horses that are seized by law enforcement because of abuse and neglect. It wasn’t their typical case, but they took her anyway.
“We do have discretion to admit horses for other reasons and we do from time to time, particularly if experience tells us the horse has potential for a positive outcome,” MSSPA CEO Meris Bickford said.
A gorgeous standardbred with a silky dark brown coat, Tess had competed in harness racing, a type of racing in which a horse pulls its driver in a two-wheeled cart and can only race at a specific gait. At MSSPA, the trainers discovered that she refused to canter, having been taught not to canter during her racing career. Cantering would have disqualified her from harness races. Tess also had a bit to learn when it came to carrying a rider on her back. However, she was sturdy, not easily spooked and had no evident health issues.
Compared to many other horses at MSSPA, Tess had been lucky. Most of the 55 horses currently housed at the facility have histories of being starved and left without proper shelter or medical care. In many cases, Bickford said, the organization is bringing back horses from the brink of death.
“We have a horse right now who came to us a year ago, and she was really just a skeleton with fur,” Bickford said. “The vet told us that another week in the field, and the horse would have been dead.”
Aislinn Sarnacki is the BDN Act Out editor, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @1minhikegirl, and Instagram:...
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