Spencer at Large Barn Name: Spencer Born: About 2002. Breed: Belgian Draft Arrival Date: July 2008
Update: Spencer died 12-2-2017.
Hi, my name is Spencer and this is my story. Don't worry, it has a happy ending!
I was taken from my mother at a very young age, but I was adopted by a kind woman while I was still about the size of a large pony. I was growing fast though, and she didn’t have the facility to keep an active young draft colt safely enclosed. I had fun escaping her yard to run and cause havoc for our neighbors. She came to me shortly after one of my neighborhood escapades and told me that she was sorry, but I had to go.
The next day I arrived at a farm where the forboding feeling that came over me. As I looked around I decided that it was not a farm that any horse would step off the trailer and think, “I’m going to love it here!”
I was young, strong, confident stallion and still growing. I admit that I was fairly spoiled by my previous owner. I didn’t realize that people could be as cruel as the one I was about to meet, and others I’ve met since. This new owner was abusive to me. He assured me that I would understand that even though I was large, he was in charge! He could do whatever he wanted to me. He tied me up, teased me with treats and he beat me up for reaching out to take them. I quickly learned that when a treat is offered by a human, it's not a real offer.
He seemed to enjoy offering me carrots and other treats that I loved, but when I reached out for the treat, he'd bash me in the head with his various weapons. One of which, I'd seen kids hitting small round object with in my my old neighborhood. It was because of him I learned to turn my head away whenever a treat was offered to me and not accept it under any circumstances. It only takes a few times of getting your skull busted to learn manners like he was teaching me.
That man sold me and I was glad to leave his place. I was now a big young stallion, and my next owner thought I would be good for breeding smaller mares to create a stocky breed of sport horse. There were many horses on this farm and some told me they had not been out of their stalls in years. I was put into a paddock alone. I learned from the last man that allowing myself to be caught was a grave mistake, so he told these new owners to leave my halter on, or they would never catch me. He was right about that.
Fortunately, I was soon able to free myself of my halter and for two years, no one touched me. Unfortunately, no one had ever trimmed my hooves, or groomed me. My feet were coming apart, splitting and abscessing painfully over and over. The pain of hoof abscesses are unbearable especially for a big horse like me. I limped around and spent hours laying down wishing for relief from the pain.
Hay was tossed over the fence to me and occasionally someone would come into my paddock and try to catch me. Each time the chase was on, I watched as one hopeful face after the next, turned frustrated and angry and finally give up, some out of concern that I might hurt them. It didn't enter my equine brain that some had considered stopping me with a bullet, but that had considered it.
I was big and strong and fast when my hoof pain wasn't unbearable, I sometimes considered exacting vengence for all the pain and beating I’d taken in my short life. I was deemed "dangerous" at that point.
Once, a man with a stick arrived one day and guaranteed those neglectful owners that he could put that halter back on me. He didn’t make good on his guarantee and after 3 long days of eluding him., he left and he never returned.
If I could have communicated with him, I would have suggested bringing 4 or 5 portable fence panels into my paddock and connect them into a smaller area. Then if he had put some hay or grain inside and waited for me to enter for the food, he could have closed me in and I could not have run from him anymore. But he was not as smart as me, or the woman who was still in my future and who thought to use that tactic.
One swelteringly hot summer day, while I was suffering from a very painful hoof abscess, my owner came to my gate. I had been standing for hours, feeling miserable in the incredibly hot sun. It was clear she was more than ready to get rid of me.
That very day a woman parked a truck and trailer in the driveway and came to my gate with a big halter. It was so hot and my hoof hurt so badly I could barely step away from her. I could not believe that she planned to do what my owner had said in the ad she’d placed: “Six year old Belgian stallion - if you can catch him you can have him!”
I was glad to think I might leave this place where the horses were trapped in small enclosures. Mares had babies and some of the babies hadn’t seen daylight. Later I would learn that their horses would all be taken away from them because of the cruel way we were all kept. I was lucky to get out a couple years before that happened.
After two hours of being chased in the afternoon when it was nearly 100 degrees, I simply could not take one more steo. The pain in my hoof was surging up my leg while the sweat from my body was dripping down. I conceded to this determined woman. She had won.
Abscessing, flared and untreated injuries. These are the neglected hooves I was running away on. Very painful.
Spencer, soon after he arrived, a confused, isolated, young stallion who had very little positive handling in the past.
My first summer with the herd, still growing, and happy. I sometimes stand at the gate ever hopful someone will come and pay attention to me or offer a handout.
Spencer - Before. Waiting for a real rescue. One big sad horse.
Winter coat - winter weight 2010.
Big Horse - Little Girl
Just another in a series of abscess ruptures. They just keep coming and will until we can grow out new hooves.
Me in training, Summer 2012
Update: The owners of Spencer who put him on craigslist were convicted of charges of animal cruelty in 2012. Karma.
I arrived at a new place and was walked into a small paddock with a nice shelter. My wounds were healing up nicely, but I had a few scars. I was very much a young, athletic stallion though and I vowed to never let anyone hurt me again.
As it turned out, I didn’t have that to fear any longer. After a few weeks I was settling in nicely, one day some new people arrived and poked me in the neck with a needle.
I felt my knees buckle and down I went into a deep sleep. When I woke up, I felt something missing between my hind legs, replaced by an unpleasant feeling. I don’t know what happened, but within a few months I no longer felt the surges through me that made me feel like that I needed to fight to stay alive.
My cracked tooth was discovered during a dental exam. And I learned with the help of another tall gelding named Forrest, that it was really okay to take a treat from a human hand. He didn’t mind the job at all because it took many carrots going into his mouth while I watched in awe that he was brave enough to take it.
What happened a week later was more than I could have dreamed. A white truck and trailer drove right into my pasture. Several women got out and I recognized the one who had helped my hooves feel better. She came up to me and attached a rope to my halter. She walked me back to the trailer and stood there and waited for me to make my choice. Go into the trailer or stay where I was. I appraised her as she calmly waited and allowed me to take my time to decide. I stepped into the trailer. The truck started and off we went. I watched the white horse with his mares as we passed them on our way out. I would never forget that horrible day when he beat me to a pulp and the frightened mares.
Slowly, my body healed and I was feeling a little better, when one day she came and put a rope on me and tied me to a tree and poked me in the neck with something sharp. I was standing tied to a big fir tree, feeling sleepy, when another woman arrived in a black car. She brought some tools with her into my pasture. I was aware that she was speaking to me and gently stroking my shoulder. She mentioned my scars and asked what caused them. She shook her head as she picked up each of my huge front hoof and trimmed off the excess split and cracking hoofwalls. While she worked she looked up between my hind legs. She stopped, stood up and said, “He’s a stallion? That would have been good to know.”
“It’s okay, he’s drugged,” was the reply.
Even as groggy as I felt, I could tell she intended to trim my hind hooves. She was told she couldn’t work on my hinds as it was just too risky even with drugs.
I noticed my front feet felt a little better as I watched her leave.
The woman with the dark hair kept offering me treats until I was assured by watching Forrest that I could take one without being bashed in the head. She told me she wanted to make sure it was safe for a child to offer me a treat from a tiny hand. Once I was able to trust her enough to take a treat, I assured her it was very safe for a child to offer me treats.
Several years have passed and I’m living in a pasture with many other horses all shapes and sizes. I’m the boss over all of them. I’m never challenged by any other horses and I rarely have to exert my authority over them. They all just know I rule with a fair and open heart. This is the best life I’ve ever known and I never want to leave this place. I’m told I will never have to leave. With help from lots of different people who know my story, it’s a promise that I hope can be kept.
Spencer, a story of survival.
First time with a saddle on my back. I've decided this was okay. Weird, but okay.
Reflection of me and Pat - we've come a long way. I love this person and she loves me!
Me and my friend Elisabeth
She put me into her trailer and drove me to yet another farm. It wasn’t her farm exactly, it was property owned by someone else, but her horses were kept there. One was a mature white stallion smaller than me. He had two mares in the pasture with him and each mare had a young colt by her side.
This woman brought me to the gate and opened it. I was confused, but as she urged me inside, she said, “This horse is going to teach you some manners!” Just as she released me, the white horse approached me. Head high, neck arched. Even as sheltered as my life had been so far, from living alone, I innately recognized that this horse meant to do me harm.
He let out a roar as he reared and his front hooves came down with a thunderous strike against me my neck and shoulder. I swung away from him and trotted off. I made the mistaken of running toward his mares, hoping for protection with them..
I forgot about the pain in my hoof as jumped away from the assault of the rapid fire\ kicks that came next. With almost no place to run, the mares watched in fear, tails flagging, they blew hard out their flared nostrils, and kept their bodies between their frightened foals and the battling stallions.
Before I realized I had nowhere to run, he drove me into a corner with fierce, bared teeth that slammed into my hide ripping me open. His agile body swung around and delivered blow after blow with his shod hind feet. I resigned myself to this beating as I had so many in my past.
The roaring, grunting and moaning pierced the air as his shoes slammed into my body, I felt a tooth crack and my lip gushed blood.
By then I understood his intentions. He planned to kill me. I could hear dogs barking as I waited for this fierce stallion to finish me. Just then we were both distracted by blaring sirens, and flashing lights speeding into the driveway. This new owner was commanded to stop the insane battle. I learned later that neighbors had called for help, shocked by the noise of one horse being beaten to death by another!
The gate was opened and I flew out of it as it shut behind me sending the white horse back to his mares. His lips were bleeding, but that was the only injury I could see as they chased me into another field by myself. There was barely a spot on my body that wasn’t cut, scrapped and bloody. My tooth was hurting, my hooves hurt. I was one very beaten, contrite young stallion left to wonder if this was what my life was meant to be like. That woman was right, I was humbled. And I was sad.