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A Miniature Horse’s Big Transformation

When miniature horse Mikey was seized from Frederick County, Maryland, and sent to Days End Farm Horse Rescue (DEFHR) in Woodbine, Maryland, in April 2022, the years-long neglect he had experienced was obvious.

His overgrown feet looked more like a ram’s horns than hooves, and his teeth were extremely sharp with excessive tartar build up. Despite the physical mistreatment, Mikey’s curious and hopeful personality was apparent, and that would give him the resilience to recover.

In the horse show community, there’s a saying, “no hoof, no horse,” which comes from the idea that hoof care is paramount to the health and success of the equine athlete. At the basic level, domestic horses require human intervention to correctly maintain their hooves in order to live comfortably. In Mikey’s case, the length of his feet indicated that he went two to three years without proper farrier care.

“On average, a horse’s hooves grow a quarter of an inch per month, which requires trimming every four to six weeks to sustain a healthy balance and angle,” explained DEFHR’s Equine Program Director DeEtte Hillman.

“If left untrimmed, the hoof wall continues to grow, putting stress and pressure on the soft tissue support systems, such as the laminae, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. The damage can be permanent and can result in a horse’s inability to move without pain.”

Mikey’s rehabilitation at DEFHR began with a veterinary exam including x-rays to better evaluate the internal structures of his feet. With that information, DEFHR’s veterinarian and farrier developed a plan to proceed. After his initial trim, Mikey was on a two-week trim cycle. This allowed the farrier to make slight adjustments to the new hoof to help the foot grow in a balanced and correct manner.

Once he was rehabilitated and in good health, Mikey entered DEFHR’s Training Program, which is aimed at teaching equines to be good citizens before being made available for adoption. He entered the program in June 2022 and eagerly began light groundwork with the guidance of DEFHR’s trainers as well as a patient and knowledgeable intern in DEFHR’s Equine Training internship Program. From the outset, it was clear to his trainers that his intelligence and willingness to learn would enable him to excel quickly in the program.

“We had to begin Mikey’s training by helping him become more comfortable with picking up his feet,” DEFHR’s Assistant Trainer Leigha Schrader said.

“After he was walking with ease, we focused on bathing, loading onto a trailer, and introduced him to obstacle training. Our goal was to ensure Mikey would be prepared with all of the skills he’d need to be successfully adopted.”

During Mikey’s training and before he was ready to be put up for adoption, DEFHR coincidentally received an inquiry from a prospective adopter seeking a miniature horse. The hope was to find a suitable companion for their retired competition horse who had been successful in the junior jumper division.

The timing was serendipitous. Mikey was progressing quickly, and Schrader knew he’d be ready for his forever home in the near future. The small gelding was officially put up for adoption in July, and a couple of weeks later, he was able to meet his prospective adopters to ensure they’d be a good match.

“When I initially spoke to Mikey’s adopters, I knew they would be the perfect fit,” Schrader recalled.

“They are very experienced horse owners, and we knew that Mikey would enjoy the spoiled show pony life.”

Mikey’s transformation from rescue to adoptee in just a few months was remarkable. While no two horses are the same, Schrader notes that, on average, DEFHR horses are in rehabilitation and training for one year before being ready for adoption. She credits Mikey’s positivity and determination for his quick turnaround. Despite his tiny stature, his huge personality blossomed throughout the course of his physical recovery and subsequent training.

“He always enjoyed showing off and being the center of attention. You can tell he knows how handsome he is with his luscious locks and natural highlights we all wish we could have,” Schrader said of the charismatic gelding.

Sometimes the best things come in small packages, and now Mikey can be appreciated for all that he is for the rest of his life.

Photocredit: Days End Farm Horse Rescue

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