Before he was one of 19 horses seized from a neglectful home in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, Memphis was singing the blues.
When he arrived at Days End Farm Horse Rescue (DEFHR) in Woodbine, Maryland, in January 2021, he was emaciated, had dermatitis across his topline, and was caked in mud from the midline down. Fortunately for the 14.3-hand gelding, he was about to get a second chance at finding a loving forever home.
When a horse arrives at DEFHR, they enter its rehabilitation program, where knowledgeable staff evaluate and treat any medical concerns alongside veterinarians. Once a horse’s health is stabilized, they are able to move into DEFHR’s training program where an individualized plan is designed by DEFHR trainers.
This process does not have a fixed timeline. Rather, staff at DEFHR take the time needed for horses to gain the skills necessary to be successfully adopted.
For some horses, the health issues they face due to neglect or abuse are so severe that it takes several months to move into training. Memphis reached a healthy weight in just eight weeks. But he was not able to enter training until the legal case against his owner was resolved 18 months after his arrival.
Laws specifically mandate that horses in a rescue organization’s custody may only be cared for in a way that maintains their health and meets their basic needs. Memphis was caught in the midst of this “legal limbo” and wasn’t able to enter into any type of training beyond basic handling and could not be put up for adoption until a resolution was reached.
According to DEFHR’s Equine Health Manager Lynn Garvin, the fact that Memphis had a speedy rehabilitation made the situation all the more upsetting.
“Memphis had a relatively standard rehabilitation and that makes his neglect sadder and more egregious,” stated Garvin. “Most likely, he simply was not being fed. All this horse needed was the most basic of care.”
When Memphis began his training in July 2022, DEFHR head trainer Sara Strauss noticed he seemed to have previous education. He understood basic groundwork principles and was accepting of a saddle, bridle, and rider. Beyond developing these fundamental skills, DEFHR’s training program is also an essential piece of the adoption puzzle. DEFHR trainers get to know each horse, so they’re able to assist in making the best possible match.
“The biggest challenge for Memphis right now is that he is not very physically fit, so he is a bit like riding a wet noodle,” Strauss described of the dark bay. “We’ve been working on straightness, forward momentum, and staying between the aids. We do a lot of the work out on the trails or in the open field.”
In addition to developing Memphis’ physical fitness, DEFHR trainers are helping him determine his most comfortable way of going. Memphis, who is presumed to be a Rocky Mountain Horse, is gaited and often switches between pacing, gaiting, and trotting. Different than trotting or pacing, gaiting allows the horse to always have one hoof in contact with the ground.
“I try to help him find his balance in whichever gait he is choosing,” Strauss explained of her training with the easy-going gelding. “One piece of advice I was given by a gaited horse trainer is to focus on developing the walk and building up strength that way. We spend a lot of time in the walk and add in different terrain and hills to continue to develop him physically.”
With Memphis rockin’ and rollin’ in his training, he’s just about ready to head to his forever home, and Strauss thinks he will be a great trail partner for his future adopter. At 20 years old, Memphis will be part of DEFHR’s Guardian Program, where DEFHR retains the title of the horse while the adopter provides a lifelong home and tax-deductible care.
Luckily, prospective adopters don’t have to go to Beale Street to see this Memphis, so now it’s one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and go, Memphis, go!
For more information about Memphis and other horses available for adoption at Days End Farm Horse Rescue, visit: https://defhr.org/available-horses/