In August 2022, Upendi (Swahili for “love”) arrived at Days End Farm Horse Rescue (DEFHR) in Woodbine, Maryland, with an uncertain future.
The then-24-year-old Thoroughbred mare had raced in her early life under the name ShowMeToTheStorm, earning $5,430 from her nine starts and, years later, was seemingly discarded by her owner.
Upendi was seized by animal control officers from her pasture in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, after a concerned onlooker informed the county of her dire state. When animal control arrived, it was clear that she was severely underweight, had sustained several injuries and wounds, and had not received veterinary care.
Due to Upendi’s condition and declining state, and the fact that the property owner did not claim her as their own, county officials and animal control were able to proceed with the intervention and remove her from the farm. She was immediately transported to an equine hospital where the attending veterinarian aggressively treated a wound on her hock to help prevent the infection from spreading, which could have potentially caused sepsis. Within 24 hours, she was transported to DEFHR for ongoing treatment.
Once at the farm, Upendi was assigned the lowest possible score—a score of one—on the Henneke Body Condition Score. Her hip bones protruded significantly, she had painful ulcers in both eyes, and her frail frame was covered in abrasions, likely from the stallion that lived in her pasture. Her severe dehydration required emergency IV fluids and electrolytes to be administered for 48 hours. Her prognosis was very guarded during those first weeks of rehabilitation.
As she recovered, Upendi’s physical state was reflected in her body language. Day by day she gained strength and vibrance. After a month, Upendi’s expressions finally resembled a typical horse.
“Over the first few days, she wouldn’t twitch an ear or turn an eye toward you,” said DEFHR Equine Programs Director DeEtte Hillman of Upendi’s recovery.
“She was dull and lethargic and had no appetite. When she started to feel a little better, she’d show subtle signs of improvement like twitching an ear or lifting her head. Though she was quiet, she slowly became more alert and responsive. After about four weeks, she was brighter and would finally meet staff at the front of her stall, looking for food and engaging with her surroundings.”
Through St. Mary’s County’s investigation, officers were able to locate Updeni’s owner, who willingly forfeited custody of the mare. Once Updendi’s body was fully healed, she was able to move into DEFHR’s evaluation and training program.
Given her age and history, it was clear to DEFHR training staff that Upendi would be best as a non-riding companion horse in a setting that would allow her to live out the best days of her life in a well-deserved retirement.
“The focus of DEFHR’s Training Program is to build confidence and connection with non-riding horses like Updeni,” explained DEFHR Assistant Trainer Leigha Schrader. “Ensuring that we know them inside and out enables us to make the best match possible in their adoptive homes.”
In preparation for her forever home, Upendi began light groundwork sessions in May 2023 with experienced DEFHR volunteer trainer Sandy Fain. Their work has included practicing leaving the herd in the pasture, training through obstacles, and enjoying many grooming sessions together.
The pair went on to complete the Forever Foundation Plan 4 Progress® 60-day groundwork challenge, a program that incorporates video lessons and hands-on learning funded by the Humane Society of the United States through the Carter Ranch Horse | Forever Foundation to help rescue organizations place more horses in forever homes. Throughout the program, they learned skills such as leading, backing, sending, and trailer loading, as well as farrier and veterinary prep.
“Upendi forms strong bonds,” shared Fain. “I believe an adopter who is patient, caring, and willing to spend time with her will find Upendi to be a loyal companion for them as well as for another horse.”
In addition to enjoying her one-on-one time with Fain, Upendi has also blossomed into a valuable educator for newer DEFHR volunteers due to her quiet confidence and kind nature. She is often the first horse they get to groom because of her gentle and calm nature. She also stands patiently while rehabilitation interns practice leg wrapping and bandaging skills.
“Upendi has a wise way about her,” said DEFHR Equine Health Manager Lynn Garvin. “She enjoys her routine and gets along with everyone. She will make an excellent addition to a barn willing to retire a kind, experienced off-the-track-Thoroughbred mare. Upendi definitely deserves it!”
Upendi has made a positive impact on everyone she has met through DEFHR, and now she is ready to meet her loving adopter. For more information about Upendi and DEFHR adoption, please visit DEFHR.org.