In April 2018, officers from Maryland’s Frederick County Animal Control responded to a call for assistance from the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office regarding a report of neglected horses. 

Four deceased horses and 12 living horses were found, one of which was an emaciated bay named Ziporah.

The 20-year-old Quarter Horse mare was a shell of her former self. Once a successful barrel racer, she was now struggling to survive and in desperate need intervention. On initial veterinary examination, she was given a body condition score of just two out of nine and was in urgent need of care.

Fortunately for Ziporah and her herd mates, the horses were forfeited by their owner and promptly transported to Days End Farm Horse Rescue (DEFHR) in Woodbine, Maryland.

All photos courtesy of Days End Farm Horse Rescue.

But, Ziporah was not yet out of the woods.

She was weak and lethargic upon arrival. Her bloodwork indicated chronic stress, dehydration, malnutrition, and possible kidney issues. A high white blood cell count and her fecal tests revealed pinworms and strongyls, an internal parasite.

Her ailing body was weakening by the day, and shortly after arrival, she was unable to get herself up after lying down.

DEFHR uses a large animal lift to pick horses up from the ground and an Anderson Sling for long-term supportive therapy, as in the case of Ziporah, who spent a total of five weeks in it.

One day when she was out of the sling on one of her short walks, she fell and was unable to get herself back up, and the team used the large animal lift to get her back on her feet. After that, she remained in the sling around the clock for three weeks until she was strong enough to go on walks again.

During her time in the sling, the DEFHR veterinarians ran weekly blood tests to check Ziporah’s liver, kidney, and white blood cell levels. She remained in rehabilitation at DEFHR for about five months, giving her body time to heal and regain the muscle and strength it had lost.

There was a breakthrough in week five of her rehabilitation journey: Ziporah was turned out in a paddock for her daily time in the sun when she laid down to roll and stood up on her own. The DEFHR staff, who had been on hand should she need assistance to stand, cried and cheered when she slowly pulled herself up without their help.

Rehabilitating a horse using a sling is not straightforward, as DEFHR Equine Programs Director DeEtte Hillman explained.

“A major factor in a horse’s successful recovery in a sling is their willingness to accept the restriction imposed by it. Not all horses have the temperament to tolerate the confinement and level of handling required, so not all horses in Ziporah’s condition make good sling candidates.

“Ziporah was an active participant in her rehabilitation and accepted everything that needed to be done for her. She even seemed to enjoy the attention. Horses in sling therapy are never left without a human being at their stall, so Ziporah had company 24/7 for five weeks.

“Our team of volunteers camped out in the barn aisle in three- to four-hour shifts throughout the night. Often in pairs, it became a social activity while ensuring that Ziporah’s hay nets were always full, her water was topped off, and every need was met. If not for her participation, the outcome could have been very different.”

An ideal adopter

In September 2021, Al Ramer was looking for a companion and occasional riding horse, mostly to keep his current horse company at home.

“It can be tough for me to find horses that suit me since I have pretty bad anxiety, but I’ve worked with Sara [Strauss, DEFHR’s head trainer] at DEFHR for years, and she knew just what I needed,” he explained.

“At the time I wanted someone sweet and simple, and ‘Zippy’ fit the bill perfectly. She is the sweetest dear. She could only handle very light riding, but that was perfect for my situation.”

Ramer sold his farm in 2023, and Ziporah now boards with a former DEFHR staff member. She spends half the day in a stall and the other half out in a paddock with a molly mule for company. 

“These days she just lives her best old lady life,” continued Ramer.

“I’ll let her wander around the yard while I groom her and untangle her long mane. She has a whole beauty bucket of detanglers and oils.

“The farm is up in the mountains, so it’s very lovely to just watch her graze loose. She’s a gem. For all that she’s been through, she still trusts people. I ride her very sparingly, but when you mount up she still thinks she’s going to walk 10 miles of fence line and round up some cows.”

Ramer is incredibly grateful to DEFHR for bringing him together with Ziporah.

“The DEFHR team is great.” he declared.

“They are fully transparent, and their priority is good, long-lasting matches. Horse shopping, in general, is a tough process, and the difficulty with rescues is that they may not have the kind of horse you need at the time, but I think they’re always worth a look. Start there and keep checking back. Sometimes you get lucky and find that the best horses have been through the toughest situations.”

To learn more about DEFHR’s available horses, visit