Horse & Rider
Hope for Howie
On a freezing December day in 2013, we [the Horse Protection Association of Florida, Inc.] received a call from a young woman who found a horse dumped on her rural road. When we arrived to pick him up, we discovered a pitifully emaciated sorrel gelding covered in rain rot scabs, picking at whatever feed he could find in the sand.
The gelding had a lip tattoo and we learned he was a Thoroughbred with a handful of race starts. His registered name was Howie Do; we dubbed him Handsome Howie. We started Howie on ranitidine for ulcers right away and turned him out into a large grassy pasture with another recent arrival. He had a pasture block of alfalfa to graze on around the clock and also received six small meals a day of Purina Senior and Purina Free Balance 12:12.
Howie gained weight easily and was a sweetheart to handle. How such a wonderful horse ended up dumped on a road nearly starved to death, we’ll never know. A year later, fully recovered, Howie was every inch “Handsome Howie” and was ready for adoption.
From Howie’s adopter, Monet Spears:
[letter has been edited for length and clarity]
I heard about the Horse Protection Association of Florida, Inc. through a friend. I went to their website and set up a date to look at two beautiful geldings. As luck would have it, the day I went to visit the horses was miserable—it was January, it was 32 degrees, and the wind was howling. It was decidedly not a great day to meet horses, but I figured it would give me the opportunity to see how they behaved in inclement weather.
The two geldings I originally came to see didn’t cause me to feel any sparks, so I asked to see another horse who’d caught my eye: Howie.
So how did this off-the-track Thoroughbred handle meeting a stranger on a cold, blustery day while his friends were running around in the nearby pasture? Like a champion. With his history, Howie had little reason to trust people, and the day’s nasty conditions would have given any horse an excuse to act up, but Howie behaved perfectly. He was sweet and steadfast. I could feel myself falling in love with this beautiful red horse and Howie became a member of my family the following week.
I didn’t know how much training
he’d had, so we started from square one. We worked on groundwork, leading, and togetherness—homework which he excelled at! I took him to a Mark Rashid clinic the following January and he was ground driving by the second day. By February, we’d started hand-walking out on trail and quickly graduated to riding. Soon we were riding just about every weekend.
After one of our rides during a hot
July day in 2015, Howie lost all balance and started staggering about, totally disoriented. An emergency vet ran blood panels for every disease we could think of. All the panels came back clear, as did neck X-rays. Though he regained some balance, Howie remained extremely sore. Two weeks later, the left side of his face palsied. By all counts, it appeared as though Howie had a stroke. All we could do was wait and treat the symptoms on a daily basis. Through all the poking and prodding, Howie remained his cheerful, sweet self. A true champion, indeed.
Howie finally got well enough to travel to my regular vet to continue the healing process. Now, two years later, through electro-acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic care, patience, and lots of love, we are back on the trails! It has been amazing to see the neuropathways regenerate and become functional once again. It warms my heart to see Howie eat his meals on his own and invoke play with his pasture buddy, Ice. The two of them race from the top of the pasture to the bottom gate only to execute perfect 15-meter canter circles together.
Howie and I have been out for about half a dozen successful trail rides. He hasn’t missed a beat and picked up pretty much right where we left off. The shining personality Howie exhibited that cold, windy January day is what has carried us through some dark times. I am one lucky individual to have this sweet horse as part of my family.