Three abandoned horses and the compassion of the Aiken Community

By Joanna D. Samson, FOTAS VP

Two emaciated mares and a skinny mini-horse were dumped at the home of a very kind soul in the County, and although he had the heart to care for them, he did not have the experience or the facilities to do so. He called several equine rescue organizations and pleaded for help, but no one was interested in the plight of three scraggly-looking equines of uncertain origins.

These stories rarely turn out well. Horses are eating machines; they need land and lots of food to thrive. It’s an expensive proposition, particularly for neglected animals who need medical attention as well. All in all, not a prescription for a happy ending.

Fortunately, in this case, all the planets and stars lined up. Richard Hall, our conscientious citizen-hero, called Bobby Arthurs, the County’s Chief Animal Control Officer and Shelter Manager. Animal Control is not readily equipped to deal with horse issues, but Bobby was determined to help Mr. Hall. He called on FOTAS, not because FOTAS is equipped to deal with equine emergencies either (our hands are full with the thousands of homeless dogs and cats that pass through the Shelter), but because he knows FOTAS can, and will, mobilize its resources to help Aiken County Animal Control with any animal in need.

FOTAS President Jennifer Miller called Gina Salatino, an experienced, expert horsewoman and a long-time, loyal FOTAS supporter in every way—Gina always responds, without fail, to a FOTAS plea for help. Gina and Bobby drove out to Mr. Hall’s immediately with ten bales of hay. The horses could not be moved to another location until they had been tested for equine infectious diseases, so in the meantime, Mr. Hall agreed to continue to care for the horses on his property with Bobby and Gina’s help. An anonymous woman (thank you!) donated 20 bales of hay, and Aiken County Farm Supply contributed more food.

Bobby and FOTAS arranged for Ridge Haven Equine Veterinary Services to worm and inoculate the horses and to perform a Coggins test to rule out Equine Infection Anemia, a non-curable, highly infection disease (the horses tested negative, after which they started gaining weight. Gina called Dr. Mike Brown to geld the mini-horse (which he did as a donation), and Gina found the little fellow a home with local equine dentist, Lou Heffner and his wife.

Placing the mares was more difficult. When Bobby had driven to Ridge Haven to make arrangements for inoculating and worming the horses, he had struck up a conversation with Natalie Hutto in the office (Bobby confessed later that he struck up the conversation because Natalie was dressed in western-like clothing, so he figured her for a horsewoman). Natalie had a farm but had never owned or cared for full-grown horses, but the plight of the two mares tugged at her heart-strings.

Long story short? Natalie agreed to give the two girls a home on her farm if Bobby, Gina and FOTAS would teach her how to care for them. They agreed, they did, and today the mares are flourishing on Natalie’s farm, with her children taking active roles in their care.

God bless them all. My faith in the goodness of humanity, miracles, and divine intervention is re-affirmed.

Their lives are in our hands.


Gina Salatino with the mini horse
Gina Salatino with the mini horse