There’s so much that we want to share about what we do here. It’s hard to know where to start. That said, the past few weeks have been keeping us on our toes with a few of our rescues. So, this week we are going to talk about the reality of the rescue.

Rescuing can be equal parts heartbreak and hopefulness. When we bring a horse back to the farm, more often than not, they are in pretty poor shape. Sometimes we have history on their lives, but many times we know very little. On top of this, most of the horses here at the rescue are older horses. They might have arthritis, lameness due to injury, parasites, muscle issues, you name it, we’ve seen it. They may also have had very loving homes previously, but due to circumstance they had to be surrendered and are missing home and their loved ones. Anyone that’s ever had to leave their people know how that feels. Not all wounds are visible.

With all that being said, let’s talk a little bit about what happens when you must call in reinforcements. The past few weeks we’ve had the vet out here at Toni’s Ponies THREE times. Two emergency vet calls and one routine check-up.

Last week we talked about Rusty. That was our first vet visit. He was checked out, sedated, belly tapped, and tubed. The prognosis was leaning toward euthanizing him if things did not get better. The tests that were done onsite pointed to that being the most likely outcome. We were devastated. It’s crazy the emotions you go through on a day like that. You wake up a little tired but get out there to greet the day and the animals. I can’t speak for everyone, but, especially on those cool sunny mornings, it is the best way to start the day. They’re always happy to see you, and you have that sense of accomplishment as you scoop the grain combination into the buckets and set about the day’s work. But then, something doesn’t seem right. One eager boy isn’t where he’s supposed to be. You already have this inkling that the day is not going to go as planned. Worry sets in and you have to figure out how bad it might be.

While my neighbors, Toni and Andy have been around horses for a long time, I’m relatively new to this. I didn’t know how bad of a sign it was that Rusty was pretty sweaty on one side and only wanted to lay down. The horses here at the farm lay down all the time. When we first moved in next door it really freaked me out. I texted Toni asking if that was normal. I was always under the impression that horses slept standing up. Which apparently, they can, but when they feel comfortable and safe, they have no problems flopping down in the middle of the field for some poor equine novice to assume the worst!

Rusty was not just napping. From the time Andy found him, he knew something was really wrong. He was in so much pain. And not long after we got him up and moving, he was back on the ground, thrashing. It’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. Andy and Toni worked quickly calling the vet, and then it was a waiting game. After the vet left, we waited and waited and expected the worst and hoped for the best.

On the day to day making choices is hard. I hate deciding what’s for dinner each night. The choices Toni’s had to make during her time running this rescue are just impossible. How long do we wait for the poop to come? Is he in pain? Is he just really stoic? When do we take him in? Surgery at the price tag of upwards of 10K is not really an option. The other horses still have to eat and have money available for care. These are very hard choices even when the practical decision is clear. Because it’s not just about practicality. Your heart is invested and you sit with the knowledge that you rescued this beautiful soul just a month ago. He’s made it to his forever home, and he’s going to get the best care from people that love him, and how could that possibly be coming to an end so early? In Rusty’s case, as you know, he beat the odds. The poop eventually came, he kept grazing. Toni was up every few hours waiting for more poop and checking on him throughout the night. He’s a happy boy these days and our hearts are so happy.

Now let’s talk about Princess. Princess is a 30-year-old mini horse. Exactly one week after the Rusty scare, we went to feed in the evening only to find that she hadn’t eaten her grain from the morning. When we walked around the corner, we were shocked to see clear snot running out of her nose. It was clear to Toni that she likely had an obstruction and was having a hard time breathing and passing any extra food. When she was brought to the lawn, she still wanted to eat, but now that clear snot turned green instantly. The vet was called and they sedated and tubed poor princess. For those of you who don’t know what tubing is; they put a plastic tube through the horse’s nose and try to flush out any obstructions that might be lodged along the digestive system. They run warm water, salt, and other minerals through them. In Princesses case it didn’t seem to do much. The vet then asked if we had any Diet Coke around. She explained that getting Princess to take Diet Coke (caffeine free) every two hours might help in breaking up whatever obstruction there was. So, Toni, Andy, and Shelby were set on the task of administering the Diet Coke every couple of hours through the night and for the next 24 hours. The vet said that about 70% of horses will actually just drink it up. I guess Princess fell in the other 30%. She was not having it. For Princess there was no real decision to be made. This either worked or it didn’t. She was too old and too small to have any kind of surgery. It didn’t make it any easier to see her in pain though. And of course…there was the waiting. Again, we found ourselves waiting for poop. Luckily it came in the form of a tiny little patty about 14 hours later. More followed! Another happy ending.

Our third vet visit was for our big boy Finn. This was just a check-up and everything went beautifully. He was such a good boy. Finn has an older injury that he needs to be on medication for. That medication has to be prescribed so a vet visit was in order. It’s was also good to get him checked out for anything else that might be going on. Sure enough, the vet found a little lump on his sheath and a biopsy was done. I have to give credit to our vet. He got right up under Finn and took a little chunk right out of him like it was nothing. The next time he got under there though, a couple things happened all at the same time. Stella, the Great Dane, coughed and a carrot was broken in half close by and Finn jumped straight up in the air. I’ve never seen someone move from a crouching position to 5 feet backwards so fast! Good reflexes Doctor! As for Finn, he was just as chill as ever once his feet hit the ground again.

These stories all had a pretty good ending. We know when we take a horse on that we are not guaranteed a medically sound animal. We know the risks and we take them anyway. We know that once they come to this safe place, that does not mean they aren’t going to colic or choke, or fall. Horses are big animals and they can get hurt in so many ways. Many of them have been hurt and that’s why they ended up in need of rescue. It’s not always a happy ending. Sometimes they don’t make it. We do everything that we can and it isn’t enough. Those are hard and sad days. We’ve poured our love and time and money into them and they still don’t get better. It’s really expensive to rescue, on many levels. Financially these past couple weeks added up to about $3000 in medical bills alone.

That said… there is nothing more beautiful than watching a new horse join the herd, or walk up to someone for the first time and let them pet them. On the days that I look outside and see five or more horses all laying out in the sunshine sunbathing and feeling safe; those moments make my heart swell. When you get to see an old ranch horse that outlived his usefulness so he was shipped off to a feedlot only to find a teenage girl that completely falls in love with him and essentially, he’s getting a second life… Gosh there aren’t words for how good that is to see. We don’t have all the answers and we wont always have happy endings but we do what we can for the horses we can. We are hopeful that this rescue will grow and that we will be able to save more horses and build a place where they are loved and they come in contact with people who need them just as much as they need us.

When you support Toni’s Ponies you are supporting horses getting a second chance, which in many cases means a whole second life. Thank you for being our village and letting us do the things we do. Heartbreaking and hopeful.

If you would like to help support Toni's Ponies please consider donating through our donation platform. Here we get 100% of online donations and it makes it super easy to give monthly as well! Thank you again.

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Welcome to the Toni’s Ponies blog! It’s been a minute since we’ve updated here and a lot has been going on since then and especially in the last 5 months. For those of you who know us and have been keeping up with us on social media, please pardon the quick recap… also know that we are so grateful for your support. We literally could not do what we do without you!

For those of you who might be new to Toni’s Ponies, we wanted to take a minute and share who we are, what we are all about and what’s been going on the last few months. Don’t worry we’ll try to keep it quick!

Toni’s Ponies is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit and 509(a)(3) Public Charity organization operating in Kingston Washington. We are a horse rescue that puts a focus on rehabilitation, rehoming, and creating sanctuary. We rescue horses from feed lots, destined for slaughter, we take in horses that are being surrendered from their families due to many reasons, and we have taken some wild ones as well. While our goal is to work with these horses (and some other miscellaneous equine friends, i.e. donkeys and mules) toward rehabilitation, it’s not always a fast or easy road. Many of these horses that come to us have injuries, are older, and also have had some trauma. For some they are worked with and are able to find a new forever home, others become permanent residents of our herd where they live out the rest of their lives in community with other horses and humans. The herd here at Toni’s Ponies has almost 20 acres that it gets to roam, graze, and play on. It’s here that we invite our community to visit and interact, learn, and love on these horses. When we have a horse that is ready for adoption, we will put the word out and do our best to find them a great home.

Toni’s Ponies is founded and run by Toni Houck, who has been involved with horses her whole life. You don’t have to know Toni for long to see the passion she has for these horses and for the community of Kingston just pour right out of her. She has been living on the property that the rescue resides on for the last 17 years, raising her family, rescuing horses, all while working outside the home as well. In mid-February of this year Toni was told that the property that she had been renting would soon go up for sale. This set off a whirlwind of events! The timeline was 90 days before the rescue would need to raise funds to buy the property or move 17+ animals. Our village banded together, we started a gofundme, we put together a huge sale, people donated funds and things for our sale, we were featured on Q13 news (twice) and in the Seattle Times as well as the Kitsap Sun and several online publications as well. The kingston Mercantile donated their building and invetory for our sale and Hood Canal Brewery opened up their doors to us and hosted a fundraising event that was so awesome! We’ve always known that we were part of an amazing community but between February and May we were just blown away with the support we received. Even though we raised almost $70,000 we were nowhere near being able to purchase the property at $650,000. It was then that Sid and Karen Wang of Happy Hooves Sanctuary on Bainbridge Island stepped in. They were able to purchase the property and give us a more reasonable amount of time to raise the funds to purchase the property from them. We could breathe again.

People always talk about a silver lining or looking for the good in the bad and we’re here to tell you that this was one of the most stressful things that we’ve ever gone through. That said, it really changed the future of Toni’s Ponies in a positive way. Toni has been rescuing horses for a long time. The rescue has been operating as a nonprofit for only 3 years. In the scheme of things, we are pretty small and had just started having conversations with our board on what growth would look like for us. We are still taking the time needed to really plan things out but this situation definitely made us jump in and get going a lot faster. Because of it we have had more exposure and Toni’s Ponies has had a huge increase in publicity and that in turn, has brought so many more volunteers to our door!

We had a New Volunteer Orientation in late May and met so many new people! Wednesdays around the farm are now filled with volunteers. More people spending time with horses, grooming, cleaning pens, loving on them, even riding. This is what it looks like these days and we love it!

In mid-April two new horses were rescued, Rusty and Dusty. At the end of April Butters and Elvis went to their new home and are loving it! In May, Finn came back to the rescue after a placement did not work out. Our Mule, Megs was adopted by our neighbor Alex and she continues to live here on the rescue and is happy as part of the herd!

Last week (early June) we had a huge scare when Rusty colicked. Things did not look good for this gorgeous boy. He was in a lot of pain. We had the vet out and they did a belly tap and tubed him. The prognosis was not looking favorable. We watched him all day just waiting for poop. He had come out of the sedation really well and was eating grass as well as drinking very small amounts of water. He looked good, but we were told that could absolutely happen and then he would most likely get worse. We really needed to see that his body could process the food he was eating. Of course, Dusty did not like being separated from his friend so he came out to the lawn to keep him company. As morning, turned to afternoon we were all getting a bit antsy. Toni finally said,” I’ve heard that if you want your horse to poop you take them for a trailer ride.” We already had the trailer attached and ready to go just in case things took a turn for the worse. We loaded him up and Dusty came running in, not to be left behind! Sure enough as soon as Andy started pulling forward Rusty started pooping! They had traveled all of 200 ft. The length of the driveway. Wow! You’ve never seen three people so excited to see horse poop. It’s been a week now and Rusty is doing great. He’s back to his normal food and he’s pretty frisky as well.

We have several events on the horizon such as our annual yard sale July 14-17 and a benefit concert featuring Silver City 6 August 12. You will also see us out about in the community at the Hansville craft show June 25 and in the 4th of July parade here in Kingston. Another exciting thing is that we are opening up the rescue for a few weeks this summer for our new Farm Friends experience. This is a week-long hands-on summer experience for youth! More on that later!

We are so thankful to have the extra time to buy this property and are still very much in fundraising mode. Because of that we have done some work on our website and have partnered with Zeffy. Zeffy is the first and only 100% free fundraising platform for nonprofits. That means that every penny that is donated through Zeffy comes directly to Toni’s Ponies. We don’t pay any processing fees. This is huge! Also, it makes it super easy to support your favorite horse rescue through one-time or monthly donations. Every little bit helps and even $10 a month can go a long way when we all band together!

We want to end off this post by saying thank you again. We are so grateful for you. You are making a difference in the life of these horses.

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