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November 12, 2012

Majestic Mustang Finds His Place at Duchess Sanctuary

Survivor of starvation case finds salvation

  • Before coming to Duchess Sanctuary, George packed on hundreds of pounds munching hay at his foster home in Montana. Kim Michels

  • His handsome profile shows how George "Clooney" earned his name. Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

  • At 14 years of age, George has finally found a safe sanctuary for the rest of his life.  Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

by Jennifer Kunz

Of the 20 horses released to the Beartooth Humane Alliance in a Montana cruelty case earlier this year, one of the most handsome—and challenging—was a big, blue roan gelding.

Well-muscled and majestic, the horse soon earned the moniker George after his handsome human counterpart, George Clooney.

A high-strung challenge

But as handsome as he was, the 14-year-old gelding was also high-strung. Being around people sent him into near-panic mode. Months of living on the verge of starvation didn't help; by the time George and his herdmates were rescued, they'd been gnawing on fence posts and eating their own manure in desperation.

While his foster caretakers in Montana helped him pack on the pounds, the handsome horse remained high-strung and wary of human interaction.

HSUS to the rescue

Considering George's age (14 years is "middle aged" for a horse), his rescuers wanted to find the right place for him to retire, a place where he would not need to be handled—much less ridden.

In stepped Wendy Hergenraeder. The HSUS's Montana state director had been working in partnership with Beartooth Humane Alliance's president and executive director Diane Zook, as well as the ASPCA's horse rescue team, to arrange funding for the horses' veterinary care and transportation, and to locate permanent homes.

Hergenraeder reached out to her colleagues at Duchess Sanctuary to see if they could find a place for George at the Oregon sanctuary. When she got the thumbs up, it was a relief for all involved.

"When I received the good news that Duchess would take George, I knew how lucky he was to live out the rest of his life at the sanctuary," Hergenraeder said.

Free to be himself

Now at Duchess, George is free to be himself. From his quarantine paddock, he can see the other horses and nickers to them curiously.

In three weeks, he will join them, roaming through hundreds of acres of open fields, with plenty of company, food, and freedom.

"He is magnificent in stature and in personality," says Diane Zook. "We could not be any more thrilled that he's at Duchess, with nothing expected of him but to hang out with his buddies, eat, and just be."

"He's the embodiment of what you think of as an American mustang."

Learn more about The HSUS's vision for wild horse management in the U.S.

Jennifer Kunz is ranch manager of Duchess Sanctuary, operated by The Fund for Animals in partnership with The HSUS.

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