When 4-year-old Bernadino wants to play, the sorrel gelding swings his head in a circle and looks expectantly at his equine friends. Then he starts to run. “He will just take off and run in a circle and get up next to somebody and take off again,” says Bethany Gammon, senior animal caregiver at Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch. “I think he’s hoping that somebody will take the bait and go off running with him.”
The others rarely do, though. Bernadino and five other horses came to the ranch in late September, three months after HSUS rescuers collaborated with the local sheriff’s office and Safe Haven Equine Rescue and Retirement Home to remove them and more than 140 other horses from an alleged cruelty situation in Camp County, Texas.
All six horses were underweight and malnourished, but 4-year-old sorrel Lt. Dangle was in the worst shape. As ranch caregivers help him put on weight, they’re also helping him settle in to his new life. Although he’s more reserved than playful Bernadino, Lt. Dangle has a sweet personality that’s slowly coming out as he learns to trust the people around him.
It’s a lesson all six horses must learn. None of them had any training, so Gammon’s team started from scratch. “We’re trying to give lots of positive interactions with us,” she says. It’s slow work, especially with 10-year-old gelding Peralta, the most reserved of the bunch. Gammon hopes that a few of the horses will be good candidates for adoption—including Raineesha, a sweet 7-year-old sorrel mare, and 5-year-old Clementine, a little bay mare with an outsized personality. “She thinks she’s a big horse,” says Gammon. “She’s sassy, spunky, wants to do things Clementine’s way.” Gammon says the younger horses especially could do well with adopters. “For them to have the opportunity to have a family—we owe them that.”
For the older horses and the shier ones, the ranch will most likely be their forever home. Farva—a 7-year-old gelding—came in as a bit of a bully. (Gammon suspects he had to be pushy to get enough to eat.) Now he’s learning to be social, and he’s already found a small group of friends in the ranch’s largest pasture. Gammon says it’s rewarding to see the horses settle in to a routine and learn that food is always coming and people won’t hurt them. “It’s nice to be able to close that story for them,” she says.