Gracie and pal Indian Orchard
One old gray mare has found a new home thanks to the generosity and compassion of a woman who has never owned a horse before.
Stories of horse rescues can be heart wrenching. At the same time, a successful outcome warms the heart. This one is of particular interest because the rescuer comes from outside the horse world.
Norma Dobrowolski saw the work of Kelly Smith of Omega Horse Rescue online through the rescue’s website and their Facebook page. Although she has no real experience with horses, Dobrowolski felt drawn to help in some way and had made some donations.
“I had a little pony when I was a kid, but I don’t know that I ever rode it,” Dobrowolski said. “I love animals.”
She was particularly drawn to the picture of one animal, a black horse named Basic Black Lace. It was the 4th of July holiday weekend of last year, and hope looked slim for the horse that Smith hoped to rescue. Dobrowolski felt compelled to help.
To Dobrowolski, it seemed like fate was calling her to this horse, but that was not to be.
The horse she originally wanted to help was not in the kill pens, but Smith offered another option. There were two horses in the sales at Shippensburg that seemed destined for the killers that Smith hoped could be helped.
Smith called Dobrowolski to let her know how things had changed and the options. “She said ‘What do you want? I’m looking at a gray one and a brown one,’ This is like deciding who’s going to live and who’s going to die.” Dobrowolski said.
Without intervention, the gray mare would be bound for slaughter in Mexico. She would not be taken the shorter route to Canada for slaughter because of her color, and the skin tumors that are so often found on gray horses. The gray mare made an impression on Smith. “She stared at me. Some are very determined to get your attention,” she said.
As it turned out, Dobrowolski later learned that the black horse found a home with another rescuer, and now she was the sponsor of a horse she had yet to see.
“I don’t think anyone else would have taken her, she was in such bad shape,” Dobrowolski said.
Smith recommended Hidden Pearl Farm in Bethel, PA as a spot where the gray mare and the chestnut could be taken for quarantine and care while they recovered.
Hidden Pearl Farm is not a likely place for rescue horses. It is a well-known professional stable which specializes in breeding and raising young Holsteiner horses for show jumping and sport horse careers. In just a few cases owner Nick Edmunds takes in a rescue for a short-term stay.
The gray mare who was now called Gracie, was in bad shape. “We weren’t sure when she arrived if she was going to make it very long,” Edmunds said. “Gracie’s in extra innings. She’s on borrowed time.”
Once the mare was considered healthy enough to be in contact with the other horses on the farm, Edmunds decided to put her with the weanlings to help them transition away from their mothers. “She took on the nurse mare role. We like to have an alpha-type mare with the babies,” he said.
The old mare became a grumpy nanny to the group of youngsters, bonding closely with one filly in particular.
Eventually, the young Holsteiners were bigger than their nanny mare and it was time for her to leave them, but if all goes well, she will be ready to watch over next year’s foal crop.
Edmunds has seen the mare’s personality slowly start to change in her time at his farm, but it has been a very long recovery. Although she has been looking good physically, the hardships Gracie has been through have been hard to shake. “It’s not ‘till within the last six weeks that she’s started looking at me the way the other horses do,” he said.
As the mare recovered, Dobrowolski continued to be committed to her care. She has no property to keep a horse near her Salisbury, MD home, so she makes the five-hour drive to Bethel, PA. at least once a month, just to see Gracie.
Dobrowolski researched the grumpy gray mare’s history. It was guessed that she was a thoroughbred, but she discovered that she is a 20-year-old Standardbred registered under the name Bonjour Mine Nana.
Just as amazing as Gracie’s recovery is the devotion Edmunds sees between Dobrowolski and her horse. “She really wanted good things to come from it,” he said. She will visit the farm with treats for Gracie, and spend time brushing her or just watching the horses in the pastures. “She’ll come back to me with the most precise observations.”
Dobrowolski will never ride the gray mare, but she will continue to be there for her. In addition, she is assisting in part with the expenses of training her chestnut companion, now known as Chesapeake, so that he will be ready for adoption.
“I’m hoping Gracie will live a nice long time,” Dobrowolski said.
Rescue supporters who are not a horse people are something that Smith would like to see more of. “You do not have to want to ride a horse to want to make a difference in its life,” she said.
“There are many ways that people can help horses,” Smith said. “Norma Is a very unique individual. Once she puts her heart into something she’s very dedicated to it. I wish there would be more people like her.”