When rescuers found an extremely skinny pony lying in the dirt, she was so weak she could barely lift her own head. It is unknown how long she and four other horses had been living at the run-down boarding facility, or when they last ate.
“The place was in no condition to keep horses,” Grace Delanoy, communications coordinator for the South Florida SPCA Horse Rescue said. “You could tell that it was a very long, awful road to starvation for these horses. Something like this didn’t just happen overnight.”
Because she couldn’t stand up on her own, first responders jumped into action to safely get the pony into a trailer. They got her to the vet at their ranch as soon as they could, because it was likely her organs were failing.
The rescuers had hope and named her Amazing Grace.
“When a horse is starved like that, everything starts to shut down,” Delanoy explained. “Once they’re down and can’t get back up, it’s a very hard thing to recover from.”
Grace was determined to survive and soon went on to Palm Beach Equine Clinic, where she stayed for for around-the-clock care from a medical team.
“We showed up with this tiny little pony pulled out of the dirt and the clinic just rallied around her,” Delanoy said. “It was so heartwarming to see.”
A week later, when Grace returned to the SPCA’s rescue ranch, she received the same warm welcome. She wasn’t fully recovered yet, volunteers spent countless hours making sure she had everything she needed, especially the love she’d gone without in her former life.
“Julie Shelton, our board member, went to the ranch at 4:30 a.m. almost every day and would go straight to Amazing Grace’s stall,” Delanoy said. “She was always the first one there and would just feed her and hold her. Especially in those early days when she wasn’t doing so well.”
After only a few months into recovery, Amazing Grace was finally getting healthy again. She started showing off her personality and, she has a sassy side.
Luckily, it wasn’t long before the owner of a show barn in Ontario, Canada, Marilyn Lee, fell in love with her photo online.
“Marilyn reached out to us and said, ‘Wow, she’s a beautiful pony,’” Delanoy said. “When she heard her story, that was it. It sealed the deal for her.”
Lee is familiar with rescue horses after rescuing a horse named Prodigioso, who was also found abandoned without food or water in the Florida area. She officially adopted Grace, in December 2016.
“The night Grace was set to arrive, the young girl who would eventually become her show partner, Abby Banis, spent the whole night in the barn waiting for her,” Delanoy said. “She was the first to ride her, and they formed an amazing bond. There’s this saying that every pony should know the love of a little girl — and that girl was definitely Abby.”
Grace settled into her new home and spent every day with Lee’s daughter, Robin Hannah. She learned the ropes of riding and the hang of jumping. It was not long before Grace and Abby were ready to compete for the first time together.
Grace was barely recognizable from the emaciated pony who was found lying in the dirt in Florida. She was now in the show ring and her body was now healthy and strong, and her expression was bright and happy. She jumped with ease, and it was clear just how much she loved being in the ring.
“She jumps like she’s been doing this her whole life,” Lee said. “She’s a natural.”
Grace and Abby were awarded several ribbons in their very first show together! Which is pretty amazing for a horse who was in such a dangerous situation the year before.
“I have often said there’s no greater joy than seeing one of these horses come back from all they’ve been through and not only compete, but compete at the top,” Lee said. “You can’t just beat the feeling you get. It gives you goosebumps.”
“I still have a picture of her on my desk. She inspires me every day,” Delanoy said. “When you’ve done everything you can with medicine to heal an animal, at a certain point it’s love that makes the difference.”
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