Shasta is a really special horse who has overcome challenging circumstances to survive. We appreciate his spirit and drive, and we recognize that he is extremely smart!
In March 2008, after adopting turkeys Ariala and Rhoslyn, we felt ready to care for another animal, and we wanted to find an animal in need. The Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter had a pony for adoption.
When visiting, I noticed a male goat who had befriended the pony. Please visit Zipper to learn more.
We returned a week later to meet them again, and a female pygmy goat had just been rescued, and she had bonded to the male pygmy goat. Please visit Theodora to learn more.
We decided to adopt all three animals to keep them together and to give them a new home at Love Creek Farm.
At the shelter, I could feed carrots to Shasta by hand, but he was less stressed when left alone.
When I moved slightly to get a carrot, he would jump. I figured it would take him time to be de-programmed from his abuse and neglect. I had no idea what I was getting into …
Shasta is partially blind in his right eye, and he has body deformities with both legs on his right side bowed. Both his front feet have arthritis, and his right hoof and leg have scars that signal he may have been tangled in wire (he encountered a traumatic experience at a young age). Also, he cannot have his ears touched which we attribute to having his ears pulled – an abusive training technique.
At the shelter, the office assistants and director said he was found on the street with a mare because their pasture fence was broken. That’s when the Animal Services Authority noticed his neglect. The owner did not want him back anyway, saying that “he was evil.”
When I was ready to take him home, the Animal Control Officer could not catch him, and he constantly ran away and jumped over barriers as we narrowed fences and space to corral him.
After an hour of chasing him around, another officer showed up to help. The three of us were able to move in and narrow the space until he was forced into the trailer. Shasta, Zipper, and Theodora were driven to their new home.
Shasta’s fight or flight behavior caused him to bite a friend when she scared him and tried to pet him on his right side. I called the animal shelter after he bit her arm, and they told me that if I did not keep him, then they would euthanize him
It was devastating to think that he was just a mean “evil” horse that needed to be put down because of his deformed hoof and scared behavior. Turns out, he couldn’t see on his right side, and he needed training. I contacted a local horse trainer, Shea Stewart, and she alleviated fears. Shasta was sent to her ranch for intensive training. Shea was able to track down information through local horse contacts. We learned that years prior, Shasta was sold to a family at an auction. From that point, terrible things happened to him.
In December, 2008, Shasta was trained to be touched by using a flag and lung whip. As a defense mechanism, he will only face up on his left side so he can see, and he will kick when you tried to get close. It was a fortunate coincidence that Shea hosted a clinic on horsemanship with Harry Whitney. He provided her with personal advice about using a flag to touch Shasta.
Within the month, he was haltered so that work could start on his deformed hoof.
The medial side of his right hoof is gone where the bones have deteriorated from arthritis and pressure. All his weight is on the back and inside of the hoof.
Shasta is sedated and the vet and farrier consult over where to start cutting off the elf toe.
The x-rays helped determine bone location, and it also showed the extensive arthritis and deformity. Not all the extra hoof could be cut off all at once. In December 2010, his hoof cracked.
Over the years (2008 – 2019), we have tried seven different farriers to help repair Shasta’s hoof. We had many unsuccessful and disappointing visits, such as barefoot trims that cracked his hoof, nail on shoes that caused him to rear and kick in pain, barefoot wrapped technique that did not hold, and also glue on shoes that did not hold.
Around 2014, we were referred to a top notch farrier named Mike Hayward who is an expert. He worked successfully to trim and rebuild Shasta’s hoof using a special adhesive mix called Adhere. Mike was trained to use this material from Vettec representative, Larkin Greene. Shasta had a shoe that was glued on his hoof, and his care was maintained every month. A shoe cannot be nailed on because his arthritis is too painful. The crack in his hoof is still there, but it is managed with Adhere and the horse shoe. No longer is Shasta lame, and he does not walk with a limp anymore.
In the summer of 2016, Mike Hayward changed up the shoe and gluing technique.
In Fall 2018, we decided to try a different farrier due to scheduling issues, and the cost for one glue on shoe plus trim ($255). Maddie (Shasta’s horse trainer) suggested we use Alison F. who she was familiar with at Nestledown Therapeutic Riding Center. Alison used one particular style of glue and shoe so we were willing to give it a try. Her schedule worked well with Maddie so it seemed like a win-win situation.
Unfortunately after about three months, we realized that Alison’s technique did not work. The glue did not hold, the shoe only came in one size, and Shasta went lame because the shoe was too high. We consulted with our vet, Kristin Wallace with Granite Creek Vet, about other options, such as a slip on boot or barefoot, and she said neither suggestion would work for Shasta to support his hoof.
I had one farrier in mind to contact, Cody Hill, and he has been a blessing. Cody was willing to fit Shasta into his schedule knowing that he was a special case. Before the visit, Cody called Mike Hayward to learn more about his technique and how it had been working using Adhere with a metal shoe. Cody came prepared to apply the same material, but suggested we try a clog with Shasta on the next appointment. I had never heard of this option so again, I consulted with the vet who confirmed that it could work as long as Shasta did not pull it off. A clog is most often used with horses with Cushings Disease/Laminitis.
Cody shaped the clog and cut it to fit Shasta’s hoof, with more plastic left on his medial side where he is missing support. Cody then drilled holes for the screws, and packed with Sole Pack medicated hoof dressing and hemp fibers to prevent thrush. The clog is then screwed on. It can also be reused. It worked really well for Shasta. He wears a boil boot on his opposite hoof so it leaves space and prevents any way for him to step on the clog and pull it off.
In addition to regular farrier visits, Shasta still undergoes professional horse training. For a few years, he was under the guidance of Granite Creek Vet Tech, Karen Schwingel. Since 2015, he has been trained by a wonderful young horse trainer named Maddie Tomlin. Maddie would come twice a week to work with Shasta and touch his ears. Now, Maddie visits every two weeks because Shasta really trusts her, and we can continue to work on his behavior for vet visits.
Under Maddie’s training, Shasta now will let you catch him with a lead rope, and often times he will walk right up to you. He no longer has to be sedated for farrier visits.
Shasta has been described as a hackney mix, half donkey, or Icelandic. Last year, 50 mane hairs were sent to Texas A&M for DNA testing. He is 1) Caspian, 2) Galiceno, 3) Shetland Pony. He lets out a happy squeal when he kicks and bucks with Snickers, his best buddy. He likes to watch us in the garden on weekends. He is curious and engaged, and we all believe he has the willingness and intelligence to overcome his fear and defenses with continued training and human interaction.
It is amazing to reflect back on the changes he has made since he first arrived at Love Creek Farm in March 2008. Over the past years, he is a different horse and tries so hard to trust people. He is a pleasure to have on the farm. Just by adopting this one rescue horse, we have learned so much about the challenges involved with helping abused and neglected animals.