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South End equine enthusiasts save M-Bar-C horse

Lily Winters, Nancy Haas, Dale Kerslake, Marilyn Mahoney and Jim Haas were just a handful of people who volunteered to save Folly, a miniature horse at the M-Bar-C Ranch in Freeland, after she became ill with sand colic. - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Lily Winters, Nancy Haas, Dale Kerslake, Marilyn Mahoney and Jim Haas were just a handful of people who volunteered to save Folly, a miniature horse at the M-Bar-C Ranch in Freeland, after she became ill with sand colic.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

FREELAND — A little horse caused lots of worry at the M-Bar-C Ranch recently.

Folly, a 20-year-old miniature horse, had eaten grass from the wrong pasture and developed sand colic at the end of March. Thanks to 20 volunteers and a couple of veterinarians, Folly was back at the horse ranch last week chomping on grass, taking naps where she stood and bossing her pal Tea Biscuit, a Shetland pony, around their penned-in area.

“People stepped up and volunteered their time to flush out IV bags, change IV bags and walk her in the middle of the night,” said Dale Kerslake, the ranch’s director.

After Folly was diagnosed with sand colic, which stemmed from the horse eating too much sand that she couldn’t digest, Kerslake sent out a bulk email to volunteers with the ranch. The condition can be deadly to large horses, which are unable to vomit the sand that was slowly destroying her colon. Kerslake was surprised when she received so many responses from willing participants to sit in the School House barn with Folly to empty and change her IV bags.

“It was a whole week of riding the wave,” Kerslake said.

One of the volunteers made a connection with Folly prior to her illness. Marilyn Mahoney had worked once a week feeding the horses, and said she fell in love with the tiny, pearl white horse. A former horse owner, Mahoney watched Folly during the midnight to 4 a.m. and 4 to 8 a.m. shifts.

“I just couldn’t let a little animal not have attention,” Mahoney said. “I never had to do this for my horse, but I saw it in fellow horses.”

As Mahoney and another volunteer sat in the heated barn, they would play Scrabble with Folly’s head resting on her lap. The time proved valuable for Mahoney to connect with fellow M-Bar-C volunteers and equine enthusiasts.

“You got to know people that you didn’t know that well,” she said. “Everybody pitched in.”

Folly made the mistake of eating the wrong grass. Near her stable, closer to Shore Meadow Avenue than the offices, the grass had been uprooted and most of what was left was short or surrounded by dirt and sand. Hay was placed nearby for her to munch on, but Kerslake said a horse’s natural inclination is to eat grass, not hay. That didn’t stop Folly, who has a voracious appetite. An unusually cold and wet spring led to the grass coming up with the roots and dirt clumps.

“Because it’s been so wet, that contributed to it,” Kerslake said.

When Folly’s condition improved, Oak Harbor veterinarian Sandy Farris had Kerslake bring her to the clinic. She was given oil, grain and a Metamucil-like product to help collect the sand in her stomach and colon before passing it.

The diligent effort to save Folly stemmed from the ranch’s mission to provide therapy to young people, especially with special needs. Folly pulls a pony cart and can even be saddled for kids lighter than 40 pounds.

“Mostly the kids like to brush her,” Kerslake said. “Little horses like little people.”

Miniature horses can live to be 30 years old, and after another week of antibiotics, Folly should receive a clean bill of health and have plenty of years left to whinny, cart kids around and chomp on the lush grasses at M-Bar-C Ranch.

 

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