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Platinum Performance Horse Welfare Awards

Nickname: Gracie Girl, Gracie-Doodle, Gracie
Birth Year: 2005. Gender: Mare. Breed: Hackney Pony.
Affiliated with Refuge Farms, Inc., Horse Rescue & Sanctuary .

Horse's background – Prior to arrival at Refuge Farms, Grace was a disappointment to her owner and thus put into the calf pen to live. The owner had plans of pairing her with her half-sister for a team of ponies to pull a small cart. Her blindness, caused by blows to her eyes on equipment in the pasture, was cause for rejection of the horse and thus she was put “out of sight” until the calves were old enough to be sold, with Gracie included.

The calf pen was an outside pen with no shelter provided. Thus, the grounds could be muddy, icy, snow covered, or baked hard, depending upon the time of year. The pony’s feet suffered greatly from the degree of wetness she stood in without reprieve or trimmings.

Horse's personality and temperament - To say Grace arrived at Refuge Farms as a stubborn little horse is an understatement. The pony had a halter on her head although she had not been trained for leading, backing, loading, or standing tied. Gracie insisted on walking a step at a time and backing was not an option – she simply stiffened her legs and “allowed” you to push her back.

Having had no handling, the mare had a tendency to show her teeth if she became irritated with your touch. Surprisingly, however, she accepted vaccinations and deworming completely. The presence of feed in front of her was such a treat and something this little horse initially valued to the point that she would place her two front feet in the feed bucket and then eat around her feet. She would not step out of the bucket until her feed was consumed.
To accommodate this behavior, we purchased a three-foot round black rubber feeder bucket which gave Grace room for her feet and also her feed. That feeder bucket was eventually removed, a little at a time, and Gracie now eats out of a wall-hanging feeder.

Farrier visits initially were a battle. Again, Grace would stiffen her legs and fight the pressure of the trimming or simply tip over the soaking bucket and walk out of it. To counter this behavior, between trims we worked on lifting and rasping a bit every day and we began soakings with low dish pans, gradually moving to deep buckets. Today, Gracie stands well for her trims and soakings.

Type of services, disciplines or activities performed by the horse – The primary role for Gracie at Refuge Farms is as a class horse for our “Horses Helping . . .“ program for at-risk teens. This program consists of multiple classes, each up to three hours in length, where Gracie (and other Refuge Farms horses in the class) is asked by a novice horse handler to walk, back up, stand, turn, and load into a trailer. The classes are held on the grounds of Refuge Farms and include activities on a gravel driveway, a grassy paddock, as well as a rubber-floored ramp and trailer. Gracie is limited to one (1) class per week due to her hoof tenderness. Several students would gladly accept Gracie as their class horse if we were able to increase Gracie’s level of participation.

Gracie’s diet is limited to Buckeye Safe ‘N Easy mixed with Buckeye Grow ‘n Win Alfa for vitamin and mineral support with additives of Manna Pro’s Cool 100 for weight gain and VitaFlex’s Selenium & Vitamin E supplements for constant hoof healing. In her time with us, we have eliminated all cracks and waves in her hooves; however, her lamina is easily bruised on hard grounds. To support her hooves, we have purchased winter boots with silicone pads that Gracie wears when walking on frozen or icy grounds. The selenium and vitamin E supplements have improved the appearance of her lamina and freed up her walking, but the farrier feels there is much more room for improvement in the strength of her hoof as well as the bruising of her lamina.

Why the horse would benefit from Platinum Performance products – Reviewing the Platinum Performance products, we see several products that would greatly benefit Gracie’s overall health as well as her continued hoof issues.
Specifically, Gracie is in need of an overall hoof and lamina supplement to allow growth of new hoof that is strong and solid as well as increase circulation and healing of the lamina. Any hoof/lamina supplement would be given with the additional support of her boots and pads for the hard grounds or rocky surfaces. Platinum Performance has three products that support healthy hooves.

Since the rectal prolapse, we are very cautious about what Grace consumes and we log her output – volume and consistency with frequency – every day. Any feed base or supplement to increase the reliability of her gut performance as well as insure lower gut health would be a great support to her overall health and thus her very life.

Poor absorption and processing of feed, of course, means the entire system is weakened. As a result, we use Vets Plus Probios paste to assist her system in strength of her immune system and overall health. This product could easily be replaced with a more specifically developed equine pro-bios product and thereby improve the benefit of the feeds and supplements being consumed. Platinum Performance Bio-Sponge seems like it would work in this situation.

It is a daily challenge to keep weight on Gracie and not have her ribs easily visible. Cool 100 is being used now as a pure fat supplement. A weight builder like Platinum Performance’s Healthy Weight that supports healthy internal systems would be an improvement in our supports to Gracie. (Farnam’s Weight Builder is a product that Gracie leaves in the feeder.)

Lastly, as Gracie ages, we believe her joints will need supports. To attack that issue now and be in front of it with a good overall joint support product would delay any reduction in her movements and hopefully any pains associated. Platinum Performance has 12 products supporting healthy joints.

In working with Platinum Performance personnel, I’m sure a product or combination of products could be identified that would support the hoof needs, the gut precautions, arthritic precautions, and the need for added muscle and weight for Grace. Grace - and her supporters and fans plus future at-risk teens - would be the ones to benefit by having a healthy Gracie at Refuge Farms for a long, long time.

Relationship of Nominator to Nominee
I have been a volunteer with Refuge Farms, a horse rescue located in Spring Valley, Wisconsin, since 2007. I am leery of large horses so my first “love” at Refuge Farms was actually a rescue dog named Keller. He was just the right size! He had been fed anti-freeze so I knew he wouldn’t live long, but after watching a volunteer feed him yogurt to sooth his tummy, I was on board to help whatever rescued animals needed assistance at Refuge Farms.
I soon discovered a horse at Refuge Farms who was “just the right size”, too. The year before I was introduced to Refuge Farms, a hackney pony became a member of The Sanctuary Herd – severely neglected and abused horses who are promised a forever home, food and care at Refuge Farms for as long as they live. That pony had quite a backstory.
She arrived at Refuge Farms on February 10, 2006, as a favor to a cattle hauler named Sonny, who was a Friend of Refuge Farms. He needed a place to put a young yearling pony – baby teeth still partially intact - who had been penned in with a load of cattle he had just picked up. “Just a place to hold her for the weekend,” Sonny told Sandy Gilbert, Refuge Farms Executive Director. Frankly, Sonny wasn’t quite sure what to do with the pony. When Sonny informed the owner of the cattle that “There’s a horse in there”, the owner simply replied, “It’s your horse now”.
Sandy agreed to open a box stall to Sonny and soon a very thin, filthy and shaking hackney pony made her way out of Sonny’s cattle trailer. Each step took effort on the little horse’s part, but she was persistent. She would smell the ground, lift her head and listen, then take a single step. Forward progress was attained only through repetition of this routine.
Once in the temporary stall, the little horse was calm, but it was obvious to Sandy that her feet were painful to her, her eyes no longer provided vision, she was dehydrated and very thin, and her body was coated in cow manure from the tip of her nose to the very end of her tail.
Sandy visited the little horse early the next morning and realized she needed to make a decision. If this emaciated, stinking little horse with the deformed feet and blind eyes got back into Sonny’s trailer, she’d not have much of a future. In fact, given her physical challenges, she’d most likely be killed. Sandy says about that day, “I sensed a peace about her, even though she had already endured so much in her short life. I believed she would add a touch of grace to our barns. Right then in my heart, I named her Grace and decided to ask Sonny if she could stay with Refuge Farms.”
Since those days, I have watched Grace work her magic on volunteers and visitors. And me.
Visiting children are immediately drawn to her. After all, little Gracie is pretty much their size. The kids only have to be told once that Grace is blind – they are then so careful: letting Gracie smell them before they begin to interact with her, offering her bits of hay and petting her. Grace loves the attention, but stands her ground. She’s never been one to back up – literally and figuratively.
Older kids and adults also enjoy Gracie. Many of the “at-risk teens” that have completed Refuge Farms’ “Horses Helping . . .” program with Gracie as their class horse continue to visit Refuge Farms, just to see Grace. Grace is also pretty mellow in new situations. She typically participates as a walk-along with the Refuge Farms Blind Horse Parade Unit. Last year, I found her a sparkly fabric crown so she could take her place as “Parade Princess”. She accepted her new bling with no problem.
I really enjoy watching Grace/Gracie/Gracie Girl interact with the rest of The Sanctuary Herd. She is the smallest horse in The Herd, but she has the biggest attitude. The Herd has a mix of blind and sighted horses and they all give Grace her space. The other horses just eat around her when she takes her daily nap in the hay.
Grace had a tough start - her early months being spent in a calf pen seem to have taken their toll. No vaccinations or dewormings were performed prior to her coming to Refuge Farms. She wore a halter, but no one trained her to lead. Her hooves had broken off and were deeply cracked up into the hairline as well as extremely soft due to the deep, constantly wet grounds she had lived in.
These issues were addressed upon her arrival at Refuge Farms, but her health challenges weren’t over. An emergency surgery was required when Gracie developed an eye hemorrhage. Then, in January of 2017, Grace developed a rectal prolapse and, with the expert support of Dr. Rande Blanchard, DVM, Gracie recovered nicely and barely has a scar from any of the rectal sutures.
I admire Gracie Girl for her grit, her sturdiness, and her ability to keep her chin up and roll with what life has thrown at her. I also am grateful to her for helping me relate more comfortably to horses of every size!
[Note: I have asked Sandra Gilbert to provide information to answer the following questions area since she has cared for Gracie since her arrival at Refuge Farms. As volunteer, I am not involved in Grace’s day-to-day care so felt that Sandy could describe the little horse’s background and needs in better detail than I could.] -- Robyn L Feld