Farm Resident Profile: Scooby, formerly known as Split
Since most of you haven't had the privilege of meeting our residents in person, we thought running a profile of a selected resident a few times a year might be a good idea. Scooby, the amazing rescue horse, was the natural place to start.
Why is he amazing, you ask? Does he jump 4 foot fences? No. Does he have perfect conformation? Far from it. Scooby is amazing because every single day he makes us think about the big things, the deep things, the things that matter. Read on to see why he’s amazing and why we know he was meant for Jolly Folly Farm.
Scooby is an OTTB (Off Track Thoroughbred). He, along with about 30,000 other foals, was born into the racing industry in 2002. Like so many TBs, he has a famous ancestor. One of his great-great-grandpas happens to be Secretariat (known to Virginians as Big Red). This doesn’t make him special; most any OTTB can claim racing royalty in their lineage. As a yearling, he sold for $5,500. As a 2-year-old, he sold again for $18,000. He raced until 2008 earning only $15,000 in his career.
After he disappeared from the racing radar in 2008, he resurfaced in 2015, but not in happy circumstances. Yes, he had avoided slaughter (more than 100,000 U.S. horses are inhumanely transported abroad and slaughtered for food each year). Sadly, though, he somehow ended up at a place called Peaceable Farms here in Central Virginia. It was anything but peaceable. People had been reporting animal cruelty at the farm for more than a year by the time an animal seizure took place in the fall of 2015. The widespread neglect and abuse exploded over our local news (and even made some national news).
When the Peaceable Farms cruelty case made the news, we had just closed on the purchase of our farm. We wanted to do anything and everything we could to help the Peaceable Farm rescues and we knew with a lot of work, our acres could help some horses. We checked into having fence put up; hiring a small area of horse fence for installation would be $30,000. With that exorbitant price, we knew we were going to have to do it ourselves and we knew by the time our middle-aged bodies could get that done, the Peaceable Farms horses would have homes. We donated what we could to the cause and moved on with the work to be done.
Fast forward more than a year. Having renovated the home and installed human tenants who needed a bit of help, we began work on the fields that had been neglected for years and years. We learned first-hand why much of the cost of a fence is the labor: it’s a time consuming and physically grueling process to put up high quality, no-climb fencing safe for horses, goats and sheep. We finally had gates and a 4-stall run-in shed that would eventually become an 8-stall barn. Each evening and weekend as we worked on the property, we wondered what God had planned for it and we were curious to see what would happen.
We entertained the idea of rescuing horses from a local auction known for the presence of kill buyers, but we didn’t feel our horse sense was yet sharp enough to make that a best first option. Because the Peaceable Farms travesty was the impetus for us to imagine helping horses at the farm, we went back to look for the names of the rescues that helped those horses. By adopting and re-homing a horse from them, we could free up their stall space and resources so the professionals could rescue more animals.
Maya Proulx at Hope’s Legacy had been one of the more frequently interviewed rescuers during the Peaceable Farms tragedy and when I explained our situation she said she’d love to adopt a horse to us, but that she didn’t currently have any she thought would be a good fit with kids. I said thanks and continued looking online.
I then found an old post on the Hope’s Legacy website of a horse who was more “whoa than go.” He was 18 years old according to the post (older than we had hoped for in a first horse) but I asked her about him.
“Oh,” she said. “I forgot about Split, he’s in foster care. He might be an option. I could show him to you on Sunday morning.”
That’s when kismet kicked into high gear. Normally, we wouldn’t be free on a Sunday morning, but THAT Sunday morning our pastor was gone on a mission trip so wouldn’t be preaching. This horse was originally listed as age 18, but upon investigation, we discovered he was younger (he was 15 – about the same age as our son, actually). And, he was a Peaceable Farms survivor! He was one of the horses who had inspired us to make a home for equine in need.
When we met him that Sunday, we discovered why he was named Split. A split in his front hoof requires him to wear shoes, but doesn’t affect his soundness for most types of light pleasure riding. Each rider that took a turn on him was welcome. He even fell asleep with a rider sitting on his back chatting away, but would still trot and did a bit of a canter when asked. Most of the adoptable Peaceable Farms horses that were candidates for adoption had found forever homes long ago, but he was still waiting. With us, he would never be a show horse, never be in competition, but he would be loved and we felt privileged to be able to love him. He and his abused pasturemates were the inspiration that pushed us to transform our property. It was obvious he had been waiting for us and we had been waiting for him.
A week later he came to live with us. This horse who had been only a disposable commodity in his infancy as a racer showed a keen interest and affection toward us. We actually had to shoo him away when using the chainsaw because he liked to be in the middle of whatever was going on. Opening a gate for a tractor brings him running. Digging a hole prompted him to come nibble on the back of our coats. Each day he greeted us with his head over the gate: calm but interested and grateful for cuddles.
You should know that in his adulthood, at Peaceable Farms, he was witness and victim of abuse by humans, the extent of which we will never really understand. What we do know is that years later, people who responded to the scene are still dealing with the images they saw there – horrific and haunting. We know the owner was taking in animals as a rescue, then starving them to death through neglect and lack of veterinary care. In addition, she had her own breeding program, so reports told of dead and starved animals in some fields, with her own horses receiving food and water in other fields. Horses know and sense and understand fear, pain, suffering and love. They are herd animals. What went on in the tortured minds of the horses is difficult to imagine. To be starving and seeing another horse eat can warp an animal’s mind and drive a wedge between them and humans – but not so with this horse. We have no idea exactly how long he was there or what his personal experience there was, but we know it had to be terrible.
He, however, is a gentleman horse and nothing could change that. Large and forgiving, sweet and determined, occasionally stubborn or possessive – but always a delight. We knew he needed a new name because it didn’t fit to name him after his physical defect. While he was adjusting to life at Jolly Folly Farm, we gave him treats when he came, gave him treats for standing to have his feet picked, gave him treats for standing still for grooming. After only a few days, this smart boy discovered which humans were treat dispensers and he showed he would do anything for a treat (even try and remove your jacket with his nose to get at them). He followed us around the field and would play with us if we urged him on. One day, we looked up while working on the barn, and laughed to see our 4’10” daughter walk by with an 1100-pound, 16.1-hand horse following her like a dog.
“That horse will do anything for a treat!” I said. “He’s a treat monster!”
“He’s like Scooby-Doo with the Scooby snacks,” Tom said. “We should name him Scooby.” And so he was.
Hopefully now you can probably see why Scooby makes us think about the big things. He was bred as a possession, then discarded, then neglected. But when he was rescued, he stoically looked forward without anger or bitterness. Every single day we look at him and think of what he went through; it makes us shudder and we are reminded of man's inhumanity. But we also gaze into his eyes and marvel at the depth of love and forgiveness that is possible. We watch him run and are overcome by the power of resilience and an animal’s survival instinct. We see all these things in him because we know him and we know some of his story. Now that you know a little about him, we hope you can see these things, too. And we hope that if you find room in your heart for a new pet -- whether it is a guinea pig, a dog, or a horse -- that you will think of Scooby, the world’s most huggable horse, and #adoptdontshop – because when you choose a rescue, the gift you give is dwarfed by the one you receive!