The story of one "unwanted" horse.
Habitat for Horses Rescues Horse Missing For 11 Years
HITCHCOCK, TX / Mar 19 2007 --
Janine Neumann spent 11 years looking for the horse that she loved
and lost. Just two weeks ago, on a cold Missouri morning, "Dee"
stepped from a trailer and back into the loving arms and heart of a
woman who never gave up searching for her.
Dee was her nickname for 'Risky Decision,' the two year-old
granddaughter of "Seattle Slew," who was separated from Neumann on
a fateful day in 1996. It was an accidental separation and after
the long years of being away she is finally home. It is a story
that is nothing short of a miracle, sprinkled with the fairy-tale
magic of 'long ago and far away.' It is the 'happily ever
after' part that is just now being written.
Janine Neumann was the first person to ever lay hands on the
Illinois-bred weanling. She brought her home to Missouri, halter-
trained her and eventually trained her to ride.
'I trained her as a pleasure horse, not as a race horse,' says
Neumann. 'But she was magnificent.'
Given Dee's bloodlines, Neumann decided to pay her fees for her to
start her racing career. Dee was going to race. A few entries into
her start at racing, something happened that would ultimately take
her away from Neumann: she flipped in the gate and injured her back
leg. Although she received treatment and time to heal, things just
weren't the same.
When Neumann's trainer suggested that they should put Dee in a
claiming race so she could win, it seemed like a good idea. The
plan backfired. They didn't see what would happen next coming.
Someone stepped up and claimed the filly and horse was taken away
'We didn't think she would be claimed. Presumably it happened
because of her bloodlines,' says Neumann.
Neumann immediately tried to get her filly back, but the purchaser
wouldn't budge. Despite her best efforts to trail the horse, she
lost track of her. Neumann emailed the Jockey Club every month, but
privacy issues prevented disclosure of the whereabouts of the
horse. Neumann searched every Thoroughbred rescue organization she
could find looking for the filly to no avail. Nearly 11 years
later, she was still looking. Last fall, when she checked for the
horse with the Jockey Club, Risky Decision was no longer in their
records. Neumann was heartbroken. Perhaps her horse was dead.
What Neumann had no way of knowing was this: In February of 2006,
Habitat for Horses, based in Texas and the largest equine rescue of
its kind, received a call from the Sheriff's office in Anderson
County, Texas. The local animal control office had received
complaints about a starved, neglected horse. The horse was seized,
Habitat for Horses was awarded custody and 'Velvet' began her
long road to recovery. No one could have imagined that hundreds of
miles away, someone was looking for this sad, skinny horse -
someone who loved her dearly - someone who had never stopped
looking for her.
Jerry Finch, president of Habitat for Horses talks plainly about
what the group does.
'Velvet was severely neglected, probably near death. She didn't
deserve that. None of the horses that come to us do. We are a group
of individuals who choose to stand beside them - to offer our help
and strength in a world in which they have no say.'
With anywhere from 325 to 350 horses in their care, it is clear
that the group, who operates entirely on donated funds and
volunteers, is dedicated to that mission.
Finally time and chance fell together for Neumann and her now-grown
filly, but the catalyst was a sad one: in 2006, a horrible accident
on I-44 in Missouri. A truckload of horses bound for the
slaughterhouse in DeKalb, Illinois overturned. The misery of their
plight and the tragedy received national attention. It prompted
Neumann to search for horse rescues to support. That's when she
found 'Habitat for Horses.'
'In January of 2007, I was on the organization' s Web site, and I
ran across a picture of a horse they called 'Velvet.' It looked
like Dee - I just knew. I e-mailed Habitat for Horses and told the
group I thought 'Velvet' was my horse.'
Neumann asked Habitat to check the mare for a scar on her back leg.
She did. They photographed it and sent the picture to Neumann.
'I knew from the moment I saw the pictures on her leg - but
really, I knew even before that. The scar really did it. It's an L-
shape on the back of her back pastern. It's very distinctive,'
says Neumann. The news was amazing: 'Velvet' was 'Dee.'
Neumann began the adoption process. In the interim she learned that
Dee had been seized by law enforcement, just skin and bones. Two
foster homes later, Deewas back to a healthy weight. She was out of
harm's way. She was, once again, magnificent.
On February 27, 2007, 'Velvet' aka 'Risky Decision' came home.
The shipping van arrived at the barn at a quarter 'til five in the
morning. In the dark, when the ramp dropped down on the trailer for
unloading, the now 16.2 hh, 1250 pound bay mare seemed frightened.
Then her eyes fell on Janine Neumann.
'Her eyes met me. She never let them leave me while they unloaded
her. I put her in the stall and before she drank water, ate hay or
did anything, she came to me and just rested her head and cheek
against my chest. Just the look in her eyes,' Neumann says in a
After all Velvet/Dee has been through, she has adapted amazingly
well. Neumann says she is a little standoffish with people she
When Neumann is asked just why she never gave up, she answers quickly.
'Because she is my girl and I never could forget her. I did
everything with her. We were bonded. All horses have big beautiful
brown eyes, but she looks into your soul.'
Finally, the big bay mare is getting the best of everything she
needs. Neumann says that for the rest of Dee's life, they will be
'Habitat for Horses allowed me to be reunited with my girl. They
literally saved her life. I thank the group for what it does every
single day. It's a miracle that I found her.'
Today 'Risky Decision' is doing just fine. And as hard as the
last 11 years have been, the rest of the story is easy. It goes
like this: 'the big gorgeous bay mare, once again magnificent,
lived happily ever after.'
Habitat for Horses (HfH) is a not-for-profit equine protection
agency committed to the prevention, rescue and rehabilitation of
neglected and abused horses. The largest organization of its kind
in North America, HfH operates a rehabilitation ranch in Hitchcock,
Texas, as well as a growing network of foster homes throughout
Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Tennessee, and Louisiana. The
organization has taken a leadership role in horse protection issues
and has been instrumental in developing and promoting legislation
to eliminate the slaughter of American horses.
Contact: Valerie Kennedy, Director of Public Relations, Habitat for
1.866.434.5737, ext. 8 or [email protected]
A man of kindness, to his beast is kind.
But, brutal actions, show a brutal mind:
Remember, He who made thee, made the brute,
Who gave thee speech and reason, formed him mute;
He can't complain, but God's omniscient eye
Beholds thy cruelty - He hears his cry!
He was designed thy servant; not thy drudge,
But know - That his Creator is thy judge.
Unknown author from The Ladies' Equestrian Guide, 1857.