The horse smelled of infection and decay. Carrie Young runs a horse rescue in Hudson and this was the worst she had seen. The 11-year-old horse should have weighed 1,100 pounds. When Young got her on Jan. 21 from a home in Moon Lake, it weighed barely 700 pounds — her ribs and pelvis jutting sharp beneath her skin, which was covered in dirt and fungus. Her ears had been bitten and torn by a dog. She had abscesses in her hooves and on her legs. She was shaky, weak. And her face. It oozed blood and puss. A tumor that could have been treated easily when it was small had grown around her cheek and eye socket, moving dangerously close to her eye. "I cried when I saw her," Young said.
Young coaxed the horse into a trailer and managed to get her to the 'Ohana Ranch and Rescue, which Young has operated for three years. She named this horse Isabelle.
Young says she has rescued and found homes for 50 horses. She said 'Ohana is a Hawaiian name for family.
She works with the Pasco Sheriff's Office and county animal control to save abused horses. The Sheriff's Office is investigating Isabelle's previous owners. No charges have been filed, said William Batten, a corporal with the agricultural unit.
The day after Isabelle came to the rescue she nearly died. She collapsed, her head sticking out beneath the wooden slats of her stall. Young and her son ripped the wooden planks apart and gave Isabelle a shot of pain medication.
"You are not going to die," Young told her. "Fight. You can do this."
Young said it seemed as though Isabelle gathered whatever bit of strength she had left. With Young supporting her, Isabelle got up. She had been without food and water for so long that Young had to ease the horse into eating again — a handful of grain and a bit of water, every two hours for the first week. Young gave her shots of penicillin, mixed pain medication into her food. She bathed and brushed the horse and controlled swelling with ice water. She bought lavender scented Epsom salts to soak Isabelle's tender hooves. Isabelle's coat began falling off in patches, which was good — the rotted fungus was dying.
Isabelle started smelling like a horse again.
"I've never met a horse like her," Young said.
Isabelle started putting on weight — about 75 pounds so far. Young is trying to build back her muscles and takes her for slow walks. Isabelle, at first, refused to go out of the pasture gate.
"It was like she thought she was leaving," Young said.
She's still hesitant. But Young continues to teach her that this is her home. She will always come back. For all the abuse she's been through, "she's such a sweet soul," Young said.
The intense therapy — in the cold and rain — ended up putting Young, 52, in the hospital for two days with bronchial pneumonia. As soon as she was released, she was back at her 6-acre ranch, doting on Isabelle. Young lives there with her husband and son. Her husband is a mason and works part time with a moving company. Young said she spent years investigating and finding people who owe money for finance companies, but now devotes all of her time to the horses. Right now, she has six. Somehow, the money she needs to take care of them comes through. She scours yard sales and thrift shops to sell things on eBay when things get tight.
"I've learned to become very resourceful," she said.
But this is the first time, she says, she's asked the public for donations. Isabelle is scheduled for surgery to remove the tumor on her face at Surgi-Care Center for Horses in Brandon. The cost is $2,200.
"I just don't have it," Young said. "I wish I did."
Young has been standing on the corner of State Road 52 and U.S. 19 with photos of Isabelle, asking for donations. She got about $130. She's planning a large yard sale and she's put two of her own horses up for sale.
She loves them and never planned on letting them go.
"They don't need me," Young said, "but Isabelle does."
She's taking Isabelle to Surgi-Care on March 16, so doctors can get her prepped for surgery the next day.
Depending on the depth of the tumor, Isabelle might lose her eye.
"But that's okay," Young said. "She can live a long, happy life with one eye."
The only important thing is that she survives, Young said.
"She's a fighter."
Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.