GREENWOOD — Jim and Kathy Hart of HartSong Ranch Animal Sanctuary recently obtained a new addition to their fauna in Greenwood.
“Clipper,” a retired racehorse, arrived at HartSong on Friday, Aug. 12. He was found by accident at a ranch in Kelsey nearly starved to death when the Thomas family of Georgetown went to purchase two other horses.
“When the family learned that the owner of Clipper was going to destroy him, they decided to take him rather than buy the other two horses,” said Kathy Hart. “When they got him home and took off the blanket (that he had on when they first saw him), he had no hair.” Hart estimated he may have had the blanket on his back for as long as two years.
New to horses, the Thomas family — consisting of Tabby, Terry, Kyle, 15, Cameron, 13, Jeffrey, 9, Vincent, 10, and Savannah, 14 — realized within a couple of months that they had bit off more than they could chew.
Clipper had been placed in an unlevel paddock at the Thomas home, and with both adults working and children not at home, Tabby (the mother) returned home one afternoon to find Clipper had fallen down a 45-degree slope and rolled into “hot wire.”
“I was just in tears,” said Tabby, manager at Tom’s Sierra in Garden Valley. “I knelt beside him and pleaded with him to please get up. I turned my head for just a few seconds (to speak to her children) and heard rustling behind me. When I turned back he had gotten up and let out this most incredible nay. I knew right then that our paddock was not safe for him. I felt Clipper was not going to make it; I’ve never seen an animal that bad.
“I told myself if he makes it through the night, it would be a miracle,” Tabby added. “The next morning he was standing in his paddock looking at us with that ‘Hey, aren’t you gonna feed me’ look.”
The Thomas family had Clipper at their property near Buffalo Hill Center for two months, and in that time he gained 200 pounds, but the family knew he needed more care than they would be able to provide.
Son Cameron, 13, who highly bonded with Clipper, had attended a field trip to HartSong Ranch Animal Sanctuary a while back, and told his mother maybe they should call them.
“I went back and forth with Kathy,” said Tabby, wanting desperately to connect with HartSong. The Harts were unavailable for personal family reasons, but finally Tabby reached Kathy and the wheels began to turn for both Clipper and the Thomas family.
“We thought, ‘How could we do this? How could we not take him,’” said Kathy. “HartSong is a non-profit and we’re always strapped for cash, but we sent out an urgent plea for help and the donations started coming in. The response was incredible.”
The Harts picked up Clipper that Friday and placed him in an isolation pasture. According to Tabby, he knew he was “home” when they let him out of the trailer.
“He went into the trailer so willingly,” she said, “and when he got out, he looked around calmly. Now, he can relax. He is where he will spend the rest of his life.”
“The Thomases are the heroes in this story,” said Kathy. “They made two right choices: first, remove the animal (from its previous digs), and second, they asked for help. Tabby called me for two months and didn’t give up. I’m proud of her tenacity.”
Although the family is torn between losing him and having saved his life, they know that Clipper is in a good place now. He was evaluated by Scott McIntosh, DVM, through the courtesy of Beverly Chapman, and according to Dr. McIntosh, Clipper was not found to be a sickly horse, just starving. His body conditioning score was the worst it could be at No. 1 (0 is “dead”), his eyes were found to be “exceptionally clear” considering his condition, his teeth were found to be in pretty good shape, he has no lameness (but extreme muscle loss), and a rectal exam found no tumors.
“Clipper is at least 400 pounds underweight,” said Dr. McIntosh, who estimated his current weight at 800 pounds.
A thin racing horse should weigh in at 1,200 pounds, but a healthy thoroughbred weighs approximately 1,400 pounds, according to Terry, a Marine Corps veteran and former helicopter pilot for 20 years.
“Carolyn at Cool Feed is to be thanked for providing us with the right diet and right medicated shampoo for Clipper,” Terry added. “She deserves a special thanks for giving us the correct information.”
While the family had no information on Clipper’s racing history, a woman by the name of Christine Boyd, who is very familiar with the rescue of two other thoroughbreds, is currently researching that part of his life. According to Hart, thoroughbreds are tattooed on the inside of their upper lip, and Boyd knows how to read them and how to track the parentage.
So far she has been able to read all but one of Clipper’s tattooed digits, and the findings are amazing. A bay male racehorse by the name of Clipper was registered born in May 1988 in Kentucky, and this finding appears to match Clipper’s age of early-20s. If, in fact, he is the same Clipper, Hart said his parentage can be traced back to the great Man-O-War, a winner of the Triple Crown.
“I feel like I have had a celebrity at my house,” said Tabby, even though the lineage has not been confirmed. “He has a very big heart; as a horse lover and a mom, I couldn’t leave him (at the former ranch).
“Everybody that has donated, we are so grateful; without their help, Clipper would not be here,” she added.
For the Thomas family, Clipper is a bond that will never be broken. They have vowed to volunteer at HartSong and helped to secure his fences and paddock the day after he arrived at his new home.
“The daily process with him is an educational process you can’t learn (anywhere else),” said Terry. “He taught the children a totally different outlook on animals.” The family is even working on a book.
“It’s going to be a children’s book,” said Tabby, “and we’ll sell it as a fundraiser for HartSong. The kids are drawing pictures. He has a story to tell and we get to be his voice.”