Equine Rescue of Aiken, which takes care of unwanted horses and tries to find homes for them, has experienced a baby boom this year. Four foals have been born at the organization's headquarters on Glenwood Drive.
“It's absolutely the most ever,” said Jim Rhodes, Equine Rescue's farm manager. “In the past, we've had maybe one baby every two years or so. We're definitely not in the breeding business because there are too many horses out there to begin with.”
One of the youngsters belongs to one of Rhodes' friends.
“The owner asked to board the mother here because we have a foaling stall,” Rhodes said.
But the other three foals and their mamas are Equine Rescue's charges, and the goal is for them to be adopted.
“We've made a commitment to these horses, and we're going to do our best by them,” Rhodes said.
The newest foal is a sturdy filly named Summer, who was born on June 26. Her mother, September, is a Belgian draft horse.
Rhodes found September at a New Jersey auction house, where many of the horses sold end up being slaughtered for human consumption. He went there last year with a truck and trailer to pick up two Thoroughbred mares that had been rescued by horse lovers.
When asked by the auction house's proprietor if he would be willing to take another Thoroughbred mare, Rhodes said, “Yes.” Then, knowing he had room for one more horse in his trailer, Rhodes went looking for another animal to help.
“I looked over in the corner and saw this skinny draft horse mare,” Rhodes said. “Her ribs were showing, and her skin condition was poor. She had been an Amish plow horse, and you could see the collar scars on her chest. There was just something about her. She looked like she was asking for help.”
Rhodes also thought the mare might be appealing as an adoption prospect.
“We have a huge driving community in Aiken, and I felt like she could potentially pull someone's carriage,” he said. “We named her September because that's when she arrived here.”
After spending time in quarantine to make sure she didn't have any contagious diseases, September was turned out in a pasture.
“A couple of volunteers and I noticed that she was putting on weight pretty quickly, which isn't typical; usually it's a slower process,” Rhodes said. “When I looked at her one day, I noticed that the milk vein coming up her side was prominent. That's when I thought that she might be pregnant.”
A veterinary exam later confirmed that suspicion.
Because nobody knew for sure when September's due date was, Rhodes decided to keep her in a sand paddock, where she could be monitored more closely. But September never showed any of the usual signs that indicate a birth is imminent.
“Early one morning we found the baby; the mare did it all on her own without any help,” Rhodes said. “When I walked into the paddock, the baby came right up to me, and it was like she was thinking, ‘Hey, how are you doing?' She was very friendly, and I feel like she's going to be very sweet when she's grown.”
Also available for adoption at Equine Rescue are the Thoroughbred mare Uptown Boots and her colt, which was born in March. The people at the farm where Uptown Boots came from had bred her, but they didn't think she was pregnant.
The other mare and foal at Equine Rescue needing a home are Tatum Creek, who is a Thoroughbred, and her filly, whose father is a Welsh pony.
“The babies create an added expense for us, but you've got to love them,” Rhodes said. “They are some of the cutest babies in the world.”
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013.