COPPERAS COVE — The blind Appaloosa gelding and his sighted companion mare recently taken in by Habitat for Horses are doing well in their foster home.

The two horses, which had been picked up as strays in Ellis County, were donated to the nonprofit equine rescue by the sheriff’s office after no one bid on them at auction Dec. 4.

The organization’s goal is for the two horses – which share a strong bond – to remain together for the remainder of their lives.

“These two are just made for each other,” said Melissa Thompson, owner of Thomboy Farms Equestrian Center in Copperas Cove, where the gelding and mare are being fostered.

Thompson, who works with Habitat as a volunteer and equine investigator, is overseeing the two horses’ care.

The Appaloosa is believed to be about 22 years old, with the mare about age 5. A veterinarian has determined the gelding is permanently blind, probably due to a prior infection, but otherwise he is in good health, Thompson said. The mare, who had some lameness in her left rear stifle when she was caught as a stray, was also displaying a lameness in her right front hoof the morning of the auction.

Shy and not easily handled, once the mare arrived in Copperas Cove, Thompson and her staff were able to halter her, with a vet removing a screw and washer that had embedded itself up in the frog of her hoof. That was removed and she is undergoing treatment at this time to heal the wound, Thompson said.

“He’s sweet and doesn’t have any health problems other than his sight,” Thompson said. “He’s just a dream and a delight. And every day she’s letting us mess with her a little bit more.”

The groundwork with the mare has included leading and being groomed – and “she’s all about the brushing and the loving,” Thompson said, noting apples have proven to be quite an enticement for the mare. “We have figured out that apples are our very favorite special little treats. So we’re using those to work with her.”

Ironically, although he’s completely blind, the Appaloosa is the “low maintenance” horse, Thompson said. “He’s the easy one. The mare is taking up a lot of our time and attention.”

When they first started working with his companion, the gelding wanted to be right there in the middle, Thompson said, saying that now it seems the older horse realizes what is going on and quietly waits for the mare’s lesson to be over.

“He’s so cute, he just kind of stands there while we work with her,” Thompson said.

The two are putting on some weight, with Thompson saying she’s working toward getting the mare to eat from a separate bin from the gelding so the older horse’s food intake can be better monitored.

The bond between the two horses remains as strong as the day they left Ellis County together. And Habitat has no intention of breaking that bond, Thompson said, saying, “They’re still together and they’ll stay together.”

The gelding and mare are two of four rescue horses in foster care at Thompson’s training and breeding facility. Of the 49 horses total on the property, 10 are former rescues that have been adopted and now board with her. Thompson has had as many as 13 rescues at one time – many of those in for a 30-day period of evaluation and training en route to being adopted.

One of the horses she personally adopted was a racetrack reject that was en route to the killers before being rescued and donated to Habitat. That mare, Xanadu, recently took Thompson’s son to a third-place finish at the state play day finals based on points in eight speed events.

“They were two points out of second place. She’s an amazing mare,” Thompson said, noting the mare had been written off but only needed the right opportunity to thrive.

The Habitat for Horses Web site has several listings of horses either available for adoption or in rehabilitation/evaluation at this time – each awaiting the right opportunity and forever home.

Donations are accepted through the site – and can be made toward a specific equine’s care. Virtual, online sponsorships also are available for those who want to assist with a horse’s care, but are unable to physically adopt an animal.

As a foster home, Thompson is paying for the gelding and mare’s feed and farrier expenses, with any medical expenses covered through donations to Habitat for Horses.

“Any donations need to go through the rescue (Habitat),” Thompson said. “The money can be earmarked for these horses.”

More information about Habitat for Horses, which serves a several-state area, can be found on its Web site, Donations are welcome and can be made toward the horses’ care via the Web site or mailed to Habitat for Horses, Inc., P.O. Box 213, Hitchcock, TX 77563. The organization also has several levels of membership and a virtual sponsor program.

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