A miniature horse named Snickers, rescued at least twice from certain death in the last year, is ringing in this holiday season by garnering donations for the Salvation Army.
Kelly Reiter, of the Flying Duck Farm House Sanctuary in Maryland, first encountered Snickers two years when a breeder listed him for sale on Craigslist.
"He was 8 months old at the time," Reiter said. "[The breeder] said, basically, he'd make a good family pony, but he had something wrong with his leg, so he was no good to her and she didn't want him. If she couldn't sell him for a couple of dollars, she was going to euthanize him."
Reiter quickly contacted the woman, purchased Snickers for $60 and loaded him into the back of her SUV. The horse, which had been kept beside his sister in an 8-by-10-foot garden shed, had locking stifles. The condition caused him to drag his back legs and required corrective surgery, which Reiter's local veterinarian performed.
After seeing on the news another mini horse volunteering as a bell-ringer at a Salvation Army kettle, Reiter decided to sign Snickers up. "Ever since he came here, we said 'you can tell has a purpose in life,'" said Reiter, who runs the small sanctuary near Randallstown, Md. "He's meant to help people. He's such a sweet little guy - so quiet and, for all he's been through, so laid back."
The recovery from Snickers' leg surgery meant he couldn't stand for long periods of time, so Reiter decided to wait until the following Christmas.
Fast forward to a year later. Reiter woke up one morning in September and found Snickers was again in poor health. "He seemed kind of depressed, kind of lethargic," she said. "He wanted to lay down. He didn't want to eat. You always hear the biggest fear is colic in horses. I thought, 'oh gosh, please don't tell me it's that with him.'"
Colic, which refers to abdominal pain, has a variety of causes, including excess gas and intestinal problems. It's one of the leading causes of premature death among domesticated horses and requires immediate veterinary treatment. Unfortunately, this time, Reiter's family vet was out of town for a family emergency. Reiter tried to calm Snickers with mineral oil and pain medications, but nothing worked.
"As soon as the pain medicine would wear off, he would throw himself on the ground and start thrashing and rolling," she said.
Reiter had a good experience several years earlier with the New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in Kennett Square, Chester County, where she'd taken another horse that required surgery.
"They greet you with anywhere from four doctors or more," she said. "As soon as you pull up to the back to unload, they've got everything set up and ready to go and there are several different people doing several different things to the horse. New Bolton was the only place, in my mind, for Snickers to go to have the best care."