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Local Woman Dedicates Her Life To Rescue Horses

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Posted: Friday, July 26, 2019 12:18 pm

Mary King has rescued four horses and has dedicated her life to them. As a child, King, who grew up in Pasadena, loved horses but it wasn’t until years later that she learned to ride one. It was, in fact, after she retired from her job at the trucking company Roadway Express (now Roadway Yellow), that she even rode a horse. In her quest to find a volunteer job she found out about Bonita Equestrian Therapy for the Handicapped (BETH).

“I had no experience with horses. As a volunteer you get the horses ready, work with students, do grooming, saddle the horses and get the child on the horse,” she said.

King also taught horses to do things like going up on a ramp to be able to get closer to children with disabilities. King then took lessons to learn to ride. “I never considered myself a great rider but had great horses,” she said.

After she was at BETH for a number of years, management changed. “I worked with one horse who was fabulous; he was 17 hands. They thought he ate too much and was too big for most kids. They came to me and told me ‘I will sell him to you for $1 if you keep him alive,” she recalled.

King took on the challenge and found a place in the River Valley to board him. She stopped volunteering and dedicated herself fully to taking care of her horse. Then six months later she got a call that she had five minutes to come get a mare that otherwise would be put down. So her tale of rescuing horses started.

The first two horses King adopted were a male and female called Hansel, a German Warmblood and Lil, a Welsh pony. “My life changed after I got Hansel and Lil. When you have a horse you dedicate your life to them everyday,” she said.

King began her commute to and from from her home in Imperial Beach to the ranch in the river valley where they were boarded. Starting from the very beginning King twice a day went to the ranch to feed her horses, groom and exercise them, and returned at dinner time to feed them. After her first two horses Hansel and Lil died, they were very attached to each other and died on the same day, she was heartbroken and for almost a year she walked away from horses.

King’s third horse, Maggie, had many owners over her lifetime until King rescued her. Before King adopted Maggie she would see her at the farm and had often brought food for her. Then Maggie was moved to another farm and King lost track of her. “I finally found her again and she was starved to death. The guy had another horse and he said he’d forget to feed her. One day I brought a halter and $100 and told him ‘I’m taking Maggie.’ I had to put 500 pounds on her before I could ride her. She was attached to me and she loved Rock (King’s other horse at the time). I had her for three years. She was starved for so long that her health wasn’t good. I spent hours with her to make her well,” recall King.

Then it happened again. King got a call from a friend who needed a home for King’s current horse - Rock, a Thoroughbred. He is a former race horse who didn’t have ground manners. His stable name is Rock but in his former lifetime he was a racehorse called Bold Bruce who ran seven races and won 4. After his racing career Rock was a dressage third level horse under the name Ominous, then a stud and one of his offsprings came in second in the $1million race in Del Mar.

King doesn’t ride anymore since she has had two hip replacements and has one bad shoulder. Maggie and Rock were companions until a few years ago when Maggie had to be put down, a very sad day for both King and Rock. Rock is what she calls a hard keeper because he loses weight easily eating just hay, so King supplements his diet and feeds him herself twice a day. He is 17.2 hands while most horses are 15 and King explained that a fall from Rock is like falling from a height of 6 feet.

Owning a horse is not only an emotional but also a financial commitment with many veterinarian expenses, medications and special ferries. Her first horse Hansel was a hunter jumper who had a fracture and required special ferries. “I could walk him, ride him, took him out on trails with or without a halter, just guide him with my knees. That’s how well trained he was,” she recalled. King commented on how you hear in the news that race horse owners say the horse are like family and love them but in reality the story is different. “After their usefulness [is over] they get sold and very few of them end up like this guy,” she said about Rock. Rock is the cousin of Seattle Slew, a Triple Crown Winner.

King is looking for someone to share the feed lease for Rock and ride him since she can’t anymore. “He’s an excellent lesson horse,” she said.

King spends about three hours every morning with Rock. “I like to feed him, groom him, clean his pen, exercise him,” she said. At night she spends only a small amount of time at the farm just to give him his dinner. “He’s an athlete. He was bred to compete. He’s wired for that,” said King.

King tells the story of when the Santa Anita horse races ended the season with 30 dead horses. “The Animal Rescue people want to stop racing completely. If that happens there’ll be a lot of young horses going to slaughter. Rock is lucky. He was rescued. I can’t rescue all of them,” she said.

Rock is in a box stall at a private ranch called Jackson Ranch, a place where owners care for their horses. Every morning she runs into the same horse owners, who like her, want to personally see and feed their horse. But unlike other owners she is the only one that stops by the farm twice a day.

“I don’t know anybody that comes twice a day [to see their horse]” she said. “It’s my choice. All my horses were rescued, all had medical problems and needed extra attention. I like to be connected to my animals. I love to rescue horses, give them a good life. Many friends have said to me, ‘When I die I want to come back as one of your horses.’”

King is always working on teaching Rock good manners. On a recent morning she started her day at 8:30 a.m. driving to the farm, feeding Rock, exercising him, cleaning the box stall which also include an outside space where he can see other horses. Rock has two mares on either side so he has company. Before leaving at around 11:30 a.m. King gives Rock a midday snack. She returns to the farm at around 4:30 p.m. to give Rock his dinner.

King’s dedication is truly a labor of love. Rock responds to King’s love and is affectionate with her. Early in the morning when King visits the farm, all is quiet with just noises of the nearby vegetable farm and the wind blowing. “We’re surrounded by animals who are happy, which makes me happy,” she said.

King will go through anything for her horses. After King had a hip replacement, the valley flooded some years ago. “Eight days after surgery I got a call that the valley was flooded and my horses wouldn’t come out. I called my son, I had him get my boots and put them on my feet,” she recalled.

Her son then drove her to the farm and King went to rescue her horses. She had to use a walker as part of the recovery from the surgery. She first got one horse to safety then the other. “The river had split the ranch, the current was strong but I got across,” she recalled.

It was pouring rain and then she had to go back and get her horses’ food. The entire process took eight hours. She walked in the rain and through flood waters. At one point she fell down and she just saw a hand pull her out. She never knew who it was that helped her and likes to think it was her guardian angel.

When she got home she called her doctor’s office and the doctor told her he wanted her to go to the office and get an x-ray to make sure her new hip was not damaged, but then the swelling went down. “If I told you to get in a cold bath for eight hours you wouldn’t have done it,” the doctor told her. That was the equivalent of what she did that day.

When King is not spending time with Rock she does ballroom dancing, gardens in her backyard and spend time with her four cats. “I believe if you don’t move your body you are going to lose it,” she said.

It is very heartwarming to see the love between King and Rock. Because Rock has what King calls ‘old man’s teeth,’ King breaks carrots for Rock with her teeth before handing them to him.

Anyone interested in sharing the feed cost and riding Rock can contact King at Maryshorsesrfun@cox.net

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