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Ranch Hand Rescue: Inspirational Stories for the Holidays

During the holiday season, many horse owners want to give back to their hooved companions and those who help horses year-round. Rescues nationwide help horses and other animals in need, and Christmastime is prime adoption time for a lot of rehabilitated animals. Bob Williams, founder of Ranch Hand Rescue in Argyle, Texas, works year-round to help rehabilitate horses and other farm animals. What Ranch Hand Rescue does differently than other rescues, however, is save animals that have no other hope.

Ranch Hand Rescue came into being in 2009. Williams noticed that horses and other farm animals did not have as many care and rescue facilities as there are for cats and dogs, so he decided to establish a sanctuary and safe place for horses. The rescue takes in all farm animals, but its primary focus is on horses. The sanctuary is home to 12 horses, and 18 other animals, including donkeys, pigs, sheep, goats, llamas, and alpacas. All of the animals were rescued from neglectful and abusive homes.

“Ranch Hand Rescue is known for taking in critical care animals,” Williams says. “They’re the ones who would be euthanized if it weren’t for us.” The rescue receives about forty critical care animals a year, and often, the horses brought in are in need of 24/7 intensive care and even, in a lot of cases, surgery. Ranch Hand Rescue does all it can to nurse its animals back to life. A lot of the rehabilitated animals there are adopted, but others are kept and used for therapy.

The rescue holds Equine and Animal Assisted Therapy, or EAAT for short, as a way to help mentally ill people heal emotionally. Many of the clients in the therapy program suffer from anxiety, depression, traumatic brain injuries, and abuse issues, to name a few. The EAAT program helps to build confidence, trust, and social skills. The rescue employs many therapy counselors and volunteers to help rehabilitate the animals who make the rescue their home—and the people they help to heal as well.

Ranch Hand Rescue has had its share of some incredible success stories with the horses it has recently helped save. Midnite (pictured left), a very lucky miniature horse, was the first horse in the world to ever receive a prosthetic leg without amputation. In fact, the prosthetic is a human one. Not only can Midnite walk, but he can also run and buck, which is more than the rescue had expected for him. Midnite is known as the “Horse of Hope.”

Doris Roberts of Everybody Loves Raymond (pictured right) is a big supporter of Ranch Hand Rescue, and speaks in a video about Midnite on the rescue’s website about children who are waiting in hospitals for their own amputation and prosthetic surgeries. “[They] will see this horse run like that and dance like that, and the fact that they see a horse accomplish this, and the joy of it, makes them feel that ‘if the horse can do it, so can I,’” she says. “It would give them strength.”

The rescue that has gained the most publicity, however, is that of Spirit. The flea-bitten gray horse was brought to Ranch Hand Rescue in dire condition: he had been beaten with a baseball bat and left with a severely broken leg—Williams recalls the leg being bent at a painful, unnatural angle. Veterinarians told Williams to euthanize Spirit, but instead he took Spirit to Oklahoma State University where an innovative procedure was successfully performed. Spirit received the world’s first ever equine double fusion in order to straighten out his leg.

In a press release about Spirit, it was stated that Dr. Michael Schoonover, Assistant Professor of Surgery at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, “couldn’t find any literature on fusing both the knee and the fetlock, [but he] consulted with top veterinarians around the country in an effort to determine the best way to perform this surgery.” The press release also reveals “Spirit had a twenty percent or less chance of survival.”

Spirit underwent two surgeries and spent several months in rehab at Oklahoma State University, but has since returned and has made a full recovery. Veterinary journals are beginning to change after Spirit’s success story; that just shows the impact of such a revolutionary veterinary procedure. Williams says Spirit will never run, but was so happy to be back home at Ranch Hand Rescue. Spirit’s affected leg is shorter than the rest, so he can only slowly walk, but Williams keeps supporters of the rescue updated on Spirit’s status via Facebook, posting videos in which Spirit walks happily around a pasture, in virtually no pain. Spirit will be a therapy horse in the EAAT program at Ranch Hand Rescue, helping to rehabilitate mentally and physically traumatized people and provide inspiration for recovery.

Williams’ decision to continue with Spirit’s surgery was clearly a wise one. “When you look into a horse’s eyes, they tell you when they want to live. It’s easy to say to just euthanize a horse, but a horse has a right to live, and to be a horse,” Williams insists. “Who gets to determine why [a special needs horse] is less important than any other horse with lesser issues? All life is precious, so we need to at least try.”

Spirit and Midnite are just two of the countless success stories Ranch Hand Rescue has had, and certainly there will be more. During the upcoming holiday season, you can help rescues and shelters for all animals by donating time or money to facilities like Ranch Hand Rescue that help to rehabilitate abused and neglected animals. Animal abuse is a very real thing, but can be reduced and stopped with the help of animal lovers everywhere. Williams recommends creating awareness of animal abuse, contacting shelters and rescues when you see animal abuse, and acting as the voice for animals in need.

Christmastime and the holiday season is a great time to give back to the horses and other animals that we all love. For more information about Ranch Hand Rescue, Midnite, Spirit, or any of the other animals that have been rescued there, visit their website at or look up the rescue on Facebook.
About the Author: Meghan Smith is currently a junior at Susquehanna University located in Pennsylvania studying Creative Writing and Art. She is the co-founder and captain of Susquehanna’s western equestrian team, and she shows her AQHA gelding, Lopin Radical, in the all-around events.