In 2014, Jessica Fobert and Zoë Carter adopted Encore, a Clydesdale cross gelding, as part of their television pilot called Free Rein, in which he was rescued from an auction and rehabilitated. At the conclusion of the show, Encore was adopted by Whisper Ridge Ranch in March 2015. Sadly, Encore did not get the happy ending he deserved. Here, Jessica and Zoë share his story.

The news broke on July 10, 2016 that Whisper Ridge Ranch, a horse sanctuary near Peterborough, Ontario, was being investigated by the OSPCA. Alleged evidence had surfaced of abuse, neglect and horses starving to death on the property.

This was the same farm where Encore was living. Sadly, we were not surprised by the news, as we had already begun legal proceedings to reclaim him a year before.

His adopter, the owner of Whisper Ridge, promised he would live out his days with the best care, but Encore had only been there for a few months when we arrived for our first visit and knew something was terribly wrong. The adopter appeared confused when we told her how poor Encore’s condition had become in her care. In the fall, she stood with us in front of Encore, with his hips and ribs starting to show, and said he looked good to her. He was not the only thin horse on the property.

We began evidence collection for small claims court the moment we realized we had made a mistake, that the adoption agreement and contract had been breached, and she was not going to give up her “celebrity” horse.

Throughout 2015, after months of giving Whisper Ridge the opportunity to improve Encore’s nutrition management to no avail, we pleaded to have him released back to our care. Having no success, the only option was to go to court. We will never understand why she fought so hard to keep Encore, and yet not provide for his basic needs.

On July 15, 2016, Jessica spoke honestly and emotionally in front of the judge who was to decide the fate of Encore. Even before all the evidence was presented, Jessica was granted ownership. It was clear to the judge, and to everyone except the adopter, that Encore’s time was running out. We left right away to reclaim him.

In the days and weeks following Encore’s removal from Whisper Ridge, several other previous owners also reclaimed their horses. Thankfully, some with far less challenge.

After many months of hunger and the emotional trauma that comes with it, Encore was finally settled into his new home at Horse Spirit Connections. Wendy Golding and Andre Leclipteux, founders of the FEEL® (Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning) training and practising facility, had offered to love him as one of their own, and invited him to stay permanently.

Encore was examined by a vet upon his arrival on July 15th. Scoring a 1 out of 9 on the Body Condition Score scale, he was placed back under the care of his nutritionist, Marijke van de Water, of Riva’s Remedies. She has donated her time and all of the supplements to ensure Encore’s recovery. He has received probiotics, herbal blends to aid digestion, skin healing supplements, internal cleansers and homeopathy specific to emotional and physical stress.

These have been added to meals of cooked barley, soaked hay cubes and unsweetened beet pulp. He also has access to hay 24/7. The goal has been to assist Encore in gaining weight slowly and consistently to prevent digestive stress, which is crucial in cases of starvation. On November 1st, we were thrilled to learn that his Body Condition Score was up to 4.5 out of 10, with a weight gain of approximately 300 pounds.

Additionally, Wendy and Andre have had massage and craniosacral bodyworkers out to alleviate Encore’s general pain and weakness. He carried a tremendous amount of stiffness in his neck for reasons unknown, and his hips were also found to be sore by the therapists. We are pleased to report that he is moving much more comfortably since receiving the treatments.

Encore will have the option to take part in the FEEL® programs at his new home. His own experience with neglect and trauma has not hardened his heart, and he has already shown interest in joining in the teaching being done around him. During a recent retreat one of the participants remarked, “He is the most gentle horse I have met. He has these liquid eyes that invite you to relax and connect deeply with yourself. Encore has a huge heart that is opening up to connect with people.”

We found Encore in good health during our most recent visit. He was fast asleep in his herd, as a small mare stood near him, on guard. After a long and traumatic journey, Encore will finally get to enjoy life and will stay in connected to those who have saved his life, twice.