Sanctuary Horse: Dontae, the Little Paint Colt with Nine Lives
As the horses raced around the paddock, a yearling paint colt led the pack with his tail up like a flag. “That one sure is pretty” a visitor to the ranch exclaimed as we watched the horses play. I smiled to myself. People always were drawn to Dontae, saying he was the most beautiful horse. As Dontae came up to us he let the visitor nuzzle his face and hug him. “Oh he’s a doll! What will you do with him when he’s older?” she asked. “Little Dontae will be allowed to do just about anything he wants” I grinned at her. “He’s lucky to be alive and running around today.” She looked surprised, so I told her the story of how Dontae came to be at FalconRidge Ranch. A story of how one little colt’s quickness and will to live, coupled with my determination, allowed him to overcome all odds and teach others about the true meaning of love.
One June day in 2001 a paint colt was born in Oregon. His coloring was beautiful, a rich chocolaty brown and creamy white splashed over his body. There was a problem when Dontae was born though. As happens to a few foals, his front legs were crooked. The breeders felt that restricting his movement would help straighten them, so they put him in a small pen. They neglected to handle the colt as they didn’t want to get attached to him in case they had to euthanize him later. So Dontae never was tamed and he received no brushing, no petting or love. His coat became caked in manure. His legs did not straighten as he sat in his pen day after day so his breeders decided to euthanize him.
“You will do great things Dontae. You will teach others what an unwanted little colt can do… “
A local sporthorse breeder heard about the colt and decided to save him from being euthanized. She hoped his legs would straighten. When Dontae arrived at her place he was wilder than a March hare. Nobody could get near him to even brush the dried manure off his coat. They put Dontae out in a pasture and waited to see if his legs would straighten up,unfortunately for Dontae, they didn’t.
While Dontae’s right leg was fairly normal, his left knee was enlarged, and below the knee his leg turned outward, giving him a knock-kneed appearance. A veterinarian said the leg could be straightened with surgery. Unable to afford it, she decided to put Dontae to sleep. She called the vet out to give Dontae the injection, but since he had never been handled and was in a pasture, they couldn’t catch him to give him the shot. Dontae literally ran for his life that day! No matter how hard they tried, he wouldn’t let the owners or the veterinarian get close enough and they gave up.
The breeder decided to give Dontae one last chance, so she put an ad on the online classifieds offering him for free to anyone who would get surgery for his crooked leg. Nobody answered the ad, until I did eleven days later. I emailed her and explained I have a special ranch that takes on horses needing help such as Dontae and give them a loving home for life.
We sent him off to slaughter in Washington. We are so sorry…
I heard back from her a few days later saying she wished she had read my email earlier, before she sent him off to “you know where.” I was puzzled. I asked her where did Dontae go?
Two more days passed, and then a pain shot through my heart as I read her answer. It was the unthinkable. “We sent him off to slaughter in Washington. We are so sorry,” she wrote. Maybe there was hope. It was certainly worth a try I thought, as I pounded on the computer keys back, “Can you contact the dealer and tell him I want Dontae and will pay gladly for him?!”
Two days later she answered and said she would try and contact the dealer. I asked her to “HURRY!” Precious days went by and I felt sure Dontae was already gone. In a last ditch effort I called the sporthorse dealer in Oregon. She said no, she hadn’t been able to contact him. She gave me his number which I called right away. He didn’t answer so I left a message. Another day went by, and I was again sure Dontae’s time had already run out.
I called the dealer the next day and he answered. I explained that I wanted the little crooked legged paint colt, to get him corrective surgery on his leg. He remembered Dontae, saying the hauler had brought the manure caked colt to him. When he saw Dontae he said “He’s so little and scrawny, he’s not worth taking to slaughter!” He told the hauler he could have him and to take Dontae to a local auction. He’s alive! I thought. Hope entered my heart for the first time and I asked him if he knew which auction Dontae went to. He told me the name and gave me the number.
A woman at the auction house answered the phone gruffly. I asked if she remembered a little crooked legged paint colt being sold last week. She said “Yeah, he sold here a week ago, for thirty dollars. A man who lived over in the valley bought him.” Thirty dollars! “Can you tell me who bought him?” I asked her. She gave me the man’s name but not his phone number. Maybe, just maybe, this man was listed in the phone book. I hoped, and prayed.
Now that I was getting closer to Dontae, I was more determined than ever to get him to me safely. He needed to have his leg corrected now to give him a fairly normal life as an adult horse. As I called information, I crossed my fingers. “Yes”, she said. My heart soared! Dontae was found, finally! She gave me the number of the man, a cattle dealer and I called, barely breathing while waiting for someone to answer.
A woman answered and I explained I was looking for the crooked legged paint colt that was sold at the auction. “Do you have him?” I asked. “Yes, he’s here. My husband and son bought him about a week ago. He looks pretty bad, he’s thin and his coat is bad, but we are feeding him good. We put him in with the cows.” I asked if she would sell him and she said it’s up to her husband. I asked how much he wanted for him. “How about $500?” he said. I had a hunch the family needed the money so I quickly said “sold!” and arrangements were made. I had gotten him. Dontae was finally coming home!
Dontae arrived a week later from Oregon, and I finally got to see the little colt who I tried so desperately to save. His leg was very crooked and he looked scrawny, but as I looked at his eyes, they were soft and kind. His coat was matted with horse and cow manure, and he was very skittish. Dontae got used to humans and calmed down. He was given a bath and cleaned. I whispered into one of his furry ears “You’re home boy,” and I was amazed when his eye appeared to twinkle at me.
Dontae had the surgery performed on his leg by Dr. Joe Cannon of San Luis Rey Equine Hospital. Normally it’s done at a younger age, the doctor informed me, but he might be able to be helped. I told him Dontae’s rescue story, of how many times he was supposed to die and had beaten the odds. “We can give it a shot,” he said. Dontae behaved perfectly at the hospital, and the staff fell in love with him. We went home to the ranch and the days flew by. Dontae became very affectionate with the loving attention he now had and walked up to people for them to pet his face.
Two months later on a sunny afternoon, I watched Dontae run in the paddock with some other horses. He proudly held his tail up like a flag, prancing and kicking up his legs as he played. I then noticed his front leg, the crooked one. It was straight, almost perfectly straight. I couldn’t believe it.
The surgery had worked. Dontae, who had beaten all the odds and ran from death, would have a normal life in the future. His coat now clean and shiny, he had gained weight and was growing magnificently. A tear came to my eye as he ran up to me and I hugged him. “You will do great things Dontae. You will teach others what an unwanted little colt can do,” I whispered to him. He looked back at me with those bright clear eyes, and I swear he winked at me.
I looked up the meaning of Dontae’s name. It means “everlasting.”