When Nicole was two years old, she knew horses were going to be a huge part of her life. She was always active in riding and had horses growing up, but for ten years Nicole did not have a horse. She describes this as the “loneliest ten years of her life.” Nicole decided it was time to buy a horse in February 2014. She spent her nights researching horses to buy. One night, someone reached out to Nicole asking if she would be interested in taking a horse in need. Nicole had this strong feeling inside her that she couldn’t ignore, so she made a call about a horse that no one knew what to do with named Tokyo.
After spending an hour on the phone and a few tear-jerking pictures, Nicole decided to take on Tokyo.
“I just felt I needed him as much as he needed me. There was something in his eyes that pulled me in,” Nicole said. “He was skin and bones, covered in rain rot so bad it was confused as mud all over his body. He had abscesses in his nose so big he was in constant pain just breathing. He was getting fed, but still losing weight. I looked at those pleading eyes and thought he was the most beautiful mess I’d ever seen. Through tears and then fear I began to arrange the transportation of this horse I’d never touched.”
Later that evening, Nicole received another call from a farm in Kentucky about a horse named Runaway Ruler. Runaway was going to be sent to a barn that was going to breed her year after year and Nicole didn’t want her to live a life like that. Within minutes Nicole had agreed to take on not one, but two horses in need.
Both horses had a history of racing, but both encountered very unfortunate circumstances and neglect. Nicole only heard their story through third and fourth party sources, but knew it was going to be a challenge for both her and the horses.
Runway’s past was bright as she was a promising race horse. Unfortunately, she suffered an injury and was pin fired – which is a treatment for an injured horse’s leg by burning, freezing or dousing it with acid or chemicals to help it heal. Pin firing is not taught in modern veterinary medicine and is considered barbaric and a cruel form of treatment. Due to the scars of pin firing, Runaway was then put in the “unwanted” category and ended up in a Kentucky facility for four years.
It was clear from the pictures Tokyo had endured some neglect. Nicole heard Tokyo was literally abandoned at a track when his owner/trainer died and the track was in the process of closing down. When he was finally found he was sent to a facility in Ohio that specialized in retraining and selling ex racehorses. Tokyo wasn’t able to be retrained, and he wasn’t wanted in that facility anymore. In fact, if Nicole did not take Tokyo, she was told he was headed to the slaughter house because he was mean and no one wanted to help him.
Getting the horses from Kentucky to Las Vegas was a difficult task. Nicole hired a driver to make the trek with both horses. During the trip, the driver called Nicole to let her know Runaway was down most of the trip and she seemed like she was in a lot of pain. The driver told Nicole he had been hauling horses for more years than he wanted to admit, and these two horses were the saddest cases he had ever seen. Nicole expected the horses to be in bad shape, but not as bad as they were in when they arrived.
The horses arrived at 2:20 a.m. on February 26, 2014. The driver and Nicole had difficultly getting Runaway down the ramp. When they finally were able to, they noticed she was walking on three legs. Then Tokyo wobbled off the truck barely being able to hold up his own weight, which wasn’t much to begin with.
“I knew this was going to rough, but seeing them in person was tough,” Nicole said. It was so tough that Nicole and the driver both hugged and cried after seeing the horses’ condition.
Nicole’s vet, Dr. Shur, arrived around 11 a.m. the next day and was in disbelief at the condition of both horses. Despite not being able to walk on all four legs, Runaway’s outlook was good. The vet found an abscess which was causing her pain when walking. Runaway also suffered from hair loss and scabbing on her chest from wearing a blanket that was too small. Within three months, Runaway was back to normal.
Tokyo on the other hand had a lot more to overcome. His issues extended with his weight, clenbuterol withdrawals, rain rot, strangles, abscesses, fear of being hit in the face, rocking horse knees and weak ankles. With lots of love and patience from Nicole, Tokyo overcame of the odds and recovered.
“Dr. Shur said I did an amazing job. She even said Tokyo was actually a little fat, which we will take a little fat!” Nicole said. “Dr. Shur also said Runaway was one of the most beautiful mares she had ever seen.”
A little more than a year later, Tokyo and Runaway, are completely recovered and spend their days running around their back yard and receiving lots of love from Nicole.
“I have hundreds and hundreds of hours wrapped up in caring for them and that has equated in thousands and thousands of tears of joy and great big smiles,” Nicole said. “I gave them a home, but they rescued me. Together the three of us are like a pack of lifesavers.”