“People who own pleasure horses and complain of the time it takes and money to care for them, have no idea what it takes in a rescue,” says Melissa Hull, Co-Director of Treadway Equine Animal Rescue Sanctuary (TEARS). Hull and her daughter, Mollie Bird, operate TEARS on their property in Rogersville, Tennessee. They find rescuing horses a sad, but rewarding, ongoing business.
TEARS is a federally approved, Tennessee nonprofit organization to help save the lives of animals that are neglected, abused, unwanted and mistreated. Their mission: “To save all of the farm animals we can from abuse, mistreatment, neglect and from being unwanted. Our motto is, ‘If you see an animal that is unwanted, neglected or abused and it brings TEARS to your eyes, call us.’” Many people in Hawkins County are doing just that.
This spring, TEARS took in 23 horses within a three-week time period. All of the horses were starved, demanded veterinary care, and were strangers to being brushed, loved, and fed treats. “There are times when we have to go into our personal pocket to make ends meet,” Hull explains. She is currently recuperating from surgery and Bird works full-time labor when not caring for horses. Still, their first priority is care of the horses they rescue from horrific neglect and sickening abuse.
Both Hull and Bird have worked with horses their lifetime. Each has education in Equine Sciences and many years of animal rescue under their saddle. TEARS is currently planning free clinics to the public on proper feeding and care of farm animals, a therapy program with Wounded Warriors, and to work with the community to educate others on equine care. Bird is a horse trainer who has worked with Gawani Pony Boy, and International Equine Clinicians. Both practice Native American Horsemanship “which is natural,” Bird explains.
One horse, a Keiger Mustang named Stardust, was found destined for slaughter and near death; he now backs up to Bird, hoping she will scratch his hindquarters. When she ignores him, Stardust gently bumps her and turns his head to ensure she sees him. He is still looking for a good scratch. A full-blooded Tennessee Walker, professionally trained but abandoned by the original owner, trots gracefully through green pastures. “We’re planning to build a new barn, add a self-watering system,” Bird says, finally scratching Stardust’s hindquarters. She points to a paint, and a dark horse with Doc Olena lines, sharing apples under a tree. “We have an apple tree, and we get donations of carrots and treats.” Two volunteers are rebuilding the floor of a horse trailer used to transport both sick and wounded, and rehabilitated horses to their new homes. There are 35 acres here, waiting for new paddocks and covers to be built for future horses. “We have found horses that owners took into the woods and chained to trees, leaving them.” The horses usually starve to death unless TEARS can get to them in time. Mollie Bird assesses horses as they come in, with the assistance of veterinarians and farriers. The fees come out of the meager funds TEARS receives from donations and fundraisers they plan and implement on their own. The volunteers have stood on the corners of downtown Rogersville, held pizza parties, and done what they could to raise money for food, blankets, vet bills, farriers, and all things needed, right down to fly masks and hoof ointment. Currently, Bird is keeping an eye on a big bay that has one foot wrapped. “It had pus coming out of it,” she says, “But it’s getting better and better with care.”
Equine rescue is a full-time job that never closes. Rescue organizations like TEARS will tell you horror stories of the animal’s condition. But if they are rescued and brought back to health, “I have never experienced more thankful animals,” Melissa Hull says, tears in her eyes.
“Friend” TEARS on Facebook & make a donation!
Bookmark TEARS website
Watch TEARS in action: video
My true crime books
My crime prevention book, includes chapter on animal rescue
Credit: photo of J. Yates