A homeless horse

On a cold wet day last winter, Theresa Nolet drove up the road to Mt Baldy in the Oliver area looking for a starving horse.

It wasn't long before she and another woman caught sight of the abandoned domesticated horse, standing alone on the roadside.

Since then, the animal has been nursed back to health and found a temporary home with a foster family in Willowbrook.

What Nolet hopes for now is to find a permanent home for the 28-year-old gelding named Briarwood.

"He needs to go somewhere where there is another horse and a shelter, like a barn, because he is getting up there in age and for someone to love him in his senior years," she said.

Before Briarwood came into the picture, Nolet, the owner of Jardin Estate Jewelry and Antiques in Okanagan Falls, had made saving free-roaming horses her cause.

Although she loved horses all her life, she had little to do with them until the harsh winter of 2008-2009.

It was in those bitterly cold months that a herd of  wild horses took up residence, literally on the doorstep of her West Bench home.

At first it appeared they could fend for themselves, but as the brutal weather lingered on it became apparent they were suffering.

"We didn't want to watch them slowly starve," she said. "So we got hay and continued to feed them."

As she engaged in the process she began making inquiries about what happens to the wild animals and placing calls to local government officials and the SPCA.

Frustrated that she was not getting  much of a response, she formed Project Equus with Critteraid in 2009.

 The goal of the grassroots movement was to work with the Penticton Indian Band, who also have an interest in the issue.

 As Nolet  learned that the animals were either sent to slaughter for human consumption or sold to rodeos for bucking stock, she began rescuing the animals on her own, eventually saving 20.

Her efforts increased in February of 2011 when she learned the provincial government was rounding up feral horses in Kamloops and sending them to auction.

She approached Critteraid about putting the animals under the Project Equus umbrella and they ended up with six, including three pregnant mares.

Because of her efforts she was contacted  in February by a woman who had seen a suffering black horse in an area frequented by wild horses on the way to Mt Baldy.

She had seen other struggling animals, but Briarwood's appearance was truly shocking.

"You could see every vertebrae in his spine, he was literally at death's doorstep," she said. "I had a bag of clothes in my car and we draped him in those."

She called a local horse trainer, Ken MacRae, who helped with the rescue and cared for Briarwood for a time. Since then he has been with the foster family.

Now the easy going and gentle  gelding is in perfect health and in need of a good home where he can live out the rest of his days. To help out whoever adopts him there are some funds available for veterinary care.

"He is a nice, decent fellow, who has paid his dues and earned the right to a nice retirement home somewhere," said Dawn MacRae, Ken's wife who helped care for the horse after he was saved..

People interested in adopting Briarwood can contact Nolet at (250) 497-6733.

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