Monetary donations to Carlito's recovery can be sent to 3001 S. Lincoln
Ave., Steamboat Springs, Colo., 80487.
Contact the Sidney Peak Ranch barn at 970-819-7910.
For more information about Mountain Valley Horse rescue, visit www.mvhr.net
Steamboat Springs Four-year-old Graham Kindred shyly crunched across the snowy pasture at Sidney Peak Ranch toward a chestnut-brown horse, holding a carrot in his mitten.
Carlito the horse towered over him, but Graham extended his arm out, giggling as the horse calmly muzzled the carrot and then bit off a small piece.
“It’s super fun,” Graham said as he ran to get more carrots for his newfound friend. “He always eats the stem. He’s nice and friendly.”
Sidney Peak Ranch boarder and volunteer Marilyn Scalo was smiling right along with Graham, because it was the first time she had seen Carlito eat a carrot out of a person’s hand since he was rescued three weeks ago from neglect.
“He’s learning to trust, and is there anything better than this?” said Scalo, gesturing toward the crowd of children eager to feed the horse treats in the wake of their friend’s success Thursday.
Graham was one of about six children from Tracy DelliQuadri’s Little Bear Child Care who took a field trip Thursday to see Carlito and feed him treats.
Since DelliQuadri first mentioned the horse’s situation to them, the children had been collecting pennies to help fund his road to recovery.
“I think kids are just compassionate,” DelliQuadri said. “They want to help, and they want to take care of things.”
And within just a few minutes of interacting with the youngsters, Courtney Diehl, the veterinarian who has been treating Carlito, said the horse’s kindness was shining through.
“His eyes are just so happy right now,” Diehl said.
Carlito is a Peruvian Paso, and vets estimated he is about 15 years old. With the help of Diehl, Routt County Animal Control officers rescued him from a property near Stagecoach on Jan. 26, where neighbors had noticed he was starving and spending a lot of time laying down.
The owner agreed to surrender the horse under the condition it would not be euthanized.
Sidney Peak Ranch volunteered a pasture where Carlito could recover until he can be transported to Mountain Valley Horse Rescue in Eagle, where he can be adopted.
But Carlito still has a long road ahead of him.
It will be at least another week before he is healthy enough to be moved, Diehl said, but donations of hay from local farmers and services from a local farrier have helped him along.
When he was first brought to Sidney Peak, Carlito weighed just 918 pounds, putting him at the lowest possible rating on the Henneke Body Score that rates musculature.
“He was close to not making it,” Diehl said.
His hip bones still protrude unnaturally from his haunches, but Diehl and barn manager Rachel Ratkovich were encouraged by the fact that he’s gained more than 100 pounds since his arrival.
With many horses rescued from neglect — and Carlito had been rescued previously from an abusive owner in California — their fears can overwhelm their ability to trust and love humans.
But Carlito is different.
“In the beginning, he didn’t want to eat a lot and he was stressed and scared,” Ratkovich said. “But he’s always been kind and gentle. He’s a very sweet horse.”
She said it’s been heartwarming watching the community contribute to Carlito’s cause, even if it’s just a few jars of pennies and a carrot.
“They say it takes a community to raise a child, well, it takes a community to rescue a horse,” Diehl said.
Diehl said she is called to situations like Carlito’s once every few months.
Carlito might not be anything more than a pasture horse, but to the children of Little Bear Child Care — and anyone else liable to break into a smile under Carlito’s warm gaze — that might be enough.
“A lot of people ask, ‘What’s the point in saving him if he has no future?’” Diehl said. “Well, we don’t know what his future is, and why not give him a chance?”
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or e-mail email@example.com.