By Susan Kayne
For Capital Region Independent Media
Hello, world! My name is Snowball, and I’m the tiniest resident at Unbridled, the place I now proudly call home.
I want to take you on a journey through my eyes and let you experience the world as I do. After all, seeing life from a donkey’s viewpoint, especially one as petite and observant as me, is not something everyone gets to experience.
When I first arrived, my appearance seemed to stir a variety of reactions among the horses. Some, unfamiliar with donkeys, snorted and shied away, showing a mixture of curiosity and caution. It made me ponder. I might not have a mirror to see myself, but I can glean a lot from the way others perceive me.
Some gaze upon me with a twinkle of intrigue, while others seem almost cuddly, wanting to get close. Yet, there are those who appear startled or hesitant. As the only pure white resident in the barn, I sometimes wonder: Is it my elongated ears that make them wary? Or perhaps it’s my stark white coat that makes me stand out? Whatever it may be, I always extend a curious nose towards them, beckoning with my eyes and offering a friendly nod. I’m just like them, after all, wanting to belong and be understood.
In the soft embrace of May, I took my first breaths alongside my Mama, feeling the gentle touch of love and care. But something changed, and those once tender hands seemed to vanish. Soon, Mama and I found ourselves alone, left out under the searing hot sun. Days turned into weeks, and the relentless rays took their toll on our faces and ears, leaving them blistered and painfully burned.
Just a little while after, the two of us were swept away from the only home I’d ever known to a big, noisy place they called a feedlot. Everywhere I looked, there were horses and my fellow donkeys, all of them seeming as lost and bewildered as I felt. Each day, new faces would join us, while others were herded onto big rumbling trucks, disappearing into the distance.
One morning, men chased us and separated us into the corners of our pen. Tugging and forcing, they prodded Mama into a strange space with towering steel bars. I watched, heart pounding, as the ground beneath her seemed to wiggle. Loud voices shouted numbers, and then they slapped a bright yellow mark onto her fur.
Moments later, I found myself pushed into that same cold, confining space, feeling the ground shift beneath me. The same yellow mark was pressed onto me, the terrifying yells of the men continued. Those few moments apart from Mama felt like an eternity, and the fear was overwhelming.
Our destiny seemed bleak: the dreaded slaughterhouse. As the clamor of the approaching trucks grew louder, I clung to Mama’s side, seeking her warmth and comfort. Suddenly, we were yanked apart from the group, thrust together into an isolated pen.
I didn’t understand it then, but in that moment of fear, Mama and I were being rescued. The truth dawned on me only much later, after traveling many miles, when we found ourselves safe and together at a haven called Unbridled.
After enduring the terrors of the slaughter pipeline, Mama and I arrived at Unbridled, our bodies weary and our spirits shattered.
For weeks, we were skittish, the weight of our past traumas weighing heavily on us. Emaciated and hungry, it was the tender care at Unbridled that began to mend our bodies and souls. They tended to the painful burns on our ears and faces, and even though trust was a distant memory for us, they persisted in their kindness. Day by day, their unwavering compassion laid the groundwork for Mama and me to believe in trust once more.
Being in the first stall of the barn, a prime spot to observe the world, every day, horses of all sizes pass by. Some are in a hurry, others more leisurely, but there are a few who make it a point to stop by and say hello. Among these gentle giants, Sweet Pea and Prince hold a special place in my heart. They may still tower over me, but in them, I sense a kindred spirit. We’re all young at heart, after all.
Life at Unbridled is never dull. There was a day when over a hundred visitors came. Imagine the joy and wonder of being the first face they saw! I felt like a star, and my heart swelled with gratitude. My stall has become a place of stories, where people share their dreams and their love for animals.
Unbridled isn’t just my home; it’s a beacon of hope for creatures like me. It stands as a testament to the change that’s possible when kind-hearted humans come together.
Every day, I’m reminded of the second chance I was given, and I can’t help but feel grateful.
To all the visitors who’ve come and gone, and to all those who will visit in the future, know that you are making a difference. Your support and love not only sustain me but inspire others to see animals, especially us equines, in a new light.
So, when you next visit Unbridled, look for the tiny donkey with the bright white coat and the curious eyes in the first stall. That’s me, SnowBall, and I’m eager to share my world with you.
With all my love and smoozzles, SnowBall.
Susan Kayne operates the horse rescue organization Unbridled Thoroughbred Foundation, on the border of Albany County and Greenville.