Adele: the $12,000 miracle horse in Maple Ridge

Julie MacMillian with Adele, who returned to J&M Acres on Monday after surgery to relieve a blockage. - Robert Mangelsdorf/The News
Julie MacMillian with Adele, who returned to J&M Acres on Monday after surgery to relieve a blockage.
— image credit: Robert Mangelsdorf/The News

Her ribs are poking through her sides, her face gaunt and emaciated, but Adele is still in the best shape she’s been in years.

That the 19-year-old is even alive is something of a miracle.

Adele is a standardbred mare. Last month, her previous owners put her up for auction, along with two other horses, to be sold off to a slaughterhouse, likely to end up as dog food.

Standardbred horses are often used in harness racing, and when their racing and breeding careers are over, they are of little use to their owners.

“They just get tossed away when they’re not fast enough,” says Amy Lizee, a volunteer with the J&M Acres Horse Rescue Society in Maple Ridge.

Adele is alive thanks to the efforts of the local horse rescue group, which bought all three horses before they could be auctioned off, sparing them a premature end.

“She was really skinny when we got her,” says Lizee. “But she was such a sweet horse.”

The group, founded in 1995, saved more than 80 horses from the slaughterhouse last year, finding loving homes for more than 60 of them.

However, not long after Adele was brought to J&M Acres on 224th Street, the group’s founder, Julie MacMillian, noticed there was something wrong with her. Adele’s heart rate was elevated, and she began lying down, both signs that she was very sick.

MacMillian stayed by the horse’s side through the night, walking her to keep her standing until she could be taken to the vet.

The prognosis was dire. Adele likely had stomach colic, and would die without immediate surgery.

“Equine colic is really serious,” says Lizee. “It’s usually an impaction or a blockage. But a horse can’t throw up, so it’s often fatal.”

MacMillian was faced with a $12,000 bill to treat her. Even with the surgery, veterinary doctors at Paton and Martin Veterinary Services in Aldergrove gave Adele a 50 to 60 per cent chance of survival.

“Twelve thousand dollars is a lot of money to gamble on a horse that old,” MacMillian says. “But look at her face, how could I say no?”

Thanks to work of the surgical team, Adele pulled through. After nearly a week in the vet’s care, Adele came home on Monday, sporting bare patches of skin amongst her chestnut brown hair where the doctors opened her up to save her life.

“For her age and her condition, the fact she is recovering is a miracle,” says Lizee. “Even if she was five years old and healthy, it would have been a gamble.”

However, the cost of the surgery has completely exhausted J&M’s reserve funds.

The group runs a weekly meat draw at the Golden Ears Pub, where MacMillan works, and thanks to adoption fees and donations by local businesses like Whonnock Feed and Hardware, J&M Acres is able stay afloat.

But without donations, the group won’t be able to take on new rescue horses.

“We’ve got enough [feed] to get through the next two months, but after that, I don’t know what we’ll do,” says Lizee.

Despite the financial hardship Adele’s surgery has placed on J&M Acres, Lizee and MacMillian have no regrets.

A healthy horse can live to 30 years, so Adele will have a long healthy life ahead of her.

“She’s such a lovely horse, I can’t imagine giving up on her,” she says.

“We call her our $12,000 miracle.”

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