My Pulse News

Mena, Arkansas, News covering Polk County and the surrounding area

Olivieri and her rising Starr

Article by Ethan Nahté

Photos by Deborah Michelle

In part two of Dawn Olivieri’s story rescuing horses from the kill pens, she was last speaking about what appeared to be an increase in the number of foals being purchased by the kill buyers. The numbers seemed to surpass anything rescuers had seen throughout their careers.

An area such as the Ouachita Mountains or west of Fort Worth, Texas, are communities where there’s plenty of livestock, but for many, they aren’t aware what kill pens are.
Olivieri explained, “I hear different things. I’ve done research but I didn’t get into this game because I knew all about it and I was like, ‘Okay, I’m ready to fight the fight.’ I just saw mommas and babies and I thought that’s not where they should be. My heart just sort of melted and I thought, ‘Well, I have some space and I have the energy. Let me just give it a shot. It turns out I also have the resources. I didn’t even realize I had all the resources that I had access to.

“As far as I know, at least the groups I have taken in, the first group — the Momma Baby Army — from what I know, was taken from a Navajo reservation. I think it’s Indiana where their Coggins [test] were done.”

A Coggins test is a blood test that is generally recommended to be given at least annually to identify whether a horse is a carrier of Equine Infectious Anemia, a viral disease in horses. A negative test is required to allow horses to travel between states and most equine facilities.

“It could be maybe someone trucked them in from somewhere else,” she said. “It’s hard with these things. They sort of lose their origins. It does seem I got word there was a guy who hauled all of these horses from Nebraska down to Texas. What’s funny enough, he actually stopped in Mena and they spent the night, and he drove them the rest of the way to Texas. I think is really funny… really interesting.

“So, this group of the Momma Baby Army are Navajo ponies, and they are coming off the reservation there.

“The second group I brought in — the foals, all babies — they are coming from what I hear is a Wind River [Reservation] round up. These are like BLM mustangs, but they are coming off an Indian reservation, as opposed to BLM land.”

According to an Oct. 18 article on Wyoming Public Radio’s website, funding from Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and other federal sources have rounded up more than 6,500 feral horses on the reservation so far this year. Feral horse is a term that refers to wild horses on lands other than those managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service.

“They don’t have the tattoos because they’re not done by the government. It is a government grant that’s given to the Indian reservations to do the round ups. That’s as much as I know. I’m gonna learn more as we go. My first order of business is to bring them back to health and then adopt them out to families. I haven’t so much been focused on the political side of things. It’s really just how do I help; how do I heal? That’s the story. That’s the background, at least that I know.”

The actor finds herself in what appears to be an overflow of horses being bought up by kill buyers, especially foals.

Olivieri said, “Some people have said because of COVID, it had stopped, like the buyers hadn’t sold the babies before. Maybe there were more, I don’t know. None of it makes sense to me. Whatever it is, there were an insane amount of foals present in these kill pens without their mommas.

“I went back into the kill pen funnels and I started pulling. I pulled two from Kaufman’s pen in Texas. Then I got diverted to this big group of foals in Colorado.

“I actually worked with a rescue up in Canada, the Flying L Ranch. His donors actually stepped in and sent the money for 10 more foals to be rescued. I used that, then I got the transport organized. I jumped on another lady’s transport, then they eventually made their way to Arkansas.

The thing about them was they were quarantining in Texas first and I didn’t have a place for them. So, I gotta figure out how and where am I gonna put them being that this is the first time I’ve ever rescued like this on this scale. Quarantine is a really important part of the rescue timeline. I’ve learned this because when any animal hits a kill pen, they are especially full, they get a thing called strangles, and strangles is a strep infection their immune system has to process and then remove.”

Strangles is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus equi. It is a highly contagious upper respiratory infection, often infecting lymph nodes around the jaw. The swelling can become severe, becoming so swollen that horses struggles to breathe properly, hence the name “strangles.” The prognosis for uncomplicated cases is generally good and result in full recovery. Complication happens in approximately 10% of cases with a mortality rate of up to 40%.

“Because they’re such little babies, they get hit really, really hard and they don’t have the immunity that the momma’s milk offers them,” Olivieri said. “They are just sort of left out to die in a way. I’ve learned this in a really intense way because even going to pick up that Colorado crew from Texas — there were some babies that were bailed out by another rescuer — they were so sick that the woman there that was running those lots, she’s like, ‘Can we load these five at least or six onto your trailer? You can at least try to save them because they will die. They’re about to die.’ I said, ‘Absolutely, put whoever you want on the trailer, and we’ll do the best that we can.’

“We lost one of those babies but, of the most ravaged and the sickest one was this little foal named Starr. She looked like she had been in a bar fight. I’ve never seen a horse’s face look like her face looked. It was swollen and literally pus dripping from it like so much infection.

“We brought her back that night. It was raining and it was 3 o’clock in the morning by the time we got in, but we stayed up for the next hour and we doctored that little baby and got her penicillin, got her face cleaned and a lot of that infection removed at least for that night… and she is still alive.”

Starr was located in the vet facility down in Texas with Cameron so they could monitor her white blood cell count and get the infection down. The before and after images reveal quite a big change. On one video, even Olivieri didn’t recognize Starr and asked about her, only realizing it was her when Stoudt informed her it was Starr.

“[Cameron] has successfully gotten her to a level that is healthy,” Olivieri said. She was running and I literally couldn’t even believe that I didn’t even recognize her. You can follow her story back on the Instagram. It’s pretty insane.”

Holiday cards and applications
The interview with Olivieri will continue in next week’s issue of The Pulse. Meanwhile, the new website is not only one of the ways to find out more about them, but there are limited-edition holiday cards, each with a professional looking hand-drawn design, including a Momma and Baby, the Leopard Appaloosa Kashmir, and Starr. The funds go back into the sanctuary.

The application process for those interested in adopting is also available at the site. The application is a six-page form that will require basic horse information and the property where the adopted horse would be kept, as well as a requirement from references, including an equine professional reference. The horses are meant to go to responsible parties who can actually take proper care of a horse(s).

Instructions and other requirements can be found at the “Application” drop-down menu.

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