Granby rescue gives horses a second chance
When Briannah Swope picked up the sickly white horse she would name Finnegan, he had already been to auction four times.
The horse’s face was bloody from an eye injury caused by cancer. He was underweight. He had 62 spider bites on his left flank, and he was deaf.
“Had I not intervened … they would’ve sent him to the kill buyer,” she said.
Swope, an avid equestrian, has been rescuing horses the past four years with her own money, time and property on Highway 125 in Granby, where Swope works to heal and rehome horses that would otherwise be put down, as was the case with Finnegan.
It took months of vet visits, multiple surgeries and hours of therapy to help Finnegan get healthy again.
Swope said kind-hearted sponsors donated money to cover some of the more costly treatments. However, in the process, Finnegan lost his left eye, leaving him half blind and fully deaf.
“He’s just a first,” Swope said. “I reached out to a lot of trainers and none of them had dealt with it. They just said, ‘We can’t help you.’”
Typically, once a horse has been given the thumbs up from the vet, Swope trains the animal to ensure it can be ridden and to determine its skills so the horse can be adopted out.
With Finnegan, Swope had to start by gaining his trust and figuring out a way to communicate with him.
“Sometimes, you get the full story of the horse, and other times you don’t get anything,” she said. “A lot of the communication you do with Finn is with your hands because you can’t talk to him because he can’t hear you.”
Luckily, Swope found a Denver-based trainer who owns a blind and deaf horse and could share some tips. Swope’s trusty sidekick and the first horse she ever rescued, Clee, also helped make Finnegan feel comfortable in his new home.
The experience of seeing Finnegan go from not letting people touch him to happily running and bucking in a round pen has been deeply impactful, said Mikayla Springer, a friend of Swope’s who regularly helps out at the rescue.
“I’ve never experienced something more rewarding,” Springer said. “I’ve worked with a lot of horses and that was huge.”
Of the 16 horses Swope has rescued, Finnegan was her most difficult, Swope said. Unlike the majority of the rescues, Finnegan will likely find his forever home with Swope.
“Whoever trains Finn will be the person he connects with, so he’ll probably stay here,” she explained.
Although Finnegan is still adjusting to his new life, Swope already has her next rescue, a 19-year-old horse from Empire.
She said that she receives up to six messages a month about horses that have been abused, abandoned or can no longer be cared for by their owners.
In order to help as many of them as possible, Swope’s next project will be formalizing her rescue by creating a 501c3 nonprofit business and finishing a new barn on her 40 acre property.
“We’re hoping to take in more once we get the barn up,” she said.
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