In the heart of “the burbs”, the middle of the mortgage belt in eastern suburban Melbourne, you really don’t expect to find considerable acreage and a horse property and beautiful horses. But right next to new housing developments in Vermont is exactly where we met with Anne Bell and Kimba and her stunning paddock buddies.
Kimba is an Arab cross, about a year and a half old, maybe approaching two. She’s an incredibly friendly and curious little filly with stunning movement. She was rescued by Anne Bell and New Dawn Equine Rescue. Anne tells the story of how Kimba came to her eleven months prior.
“We were planning on saving some Standy’s from the Echuca sale yard, and we were going through the photos with one of the other (New Dawn Equine Rescue organisation) members, and we came across Kimba’s photo. She looked absolutely terrified, and I said, “Look, I know she’s not a Standy (Standardbred), but bring her home. Don’t leave her there, where she’s absolutely petrified.”
She was brought to Dixons Creek by a foster carer before moving to Vermont. “At first, she was still petrified. The halter had been an instrument of torture to her.”
Day by day, moment by moment, Kimba was treated with love and tenderness, and when she allowed it, affection too.
Anne told all of her fellow agisters, “Every time you walk past, stop and say hello, give her a treat and a pat if she lets you.”
She says that within a week, Kimba realised she wasn’t going to be hurt by these people. Now, she’s so curious, we’ve found her in the house, the sheds – she just wanders in and says hi! It’s amazing how far she’s come.”
When we met Kimba with Anne, Kimba was swollen in the belly. This can mean that a horse is dealing with an over-burden of worms, and quite often a good worming will see the swelling drop quickly and general condition improve very quickly. But Anne revealed something shocking to us.
“She’s not yet two years old, and she’s due to foal any day.”
This meant that as a less-than-one year old, she was impregnated. Anne had done the maths. Either she had been sent to the sales as a pregnant one-year-old, or worse. Anne and her family and friends were on constant watch over this little girl who was way too young to give birth. Her own small frame was not yet fully formed and still growing. It was such a risk for her to give birth, and no horse person in their right mind would expose a filly barely a year old, to the risks of foaling.
“We’ve got 7 or 8 agisters here, and we all look out for her.” They have even camped in the stables waiting, just in case. “It’s like a watch crew going on!”
Some weeks later, after her due date had well and truly passed, Anne told us that Kimba’s pregnancy had turned out to be a “phantom”, or false pregnancy, confirmed by the local vet. It’s not unheard of, and usually happens in horses who have had a traumatic attempt at impregnation. Anne had told us earlier that “She’d been put in a huge yard to go off for sale with a whole bunch of colts, so anything could have happened.”
It’s a relief in the end that she’s not pregnant. She can grow up as “Kimba”, without the added risk and possible trauma of foaling at such a young age.
Anne had been in rescue for less than two years and found herself the president of a small equine rescue group, saving as many animals from the saleyards as they possibly can provide for. “It’s becoming a collection!”, she jokes to us. It’s a lot of mouths to feed, a lot of hay. They raise money with the sales from bagged manure at the gate, and modest re-homing fees for horses that have been rescued and brought into work, and sold on. These fees and small sales don’t cover the costs, so the rest comes out of the volunteers pockets.
Anne recently left NDER to complete her studies and spend her spare time with Kimba and her paddock mates – all but two are rescues. But the door to rescue (and more beauties like Kimba) is never closed.