Meet Molly: Journey of an ex-Big Lick Tennessee Walking Horse

In the first article of her series, Candace Wade offers a heart-wrenching look at the aftermath of the Big Lick industry on the horses it affects.

We joined Theo, an ex-Big Lick TN Walker show horse, on his complex journey from rescue through rehab in “Saving Theo.” Now, meet Molly, another ex-Big Lick. I laid hands and eyes on her. She snuffled my face. Molly moved me to share her story.

Tawnee leading Molly. Photo by Kisa Kavass.

I had attended “in-take” day at an equine rescue in Middle Tennessee that specializes in Tennessee Walking Horses (TWH). They rescue other breeds, but “80% of the equines they take in are TWH.” Horses are purchased from auction (and likely slaughter) and brought to the rescue facility. That’s a story on its own that I will share another time. I interviewed the rescue owner and the Shelter Manager/Adoption Specialist/Trained Equine Health staff person (who works with a veterinarian).

I was interested in Molly, a sleek black horse dozing in a rehab barn. She was standing in a large stall with extra thick shavings. Molly responded to my voice by slipping her muzzle through the bars and puffing a breath with curiosity. The owner led the mare out so I could see and touch her. She pointed out Molly’s stiff walk, the arc of her rear legs, her swollen hocks.

Here’s what I learned about Molly from the Shelter Manager:

  • Molly is 18 years old. She is a Tennessee Walking Horse. She was surrendered to the shelter five days prior by the owners who had rescued her. She is considered an “owner surrender,” but Molly’s last owners were not her original owners.
  • The people who surrendered Molly said that she was shown as Big Lick and was heavily padded for the exaggerated gait. They said that she had been used as a Big Lick show horse up until she was 12 years old and that she had been sored. They had cared for her for six years before they brought her to the rescue.
  • Molly had been on daily pain medicine for all six years. The owners recounted that Molly would lay alone in the field and seemed not to want to come up for either food or water. Perhaps these were signals that her pain was not successfully managed with her daily medication?
  • The Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Desmitis (DSLD) in her pasterns was diagnosed as a result of the exaggerated gait she was made to perform from a young age. Per the Shelter Manager: “The training for the high front step using chains, weights and chemicals on the front feet causes horse to have to overextend and bring back feet so far under them to balance their weight that it stretches the suspensory ligaments from the pasterns all the way to the hocks and hips. In Molly’s case, she also developed severe arthritis and calcification from damaged tendons in her pasterns.” In my simple terms, collapsed pasterns.
  • I asked about Molly’s temperament. I was told that she was a “very, very sweet mare and loved to be loved, in spite of her pain.”

Evidence of Molly’s DSLD. Photo by Candace Wade.

Unlike Theo, medical professionals assessed that no more could be done for Molly. The Shelter Manager offered, “The best thing we could do for her was to humanely put her to sleep so that she would no longer suffer. She had no quality of life any more. The daily pain meds were not easing her pain and long term use could lead to other health problems.”

Molly’s pain was ended on Friday June 21st.

Tawnee and Molly. Photo by Kisa Kavass.

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