Neglected horse rescued near highway
By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, email@example.com
Landscaper Vanessa Argo didn’t quite know what to think when she saw a horse running loose near the Hwy 52 Bypass in Darlington. She had noticed the handsome brown and white fellow as he passed her worksite about fifteen minutes earlier, then saddled with a rider astride, but now the horse was unsaddled and galloping dangerously close to the highway busy with afternoon traffic.
“I’m thinking he’s going to get run over, he’s headed towards 52,” Argo recalls, noting that since she and her daughter are riders and share a great affinity for horses, she felt compelled to try and help.
“I immediately take off in my car trying to chase this thing down, thinking somehow I’m going to catch it,” she says.
Squealing brakes and honking horns rang out through the Brockington Road neighborhood as Argo pursued the horse across 52 and into Darlington. Kids and old folks watching from their yards gave helpful “he went that-a-way” directions, and Argo managed to cut the block and park her car across his path. Two responding Darlington Police officers helped guide the frightened animal into a small lot on Guess Street. Argo approached and attempted to calm him down.
“I talked really gentle to him and was able to get him to come up to me and I got his halter…it was pretty awesome,” Argo says.
Once she got close, Argo noticed the animal, which appeared healthy from a distance, was actually in dire straits. His right eye was horribly infected and had rotted away in the socket. Pus streamed down his muzzle and maggots were visible. The smell, Argo recalls, was nauseating even from several feet away.
With a little coaxing, the horse gentled down and displayed an easy, friendly temperament.
“I believe that he knew we were there to help him,” says Argo.
With an assist from local horsewoman Kristan Jeffords and Darlington Police Chief Danny Watson, the injured horse was loaded into Jeffords’ trailer and taken away for medical treatment. All this time, the horse’s rider was nowhere to be found.
It was over 90-degrees that Aug. 10 afternoon, and Argo thought it criminal that someone had been riding this sick animal in the summer heat. As it turns out, she was right – it was criminal.
Darlington Police identified the owner as Abdulmalik Shabazz, 64, of Brockington Road in Darlington. Shabazz told DPD officers that while he was riding the horse home, it became startled, threw him off near Indian Branch Road, and bolted.
According to the police report, Shabazz said a Mr. John Taylor gave the horse to him approximately three weeks earlier, after Shabazz paid owed boarding fees to a Ms. Rose Cromer, who boarded the animal at 505 Old Florence Road. According to the report, Taylor and Cromer told police that a veterinarian had examined the horse, diagnosed him with eye cancer, and advised them to keep the animal comfortable.
Jeffords looked into this claim and says the horse’s vet records from December of 2014 don’t mention cancer. The scant medical chart info only indicates that the horse’s eye was infected and should be kept clean. Pain medication was prescribed. She says that the horse’s current vet believes the eye trauma was originated with an abscess that went untreated.
Due to these circumstances, Chief Watson says the DPD intends to charge Shabazz with Animal Cruelty and Horse at Large. Watson says the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office may also press charges.
Meanwhile, the horse in question is finally getting the care he needs. In addition to the severe infection that took his right eye, he injured his foot by stepping on a beer bottle during his escape. Watson observed that it seemed the horse hadn’t seen a farrier for hoof care in a long while.
Since there is no official horse rescue organization in Darlington County or Florence County, the animal will continue his convalescence under the care of a rescue group in Chesterfield County. Jeffords says the animal, estimated to be around 18 years old, has responded well to medical care and his chances for recovery are very strong.
“He has improved tremendously already. I think as soon as he is placed in his new adoptive home, his healing will rapidly increase,” says Jeffords.
Argo has kept in touch with Jeffords, getting progress reports on the horse whose life she might have saved. She says that afternoon’s adventure was simply a confluence of luck – the right person in the right place at the right time – and the horse was definitely worth the trouble.
“He’s a special guy,” says Argo. “It was a pretty incredible experience.”