Not many people could see the proud outlaw in Jesse James.
When he arrived at the Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Maryland last October, he seemed more like a tired, old horse.
“He was emaciated,” Erin Clem Ochoa, executive director of Days End Farm Horse Rescue, tells iHeartHorses. “He was pretty much just living off the little bits left of his fat resources he had left.
But Jesse James had a heart that still bucked and kicked like a stallion — even after a lifetime of neglect.
Jesse was part of a major rescue in West Virginia last year that included pigs, dogs, cats and, in all, 11 horses.
“All were thin. No food. No water,” Ochoa says. “It had become a situation that could be common in communities — they take on the responsibility of animal ownership and just do not provide the basic necessities that they need.”
Hearing about the situation, Days End offered to take the animals from the original group that had intervened, Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue.
Jesse was among them. But at the time, he didn’t much live up to his outlaw namesake. The only thing this horse seemed to defy was gravity.
“He probably knew that if he laid down, he didn’t have the muscles to get back up,” Ochoa says.
Fortunately, his rescuer had been honing their horse rehabilitation skills for the last 28 years. Jesse was led to hope. And, little by little, he fed from it.
“Sometimes, when horses realize there is a next meal that is actually coming, sometimes that drive to live becomes a little bit stronger,” Ochoa explains.
For the first while, Jesse received 24-hour care, small, steady meals that wouldn’t tax his already overburdened system — and crucial lessons in what it means to be a horse.
“Jesse was a very friendly, personably horse from the get-go,” Brittney Carow, equine health director at Days End, tells iHeartHorses. “He just didn’t have a lot of trust.”
“He just needed to learn that we were going to take care of him,” she adds.
Jesse’s stallion heart would take care of the rest. The horse began to fill out. And fill out even more — he grew thicker and stronger than anyone expected.
“I was amazed by how much he actually filled out and bulked up,” Carow says. “A lot of times horses at that age just don’t have the muscle mass you see in a younger horse.”
And then, one day, everyone saw the proud outlaw in Jesse James — the horse who defied even death.
“He is just absolutely strikingly beautiful now,” Carow says. “We could tell he was going to be a good-looking boy when we first got him, but I’m actually very impressed.”
Well not quite the stallion, any more. Ironically, a key aspect in the horse’s rehabilitation was castration, which technically makes him a gelding today.
Like so many animals who have found their footing in life at Days End, Jesse James is the horse he was born to be.
“This horse should have never gotten to this situation,” Ochoa explains. “He always intended to look they way he looks. We just happened to be a part of that.”
In about a month or so, when Jesse James is fully rehabilitated, he will be ready for a forever home. Think you might be able to help?
You can also watch a video of Jesse James below: