Antoinette arrived at ERL in September 1998 with her mother, Darcy, and her brother, Jolly. All were showing the effects of serious, and probably long-term, neglect. The trio had come from a “breeder” who couldn’t meet the financial responsibilities or physical demands of owning several horses, yet kept breeding more. Darcy, a solid brown Thoroughbred mare, had been bred several times to a Paint stallion in the hopes of producing paint offspring. But breeding for “fashionable” colors often doesn’t work. Because so many factors enter into determining color and markings, even geneticists have difficulty in predicting what color a foal will be. If the end result is a foal of the “wrong” color, some owners may view it as less “valuable” and treat it accordingly.
When Darcy stepped off the trailer with Antoinette, she was grossly underweight and obviously depressed. She surveyed her new environment with heartbreakingly lifeless eyes. At a time when she should have been displaying strong protective instincts toward the filly at her side, she seemed ready to submit to whatever happened next. Malnutrition had taken a toll on her spirit as well as her body. A mare’s greatest nutritional needs occur during the last trimester of pregnancy and during lactation. Imagine trying to nurse a baby when you don’t have enough to eat yourself.
Antoinette was also showing the effects of malnutrition. The pair had been given only one small meal every other day. On this meager ration, Darcy’s body had been sacrificing its own reserves to produce what milk it could for Antoinette. It wasn’t enough. At 16 months, Antoinette was only the size of a normal four-month-old foal. To make matters worse, she had never been handled, making it difficult to examine her and determine her true state of health. Aside from restoring her physical well-being, Antoinette presented the additional challenge of teaching her to trust, and hopefully like, people.
The Darcy Three
The Lady, the Joker, and the Acrobat
Antoinette looks innocent, but be careful! She's a pickpocket! This filly enjoys human company so much that she’ll steal your gloves right out of your coat pocket and toss them in the corner of her stall so you have to visit a little longer. It's hard to believe that when first rescued, Antoinette was afraid of people.
Antoinette’s older brother, Jolly, was also underweight. At three years old, Jolly looked
more like a yearling. Since he was an intact colt, he had been locked up in a stall for a
long period of time.
Aside from the emaciation due to lack of adequate food, Jolly's muscles had wasted
away from lack of exercise. Upon arrival at ERL, Jolly immediately showed a very
curious and sociable nature. The isolation in his former home must have been
torture for him.
Despite their lack of prior care, Darcy and her family soon displayed a trait often
seen at ERL: the horses' inspiring resilience. Immediately started on regular feedings of a
balanced ration, Darcy and Jolly rapidly put on weight and within a few weeks, Antoinette
began showing the gangly growth spurts of a healthy young filly.
Darcy carried her head a little higher each day with an elegant spirit that earned her the
nickname, “Darcy Noble.” Jolly, on the other hand has been christened “The Jolly Joker.” Soon
after arriving, Jolly demonstrated that he is a fast learner. We imagine that he coped with his
“solitary confinement" by inventing his own games. He has even, on occasion, taken a brush
from a grooming kit and used it on his own legs! (Making up for lost time?)
And Antoinette? The panic is gone from her eyes and she seems to be as willing a student as her brother. And every few days, as if appreciating the novel feeling of good health, she has been seen performing her own interpretation of the Airs Above the Ground usually demonstrated by the famous Lipizzaner Stallions! Perhaps in the dictionary, next to the definition of resilient, there should be a picture of a horse.
Antionette, Darcy and Jolly have all been adopted.