Louisville Magazine

APR 2015

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 4.15 105 099 RESCUE BRIGADE The mountains of eastern Kentucky hold more than coal deposits. They're also home to a growing number of wild horses. t was a mild Friday in October 2014 when Christy Feeny's husband Chaz rolled his Ka- wasaki Ninja out of the garage. He planned to make a quick run to Prospect to pick up a couple movies at the Red Box — as good an excuse as any to squeeze in a ride, something he had so little time for lately. Sure, he loved his job with the title nobody ever heard of before — certifed thermographer — but the traveling, it wore him down. Every day he'd feel homesick for his wife, their modest ranch home in Goshen, and his dogs circling his feet. And his motorcycle, of course. Tat was about 3:30. By 5, Christy was thinking about making dinner. She was a little worried that Chaz wasn't back yet, but he often took advantage of fair days and hit the winding roads around their home. She couldn't begrudge him that. Ten she looked out the window. And saw the police car. And ran. he best way Teresa Singleton knows to blow of steam is on her little Polaris Ranger. She and her husband Darrell charge up the mountainsides on their four-wheel-drive utility vehicles as often as they can and explore the grassy mountaintops around their Knott County home, not far from the little crossroads town of Fisty — pronounced like the word "feisty" — in eastern Kentucky. Te last few decades have turned the mountaintops into a Bluegrass in the sky, with acres of rolling pasture created by mining companies restoring the strip-mine-scarred land. And it turns out, this Bluegrass is complete with horses. Even 15 years ago, when the Singletons frst rode the mountain spines, they would see a few horses grazing, mares left out in the summer to feed, their bellies growing big with babies. Come winter, their owners took them home again to foal. It wasn't a bad life for a horse. What happened next kind of snuck up on them. About fve years ago, Singleton realized there were more horses than ever before, alarmingly more. "We went down into this little area where we used to see horses, usually two or three in a group and just a very few groups," she says. Now she looked across the fats of grass, each at a diferent elevation, and each fat hosted a sizable herd. "Tere were like 100 of them," she says. And it got worse. "It's unbelievable the horses over there that are starved, and have their hips sticking out, and the pregnant horses running around having colts. And the little dead horses laying around that the coyotes have killed," she says. "It's unbelievable." "It just breaks my heart to see them, knowing I can't help them," she says. Not that she hasn't tried. She and her husband went out every evening one week this past September searching for a big white horse they had encountered near Rowdy, in neighboring Perry County, right beside a working I T C L mine. "You could put your hand on his backbone and run your fnger down there and feel every single bone on his back," she says. "I petted right down the front of his face and it was like skin laying right on top of bone. Tere was no fat, no muscle on him. He could barely walk." She and Darrell spent the next day winning per- mission to rescue the horse and taking safety training so they could wander through an active mine. Tey returned the following day. Te horse was gone. Days of searching were fruitless. Still, no sign of the big white horse. Finally they heard that U.S. Fish & Wildlife had come out and collected him. Teresa called every Fish & Wildlife num- ber she could fnd, leaving messages at each one. No one ever called her back. She never learned what happened to the big white horse. But she can tell you what happened to Shucky Bean. hristy Feeny bolted from her front door as the police ofcers emerged from their squad car. "Just tell me what happened," she blurted. But instead they made her sit on the rocking chair on her porch, while inside, her two Shepherd-mix rescues, Bruiser and Nanook, went wild. Someone called her mother, Betsy Mengel, who lives two miles away. Betsy and Arthur Mengel were there in minutes. Chaz's sister and niece drove past an accident scene on their way through Prospect. It gave them a bad feeling, but the po- lice would tell them nothing. Suspecting the worst, they rushed to Chaz's house only to have their fears confrmed. Chaz was gone. Te police told Christy someone had pulled out in front of him. Chaz had tried to slow down, to avoid impact, to stay in control. But he went of the road into the ditch, his body fying into a signpost. Tey say he died instantly. He would have been 40 this April. He and Christy had been together 10 years. For her, it was like the Earth slipped away beneath her. Finding her footing again didn't even seem possible. ori Redmon, president and CEO of the Kentucky Humane Society, stood on a moun- taintop in eastern Kentucky. It was March 2014, and she was with a group trying to get a handle on just how many horses roam the hills in the state's Appalachian counties. Tey stopped counting at 438, sure they were of by a mile. "Tere was evidence of many more, piles of manure all over the place. It was a harsh winter and by March the horses up there were desperate for food. Te bark was stripped from all the trees," she says. Come summer, she would see hundreds of horses on this site. "In one herd with 112 horses we counted 30 baby foals," she says. Te problem proved so huge, they abandoned the inventory and started working on solutions, none of which are easy or obvious. For one thing, no one knows who, if anyone, owns most of these horses, and you can't just walk away with By Jenni Laidman Photos by Mickie Winters Mary Rose Sawicki of the Dark Horse Training Center in Simpsonville, Kentucky, with Willow, a "strip job" rescue.

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