Did coyotes kill woman's beloved 27-year-old horse near Fair Grove? – News-Leader

October 5, 2019 - Comment

Wes Johnson Springfield News-Leader Published 11:13 PM EDT Oct 3, 2019 She called him “Bo,” short for Bonanza, like the buckskin horse on the popular TV Western. Sarah Thomas saved Bo from a horse auction, where he was likely headed to a horse meat slaughterhouse. Thomas saw something in the big, 17-hand-high horse that just begged


She called him “Bo,” short for Bonanza, like the buckskin horse on the popular TV Western.

Sarah Thomas saved Bo from a horse auction, where he was likely headed to a horse meat slaughterhouse. Thomas saw something in the big, 17-hand-high horse that just begged to be saved.

“When I got him he was nothing but bones,” Thomas recalled. “It took me forever to get him up to par. He was a perfect trail horse, the gentle giant of the bunch.”

Bo was quickly becoming the star of Thomas’s Horse Legends Rescue ranch southwest of Fair Grove. Because of her love of equines, she buys or takes in horses and other equines that are abused or neglected or being sold for human or pet consumption.

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Now in its second year, her rescue ranch has 36 animals, ranging from quarter horses and appaloosas to three wild burros and a wild mustang relocated from federal land in the West. Most are rehabbed and readied for people with appropriate space and a desire to adopt.

Some are in such poor condition they are not adoptable, and Thomas’s barn will be their forever home.

Bo was a keeper, a gentle horse who Thomas used for riding lessons.

About three weeks ago, Thomas said she was shocked to discover Bo dead in his pasture. She believes he likely fell victim to a pack of coyotes or roaming dogs.

“I went out for his morning feeding around 5 a.m.,” she recalled. “I ran out to him thinking maybe he was on the ground sleeping. I panicked when I saw him. Something ate Bo. I was devastated.”

She didn’t see it happen and acknowledged it could have been dogs that got her friend. But Thomas said she had seen a pack of coyotes on several occasions traversing a deer trail near Bo’s fenced pasture. She had not seen any free-running dogs in the days before Bo was found dead.

She alerted her neighbors about the attack through the Nextdoor Fair Grove Fellows Lake email group. And she installed floodlights in the pasture and near her home and barn to hopefully deter coyotes from coming back.

PHOTOS: Thomas’s Horse Legends Rescue

She and her husband also keep a shotgun nearby in case they do.

Josh Wisdom, a wildlife damage biologist with the conservation department, said it’s unlikely, but not impossible, that coyotes took Bo down. Coyotes typically eat small mammals like voles and rabbits, and when they’ve attacked livestock, it’s usually calves or lambs they go after.

A fully grown horse would be intimidating prey.

“I’ve never seen that before,” Wisdom said, acknowledging he hadn’t been called to examine Bo’s carcass. “In Missouri, a big coyote weighs around 35 pounds. They’re not the size of wolves.”

When grown livestock are killed, it’s typically dogs that do the damage, he said. It might be possible that a pack of coyotes got to Bo when he was asleep on the ground. But Wisdom has a more likely theory.

“If it’s a 27-year-old horse, it was probably laying dead or near death before coyotes got to it,” he said.

Either way, it was a heartbreaking loss for Thomas. Because of his size, Bo was cremated in the pasture where he lay.

His death, however, has not deterred Thomas from her mission to do what she can to rescue and rehabilitate horses and find homes for them.

She showed off Rebel, a Shetland pony who came to her with curled hooves that had never been trimmed, a damaged eye, an impacted tooth that needs to be removed and other physical ailments. Once terrified of people, Rebel now approaches her human caregiver looking for a handout or back scratch.

A wild mustang captured from a Bureau of Land Management tract out West is also making great progress.

“When she got him, Tango was untouchable,” said Terri Timmerman, a neighbor who has become a friend, volunteer and benefactor of Horse Legends Rescue. “But now he’s got to where he accepts a saddle. He’ll be a good fit for someone.”

Horse Legends Rescue is a 501(c) nonprofit, and Thomas said she relies on volunteers to help with chores, feeding and socializing animals that have been mistreated by humans. Area farmers have donated bales of hay, and Thomas said her rescues get medical care from a Nixa veterinarian.

Thomas welcomes donations or volunteers to help with the Horse Legends Rescue mission. Although she is at her maximum capacity of 36 rescue animals, Thomas said a few horses are close to being adopted out. She’ll be ready to rescue more to keep them out of the slaughterhouse.

“I’ve been doing this two years now,” she said. “This is my passion.”

Horse Legends Rescue can be reached at 417-379-0568, by email at horselegendsrescue@gmail.com, or on Facebook.

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