A gentle giant that goes by the name Thunder has a predilection for treats. He sniffs them out and rummages through coat pockets with his nimble equine lips until he gets what he’s after.
It’s a big change in personality for the 10-year-old Thoroughbred gelding. The big horse and a mare were seized from a North Whidbey man who neglected them and withheld proper food and medical care.
Thunder was wary of people and a little defensive, but he’s been molded into a giant puppy dog of a horse thanks to the kindness and hard work of many volunteers. And now he needs to find a permanent home.
Island County Animal Control Officer Carol Barnes took the two horses into protective custody last summer, but found herself between a rock and a hard place. Island County government doesn’t have any funds or facilities to deal with large animals.
Fortunately, the island is filled with people who love horses and are willing to help those in need. Barnes helped found Whidbey Island Farm Animal Assistance Program to defray the cost of feed, medical care and other necessities.
But Barnes said the horses really owe their lives to the many volunteers, who include Wendy Thorne, Pam Price, Kim Knott, Jerry Gravo, Jennifer Roberts, veterinarian Robert Moody and the M-Bar-C-Ranch.
Mike and Michelle McKay, along with their 16-year-old daughter Taryn, have fostered Thunder over the last four months and transformed him through the power of tender loving care.
“When he first got here, he wouldn’t take treats and he wouldn’t take affection,” Michelle said.
Taryn, who rides in international competitions, has a great deal of experience with horses and is very patient with them. Her mother said she spent a lot of time with Thunder and helped bring him out of his shell.
Nowadays the big lug enjoys interacting with people, especially when there’s treats involved. He stands still for the vet, the horse chiropractor or the farrier.
“He’s come a long way in the trust department,” Mike said.
Thunder will soon be available for adoption at an approved qualified home. Barnes said he has a lot of potential and would make a good trail horse for an experienced rider. He’s a big horse, standing at about 16.2 hands.
Applications are available at animal control at 360-240-5542. The mare rescued along with Thunder has already been adopted by a North Whidbey family.
Donations to the Whidbey Island Farm Animal Assistance Program can be mailed to WIFAAP, P.O. Box 402, Coupeville WA 98239. The group is in the process of becoming a 501(c)(3), so donations aren’t currently tax deductable.