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Yes Santa, dreams can come true

Tiger, the emaciated horse rescued from Fallbrook, has recovered and been adopted.

It’s that magical time of year when dreams can come true. For Tiger, the emaciated horse saved by Falcon Ridge Equine Rescue from a residential property in Fallbrook on June 5, the hope of adoption to a loving home became reality on December 7.

The rehabilitation process for Tiger was a pragmatic one in that there were certain critical steps taken to ensure the best possible outcome for this kind animal. Following his swift rescue, Dr. Jeff Moss of Creekside Veterinary Clinic thoroughly examined Tiger.

“Dr. Moss found Tiger had no health problems other than emaciation from starvation,” said Nicki Branch, president and founder of Falcon Ridge Equine Rescue Incorporated, based in Valley Center.

On a strict reintroduction feeding regimen to avoid a fatal Refeeding Syndrome effect, Branch explained, Tiger was fed six small meals of alfalfa hay per day for the first two weeks of his stay. Following this, Tiger could then be given larger meals and grain was added to his diet to build up fat.

“We also had to brush the old hair off of Tiger from the rain rot and apply medicated cream to the sore he had on his backbone from the skin being stretched on it,” said Branch.

According to Branch, Tiger steadily gained weight with no problems, and after 30 days, he began his arena turnout exercise program. At that point, he was introduced to the other horses for herd socialization.

“Tiger got back to his normal weight, adding about 300 pounds to his huge 18-hand frame 90 days after his rescue,” said Branch. “After three months, he filled out with fat and muscle and his coat turned a shiny black.”

Once comfortable and healthy, Tiger was then further evaluated. It became apparent he was trained in dressage riding techniques.

“Tiger knew all his cues like a champ and it was evident he was an ex-show horse, most likely a three-day eventer,” Branch said.

Not long into Tiger’s stay at Falcon Ridge, Branch recognized his sweet nature. His affection for humans was unmistakable, coupled with a whinny when he saw them.

“After the first month of rescue, I knew Tiger would be a fantastic horse for someone to adopt,” said Branch, who pointed out the animal’s good nature toward people. “Tiger was regal and kind, as well as incredibly handsome.”

The best home for Tiger, Branch thought, was one where he could go for a light ride and receive lots of equine tender loving care. Happily, the perfect match was found.

“I met Tiger two weeks ago,” said Lori Vereker, who transported her trusty new steed to Lakeside on December 7. “[He] is a gentle giant, easy to get along with and very well behaved.”

Vereker was impressed with Branch’s kind nonprofit organization. With the economic downturn, Falcon Ridge plays an invaluable role in the equine community.

“For those people who are thinking about getting a horse, try the adoption route, because there are beautiful horses out there that are in need of a good home,” said Vereker.

Tiger’s success story is a wonderful one for Branch. “This is the reason why I love rescuing horses,” she said, “in seeing them going from despair and hunger and then to such wonderful loving homes where they will be taken care of the way they deserve.”

The mission of Falcon Ridge, explained Branch, is to improve the equine physical, emotional and mental wellbeing so they can move toward a healthy future. This nonprofit also remains the largest equine rescue in San Diego County.

“We are currently working together with local veterinarians, County Animal Control and the Humane Society to help place horses who are falling victim to the economy,” said Branch.

At present, there are 20 horses available for adoption at Falcon Ridge. Some of the different breeds available are Arabs, Quarter, Mustangs, Thoroughbred, Icelandic and Missouri Fox Trotter.

A few of the horses are called “pasture puffs,” a term used to define a wonderful horse that is unable to be ridden but still in need of affection.

“Adopting a rescued horse is a charitable act,” explained Branch. “These horses love unconditionally and continue to have spirit in times when many of us do not.”

Tiger appears to be a perfect example of such unconditional love, possessing the strength to overcome adversity and the heart to will himself to recover.

For more information on Falcon Ridge Equine Rescue, its adoption process and its need for ongoing financial donations and volunteers, e-mail [email protected], call (760) 742-0285 or visit

Branch also welcomes 4-H and scouting groups that would like to volunteer to do improvement projects at the ranch.

Donations to Falcon Ridge Equine Rescue can be made to PO Box 1500, Valley Center, CA 92082.

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