Blaze’s Tribute Equine Rescue
In A Blaze Of Glory
By Hugh Jones

Blaze and a blaze kind of started it all.  The Crosses were trying to outrun a fire that was eating up the countryside around Guthrie in the fall of 2001.  They had loaded their horse, appropriately named Blaze, into a trailer and were driving away.  As they crossed a wooden bridge, the trailer’s floor gave way, and Blaze fell through.  Her injuries were so severe, most veterinarians told the couple to find another horse.  But they didn’t give up, nor did one vet in Guthrie.  They brought her back.  Today, except for a few scars, she’s fine.  In fact, she pretty much runs the roost at the sanctuary named for her.

And that leads to the next part of the story.  The whole episode got Natalee to thinking about ways to help animals in need.  She knew many horses with injuries like Blaze’s ended up going to auction and from there...shall we say, to the dogs?  She went to a meeting of the Volunteers For Animal Welfare and heard Catherine English, head of the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter, speak.  She was impressed.  They talked.  Could she house horses and livestock for the shelter?  She went home and told Shawn he was now part of a livestock rescue.

“We were prepared to accept most kinds of livestock, from cattle to chickens,” says Natalee.  “But we never had the opportunity because of the horses.”

And that’s the next part of the story.  The couple was thinking temporary horse rescue, as in singular.  Not permanent horses plural.  Not long after, the sheriff of McClain County called the city shelter.  He had a problem, 20 abandoned, starving and slowly but surely dying horses: 12 miniatures, the rest were large.  English recommended the Crosses.

“He called on Friday and said he needed us there that weekend,” says Natalee.  “We rounded up a couple of trucks and trailers and arrived the next morning.”

“December 23, 200l,” recalls Shawn.  “It was miserable, about 25 degrees, strong wind blowing, we were freezing.”

“And we weren’t prepared for what we saw,” adds Natalee.  “Most of them were basically skin over bones.  They looked horrible.  You could feel every bone in the minis’ bodies.  We lost one horse, just a yearling, five days later.  His insides were eaten up with parasites.  But I’d say his best days were those he spent with us.  He was well loved in that time.”

Today, the horses, minus nine minis that have been adopted, live with the Crosses on 10 quiet, attractive, tree-covered acres east of Jones.  As we sit on the front porch of the Crosses’ mobile home, the horses munch on hay in a pen 50 yards distant.  It’s a peaceful and pleasant sight, that is if you don’t mind the dogs jumping in your lap or the little goat, that thinks she’s a dog, wandering under your feet.  Shawn reels off the list of current residents: “All together, 13 horses, six dogs, six cats, six fish” (all things being equal), “three goats, two birds, two daughters.  And one donkey, but donkey’s in trouble at the moment.  We have him confined in his own little area because he’s decided it’s fun to jump over fences and go roaming.  He’s a real good guard donkey though.”

Guard donkey?

 “Oh yeah.  He won’t let the dogs chase the horses.  He won’t let dogs, other than ours, even in the pasture.  He keeps the coyotes out.”

“He does a good job of keeping things off the property,” says Natalee.  “We just can’t keep him on the property.” 

We walk to the pen and mingle with the horses.  I don’t think I’ve ever associated the word sweet with horses. But that’s what comes to mind.  These are the sweetest horses: gentle, easy going.  At one point, I’m enclosed in a horse stockade–one in front, one on either side and one in back.  And all they want is a little face time: a rub, a pat, some TLC.  I think to myself, how could anyone leave these creatures to starve?         

The law finally caught up with the woman who abandoned them.  She served time (very little) for her misdeeds. And she signed over the rights to the mini horses.  That’s why the Crosses could have them adopted.  But she denied responsibility for the large horses, saying they belonged to her nephew.  The nephew, of course, can’t be found, and no one is looking.  So the Crosses and the big horses are stuck in limbo.

“Our goal was to adopt out those we could and keep those we couldn’t,” says Natalee.  “Most of them certainly are adoptable.  But we still don’t have a release from McClain County, so we can’t do anything.  We love them, but they are a big financial drain, and we can’t help anybody else because of it.  Instead of properly prosecuting the lady and closing the case, the county messed up.  They took the release on the minis and just let it go.  It’s been a year and a half now.  The county has no good reason to hold these horses.  But I call them, and they’re unresponsive.  Their attitude seems to be: the horses aren’t costing them, so why should they do anything?  We need an attorney to take on the county and force the release.”

How about it readers?  Any big-hearted attorneys out there willing to help out?

Much to their credit, the couple has spent a small fortune.  The horses’ conditions resulted in thousands of dollars in vet bills, a debt the Crosses are still paying.  Then there’s daily maintenance and feeding: hay and 18 bags of grain a week.  The hay they have now was donated, but they could always use more–of the feed kind or green kind.

Shawn rests his arms on the fence, gazing, a little wistful, at the mobile home.

“We plan to build a house someday.  Might could have if not for this expense.  Or, at least, we could have made a good down payment.”

Natalee joins him, laughing.  “Guess you can see what’s more important to us.  We live cheap and spend on the horses.  But somebody has to do it.  We’ve thought a time or two, if we didn’t have this, we could have that.  But the horses are special to us.  They didn’t ask for what they were given.  We’re trying to give them what they deserve.  But, if we could just thin out the herd, we could start up the rescue again, at a slower pace.”

Shawn nods.  “A trickle instead of a river.”

He turns to look at the horses.  “At first, these guys had their heads down, walking slowly, feet dragging.  Now, if they could smile, I think they would.”  He pauses, thinking.  “We were out riding one day, some distance away.  The next thing we know, here comes the whole herd on the run, the big ones and the little mini trying his best to keep up.  They were bucking, jumping and kicking.  You could tell they felt good.  We looked at each other, smiled and said, ‘that’s why.’”

To help, you can call the Crosses at 405-399-3084 or contact them at

Blaze's Tribute Equine Rescue
Jones OK

Published with permission by OK Pet Gazette and the Crosses
ă 2003 OK PetGazette

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