The look in the large brown eyes of the horse she couldn’t save still haunt Gena Sandli.
But if anything, the animal’s untimely death has made the founder of Outbackjacks Horse Rescue centre even more determined to help others.
That particular case involved a horse Sandli eventually named the Painted Lady because of her unique markings and gentle nature.
She first learned of the problem when a woman living on the outskirts of Keremeos called to report a neighbour’s horse appeared to be in very bad shape and asked what she should do.
Shortly afterwards Sandli received some pictures of the animal and was shocked to see its condition.
“The mane and forelocks were just matted so badly it was tearing at the skin, she was drastically underweight, it was just an awful sight,” said Sandli. “No animal deserves to be in that sort of pain.”
She attempted to contact the owner by telephone, however, the number was not in service, so she called the local RCMP and an officer agreed to go with her to the residence.
The owner of the horse declined all offers of assistance, including food and medication, and the pair had no choice but to leave.
“As we walked away I turned around and I could see her whole body sagged, like, ‘oh my God, you’re leaving me’ and I swear, even from a distance, it looked like she was crying.
“It just crushed me and we had to walk a kilometre out of there in the snow. It was just one of those terrible things.”
Shortly afterwards an officer from the SPCA investigated the matter and ordered the horse be put down, even though Sandli believes the mare may still have had a chance to recover.
It was at that point she decided to begin a petition to the government to give organizations like hers authority to do something to help before it is too late.
“After that case I just said, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’” she said. “Every time this happens, it just takes a chunk of me away and this one crushed our hearts.
“I think part of the problem is the SPCA is just so understaffed and these things just take so long to process, we need to be able to move quicker.”
Sandli added she is aware of six other horses that died last year because action was not taken soon enough to help them.
“By signing the petition you are giving the rescuers an opportunity that is far overdue,” she said. “Going to call after call and having to walk away from the animal in need because we cannot get a surrender is not tolerable anymore.
“Most of these animals are in need right at that moment and most calls come in long before help ever gets to them.”
At her Princeton ranch she is currently looking after nearly a dozen horses, some of which were in need of care and were released by their owners who were unable to provide the necessities of life.
Where possible she tries to rehabilitate the animals and find caring homes for them although there is one horse she rescued from an Okanagan Falls boarding stable, she expects will be with her for the rest of its life.
“When this horse first came here she hated humans and wanted nothing to do with anybody,” recalled Sandli. “She just laid down and wanted to die but I sat on the ground for three days and held her head in my lap and I think from that I earned some respect from her.”
As a way to raise money for the work, Sandli started a second hand store in her home community several years ago and another one in Keremeos this past year.
She prefers this method rather than begging the public for money.
“We believe in working for what we believe in,” said Sandli. “It’s also why we don’t have a donate button on our website because if you ask for it, there are many people out there who will give you their very last dime.”
Outbackjacks is an agent of the Horse Protection Agency of B.C. and will gladly accept feed, horse medical supplies, tack and all household items at its two locations.
For more information or to sign the petition visit the website www.outbackjacks.ca.