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Rescued Horse Seeks New Home

Posted on Dec 26, 2007 - 3:44 PM
Rutland Herald
Article published Dec 20, 2007
Rescued horse seeks new home


READSBORO This Christmas, an expectant mother is hoping someone can provide a manger. Although a whole stable would probably be much better.

Sweetie, a 10-year-old chestnut quarter horse, is the last horse from the nine seized in June from a Readsboro couple. Sweetie needs a new home, according to Joanne Bourbeau, New England regional office director for the Humane Society of the United States.

"We'd love to see her in a new home before the holidays. Unfortunately, she was bred shortly before she was rescued and is expecting another foal in May," Bourbeau said. "A twisted hind leg may prevent her from becoming a riding horse herself, but she's looking for a retirement home that can provide a bright future for her and her foal."

Sweetie was among the group of horses seized from Doug Nicklien, 45, and Judith Page, 46, from their Route 100 farm in the Heartwellville hamlet of Readsboro.

Bourbeau said the other horses had been placed with people in various places across Vermont including with one woman in Windsor County, who is planning to give two horses to her teenage daughters as a Christmas surprise.

That woman, who is not being identified by name to preserve the holiday surprise, said she was familiar with Sweetie.

"She's well-named because she is a sweetheart. She has some physical problems, but she's as gentle as can be," the woman said.

Sweetie's age and condition have made her harder to place than some of the younger horses. Among the first questions potential owners ask is if the horse can be ridden and because Sweetie did not receive proper leg and hoof care, that's unlikely.

Sweetie is hoping to be rescued for the third time. She was once a "Premarin horses," a brood mare whose urine was used to create the drug Premarin.

The Humane Society of the United States maintains that when mares are no longer fertile and can't produce the urine, they and their foals are often slaughtered, sometimes to be used for human consumption overseas.

Wyeth, the pharmaceutical company that makes the drug used in estrogen replacement therapy and to prevent heart disease and osteoporosis, maintains a multimillion-dollar fund company officials say is used for, among other purposes, screening out slaughterhouses.

Sweetie was rescued again from Nicklien and Page, who were charged with nine counts each of cruelty to animals through deprivation in Bennington County District Court in August. The state dismissed seven of those charges against both of them and Nicklien and Page each pleaded guilty to two counts on Dec. 5.

The sentences for Nicklien and Page were deferred for three years. During that time, neither may own horses.

Bourbeau had begun an investigation earlier this year after she received an e-mail in May from a neighbor who was concerned about the condition of the horses.

Nicklien and Page had also been investigated in 2005 for animal neglect.

On June 7, Bourbeau and Vermont State Police Trooper Jesse Robson, veterinarian Dr. Susan Kelly, two staff members from the Windham County Humane Society and Tom Harriman, the former animal cruelty investigator for the Second Chance Animal Shelter in Shaftsbury, visited the Readsboro farm.

In an affidavit, Bourbeau said the only food was two bales of inedible hay and the only water source for the horses was "about two inches of green water in a bathtub."

The horses were standing in a pasture of deep mud and manure leaving their hooves in poor condition and, in some cases, split.

Nicklien agreed to turn the horses over to the Humane Society, but Sweetie's 4-week-old foal, Spirit, died about a week later.

Since the horses were turned over, they have lived in Windham County. Although Readsboro is in Bennington County, there is no local shelter available to handle large animals.

Bourbeau said the Humane Society was fortunate to find a number of families willing to provide foster homes for the horses because otherwise, the cost of care could have been "astronomical."

With the criminal charges resolved and most of the horses adopted, the largest problem that remains is finding a home for Sweetie. Bourbeau said she would probably fit in best with a family that has experience with horses, especially one that would like to raise a foal from birth.

Despite Sweetie's troubled history, both Bourbeau and the woman who adopted two of the horses agree she is a good-tempered and easygoing horse.

"This horse has the most gentle disposition. We didn't call her Sweetie for nothing," Bourbeau said.

For more information on adopting Sweetie, call Bourbeau at 368-2790 or e-mail

Contact Patrick McArdle at

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