Hawaiian for Survivor
Permanent Resident and Sponsored by Judy Stevens
RIP April 14, 2018
Mea Ola's last bath and roll in the dirt.
Mea Ola is one of the original 19 horses rescued from animal control before being sent to auction. My daughter, Hannah, named her Mea Ola, which is Hawaiian for “Survivor.” Before the rescue, an evaluation determined that Mea Ola was the only horse that we could not catch or touch. Not only was she horribly lame on both front feet, but she had also come from a past of abuse and was pregnant to boot! To be absolutely honest, I almost left her there. I was afraid that by being untouchable, lame, and pregnant, she would be an absolute heart break. There was something about her though that kept me coming back to her stall. I desperately wanted to give this girl a chance to prove me wrong.
I gave the officer my list of horses to pull (meaning that I would be back in 3 days to pick them up), and sadly, Mea Ola was not on the list. That night, I just couldn't sleep. Visions of her sweet face plagued my every thought. By morning, I knew I had to take her and with that, take the chance of being heartbroken. First thing the next morning, I called to have her put on the list. We were taking them all! On January 6th, 2012, I brought home the first 16 of 19 horses, and Mea was one of the first to be transported to the ranch!
The beginning of our relationship proved to be very challenging. Mea Ola was unapproachable and distrustful; however, she did seem to take a fancy to my then 12 -year- old son, Payton. When we brought her home, the only person who could successfully approach her and get her to cooperate was Payton. It literally broke my heart to have this girl flee from me because it was evident that it was so physically painful for her. So, this is how our journey started. With Mea Ola, it seemed as though the more I wanted to love her, the more she despised me! Nonetheless, we were patient, loving and hopeful for her to finally recognize that this was a family she could trust.
The challenges continued. Mea Ola was also uncooperative and hostile towards our veterinarians. Not only did her lameness have to be addressed, but her pregnancy also needed to be estimated. It was only under heavy sedation that we were able to x-ray her feet and put on special shoes. And because she was so hostile, none of our vets would even attempt to palpate her, so her due date was anyone's guess! She was diagnosed with severe ringbone in the right front pastern (foot) and was suspected to be lame in the left front from over-compensation.
In March, she became laminitic. Because the laminitis was caught quickly, the treatment performed on her feet was successful. She was put on anti-inflammatories and her entire diet was changed to a low carb regimen. Just before this, cameras were installed to monitor her daily. By putting her on live stream cameras, others could help us watch for signs of trouble. Our vet, Dr. Nelson, recommended "broadcasting" our live feed on Mare Stare. This way, she could monitor her as well. For ten LONG weeks, Mea Ola's foot temperature was taken every three hours, 24 hours a day! It was a painstaking process, not only for Mea Ola, but for us!
Because of the pregnancy, Mea Ola had several hormonal laminitic flare-ups. This required her feet to be iced until they cooled off. At first, she would stomp the ground at me when I would just try and feel the heat in her hooves. She would rear straight up in the air when she didn't want to be messed with and bang her head on the top of her barn stall. She gave me several bloody noses, too. Mea Ola had learned a trick to SURELY be left alone. She would fling her head into mine. I'm positive she has knocked people out with that one! But that didn't scare me away. I persevered with this girl through patience and love. I knew this behavior was caused by previous abuse, so I just kept loving her in spite of her nastiness. And then, one day in late March, it happened! It was as if a switch went off in her heart! There was no more hostility, no more head flinging or body slamming me against a stall wall, and no more rearing! Soon I found her seeking me, and we finally started to enjoy our time together. Just about every time I checked on her, I groomed her. I felt that the more hands-on contact she had, the more her heart softened. The walls of distrust crumbled and memories of abuse faded. In early April, Mea Ola allowed one of our veterinarians to do acupuncture...5 needles in each foot, too. And it seemed that as long as I was in her presence, she was fine.
With several weeks to go until her foal was born, there were nights when I'd actually camp outside of Mea Ola's stall because she would continually call me. Our girl was huge, and I was so worried about her labor and delivery. Extremely fatigued the last 6 weeks, I had to request Mare Stare watchers to help me watch for signs of labor because I would sleep through my alarm! Everyone thought for that last month that she would foal any day. It was an agonizing wait; however, with the help of the amazing Mare Stare community and lots of patience, prayers and sleepless nights, there was a visible light at the end of this very long tunnel!
On May 11, 2012, Dr. Nelson said that she would give her through the weekend, but if there were no signs of a baby by the following Monday (3 days later), we would have to sedate her and do her feet. I was a wreck! My concern was that the sedation might cause the foal to get in a wrong position for birth (among many other concerns). That Sunday night, Mea Ola had the worst laminitic flare-up to date. All four of her feet were on fire! Ice-packs were put on her feet throughout the night, and finally by about 4 am it subsided. With only 2 hours of sleep, I fed Mea Ola and everything was normal. I checked her milk bag and still NO CHANGE! I was devastated! This meant we would have to sedate her later that day. Distressed and concerned for the healthy birth of this baby and for Mea Ola's welfare, I decided to call a friend for comfort and advice. While on the phone, I noticed an incoming call from an out-of-state number. It was a member of the Mare Stare community. The caller excitedly said, "Ann, I am watching Mea Ola on camera and I swear I think this is it!" I ran to the window and stared towards the barn and that's when I saw her go down. I yelled to my kids Hannah and Payton to get the cameras and I ran to the edge of the corral. Mea Ola gave just a few good pushes, and out popped a healthy black filly! Welcome to the world little Sassy!
Dr. Nelson did all of the checks on Mama and baby. However, Mea Ola had to be sedated in order for an Igg blood test to be done not on her, but on her baby! As I held Sassy in my arms, Mea Ola became very territorial and lunged at Dr. Nelson, knocking her to the ground even though I was the one holding her baby. Dr. Nelson recommended that I keep Mea Ola sedated for the next few days as she was worried that Mea Ola would attack me. I chose not to. I knew in my heart of hearts that this mare trusted me, as I did her. This journey was one we embarked on together and since, has become a woven tapestry of trust, hope, and survival.
Today, Mea Ola has transformed into an amazing horse and plays an integral part of our popular Kid's Camps. Anyone can catch her, lead her, bathe her, and make friends with her now. She loves to be painted on and groomed by children of all ages. Mea Ola still battles lameness issues and we have spared no expense helping her. She's had shockwave treatments and stem cell therapy; and this year she had a nerve frozen to relieve pain.. She still requires special shoes, but no longer needs to be heavily sedated. She does get extra pain meds on those days though, anything to keep our girl comfortable.
She is the true definition of a survivor. This is her forever home.. Her daughter, Sassy will remain with her as a permanent resident here at Mea Ola's Place (MOP). I hope you can meet them someday.
What started out as a family comittment to oversee a rescue operation of horses for another rescue became what is now rightfully named after Mea Ola, the one Survivor who started it all. Mea Ola set the record for the most watched mare on Mare Stare. She was watched on camera during her pregnancy by people in 34 states and 13 countries. It was those watchers who became the base support of MOP and created Meaholics, a group for all of us that became so close during Mea Ola's precarious journey to trust, love, and healing. There are still hundreds of people from around the globe that follow the miracles of the latest Survivors here.