When a barn was burning all around her, a pony risked her life to protect her foal.
Now she’s recuperating in Wise County and needs others to come to her rescue.
Bella and her foal, Butterscotch, were the only two survivors in a barn full of animals that caught fire in the early morning hours of April 6 near Alvarado. An electrical short in a heating lamp started the fire that soon engulfed the entire barn.
“Bella kind of backed Butterscotch up against the wall and stood over her to shield her and protect her from the flames, and so when they found her, Bella was severely burned,” said Whitney Hanson, a spokesperson for the Humane Society of North Texas. “There had been debris that had fallen on top of her. But when the firemen found her, she was still protecting her baby. Butterscotch was only two weeks old when the fire happened. The only reason she’s alive is because of her mom.”
Butterscotch received several small burns, but Bella was burned on 50 percent of her body. Her ears were badly injured, and she still may have to have surgery to remove skin from her ears. Early on, her chances of survival seemed slim.
“Usually in cases like this, the smoke inhalation gets them,” said Charles Thompson, rescue coordinator for the Humane Society of North Texas. “It messes up their lungs. That’s what ends up costing them their lives. Luckily with this one, she wasn’t exposed to that much smoke, I don’t know how. I think this is one of the only ones that stayed in the barn that long to survive.”
Both ponies were taken to Dr. Kelly Bruner for treatment. It was apparent early on that Bella was not your ordinary pony.
“Dr. Bruner felt she had a good chance because she had such a strong will to take care of her baby, and even by the next day, it was miraculous how far she had come,” Hanson said. “It was clear she is a fighter. She’s going to fight through it to take care of that baby.”
Mother and foal were then brought to a boarding stable of Humane Society volunteer Johanna Wilson, who lives just outside Decatur. Wilson and other volunteers are providing around-the-clock care for the two. They receive burn treatments twice a day that includes an antibacterial wash and application of burn cream. Once a day, the volunteers disinfect the entire barn stall, which is covered in plastic tarps, to keep the area as sterile as possible. Even the shavings are changed out once a day.
The ponies also receive oral antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medication and are regularly checked by Dr. Bruner.
Hanson said the recovery has exceeded all of their expectations, and the worst now seems to be behind them. It will take another four months of treatment, however, for Bella to fully recover.
Despite her injuries, Bella has continued to nurse her foal throughout the healing process, something rarely seen in these types of cases, Hanson said. Caregivers also provide milk supplements to make sure Butterscotch’s nutritional needs are met.
The foal even seems to be getting comfortable with her temporary Wise County home.
“When she first came in, she was real shy. She wouldn’t get within 4 or 5 feet of you,” Hanson said. “Now she’ll come up to you and sniff you. She’s really curious. She wants to check everything out in the barn.
“When she runs up and down the barn, the other horses come to the edge of their stalls and watch her and listen to her,” she said. “They really like her a lot. You can tell she’s feeling a lot better than when she first came in.”
Wilson said she is happy to help such a great agency as the Humane Society of North Texas.
“The Humane Society does a very good job,” she said. “They see an animal that needs something and help. I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen from them. It’s been a good experience for our family.”
Because of the extensive treatment the ponies are receiving and will be receiving over the next several months, the Humane Society of North Texas is seeking donations to pay for treatment, milk supplements and food. Hanson said a conservative estimate is $4,000.
To make a donation, visit hsnt.org/donatebella.php or call 817-332-HSNT.