Remember Shannon Hahn of Double L Stable in New York? You guys have been gracious enough to send the horses at her rescue facility Valentine’s Day cards containing $1 the last couple of years.
Hahn has once again requested our help with this annual fundraiser and I quickly obliged considering all she has done for Thoroughbreds in need.
As Hahn’s way of thanking you guys in advance for your donations, she wanted to share the touching story of Xatra, a now-police horse that was rescued from the heartbreaking neglect situation at Ernie Paragallo’s farm in 2009. I hope you enjoy, and don’t forget to scroll down after the story for the address to send your Valentine’s card.
Read previous stories about the horses at Double L here, here, and here.
Without further adieu, here is story of Xatra, AKA “Officer Isaac,” as told by Shannon Hahn:
In the early spring of 2009 Shannon Hahn of Double L Stable Equine Rescue and Sanctuary, located in Washington Co., N.Y., at the base of the Adirondacks, received a call to help with the Thoroughbred horses on Center Brook Farm, the breeding stable of trainer/owner Ernie Paragallo.
The farm, located about two hours south of Double L, was falling apart. The horses were lice infested, and the weanlings and yearlings were half their normal size due to malnourishment. A handful of the horses had died and been buried under the manure pile.
The supplies on the farm were dreadfully low; only a few bales of hay and less than 10 bags of grain were present to feed more than 100 horses.
In the horse world it was only a matter of hours once the farm was raided by authorities that everyone knew what had happened.
Hahn was at the National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs chatting with one of the curators when news of the raid came. Leaving the museum and heading out to pick up feed for the equine residents at Double L, Hahn arrived at Thorobred Feeds outside the Saratoga track gates. News of the raid had also reached the feed shop owner who promptly offered several bags of grain and vitamin supplements to be taken to the horses on Center Brook Farm.
At dawn the next day, with the trailer loaded with the donated supplies, Hahn and Double L volunteer Gale Flannery rolled down the Northway Highway toward the needy horses.
Upon their arrival at Center Brook, Hahn and Flannery met with a woman who had worked with Paragallo’s horses when his breeding program was at its height. The donated feed supplies were unloaded and the farm tour began.
The trio of women walked the entire farm, covering dozens of acres dotted with skeletal steeds who were shadows of their former glorious selves. After much debate, it was decided Double L would bring home an older gelding named Xatra.
The 10-year-old son of Artax stood quietly with his large head hanging limply from his thin neck. His 17-hand frame was covered with shaggy lifeless hair infested with lice and his skin was covered with rain rot.
Isaac's initial condition at Center Brook Farm
His bones were visible under the dilapidated hide and the hooves carrying it all were ragged and long. He quietly stepped up into the two horse stock trailer and let out a sigh as the truck pulled away and started back toward Double L’s rescue barn.
Once at the rescue, the gelding was placed in a quarantine area, where he was treated for lice and was started on a rehabilitation diet to build up his flesh.
“His attitude quickly showed a horse with a kind heart and light personality,” said Hahn. “As the days passed, he improved by leaps and bounds…a good natured horse with a bit of a sense of humor was emerging. Whenever people were with him they could not help but smile.”
It was decided that such a horse needed a much more melodic name then the harsh sounding Xatra and the name Isaac, which means “laughter,” was chosen.
“After all he had been through no one wanted the gentle gelding to ever have a moment of sadness again,” said Hahn. “He deserved to have nothing but laughter in his life from here on out.”
Isaac began interacting with the different groups of volunteers who frequent the rescue during the weekday mornings. These groups are comprised of high functioning people with disabilities, at-risk youth, and other young people with social disorders from local high schools.
Isaac being groomed by volunteers under the watch of Gale Flannery (right)
“Under their gentle and caring hands, Isaac’s old, dull coat was groomed away and shiny, healthy hair was growing back in its place,” said Hahn. “His feet were trimmed up. The oozing soars from the rain rot were healing nicely, and Isaac loved all the attention.”
Isaac was moved into a paddock with a miniature horse named J.D. and a miniature mule named Ruby, and the trio seemed happy and content.
Isaac with his new paddock buddies, a miniature horse and a miniature mule
In the new few weeks, Isaac packed on pounds, built muscle playing with his new paddock mates, and his eyes held a twinkle.
“One early summer day, the sun was dawning red and gold over the mountain. As it rose up into the sky it shined down onto Isaac and cast a glow onto his deep, bay body, giving him a regal aura,” remembered Hahn.
“Ambling down off the top of the hill Isaac calmly came to the barn for the breakfast he had come to expect. Never again would he know hunger and lack of necessity. He was cared for and safe and he knew it. A gentle calm radiated from the friendly gelding to all who came to see him. It had been an uphill battle, but he had pulled through. It took hours of care and lots of dollars. Several folks helped to bring him back to a feeling of contentment and trust that he would always be safe. It was time to start thinking about finding Isaac a forever home.”
On a trip home from the Binghamton area to pick up an emaciated mare from a kill pen, Hahn, Flannery, and Flannery’s husband, Gerry, pulled into a rest area to check the frail horse in the trailer and a police car pulled in behind them.
Expecting to be asked for traveling papers, the trio stood waiting. But when the officer approached he told them he was with the local mounted patrol and had recently lost his mount of more than 20 years due to old age.
The officer said he would keep the mare in the trailer in his thoughts and remarked how she was lucky to have been picked up by the rescue. The group chatted for a few moments, and the officer was told about Isaac and some of the others at the rescue. Contact information was exchanged, and everyone went on their way.
It was not the last time they would see each other. A few days later, the officer called to ask about the possibility of adopting a horse for his mounted duties, which mostly included parades, fairs, and riding around town. Later that week, the officer made the four-hour drive to meet Isaac.
Isaac had not had a rider on his back since his years at the track. In three seasons of racing from 2004-2006, he failed to win in 27 starts and retired with modest earnings of $7,689.
Despite the horse’s lack of being ridden, however, Hahn’s husband, Aaron, hooked two lead ropes on the now towering gelding and climbed on board.
“Isaac took direction like a champ,” said Hahn. “No bit, no saddle, just gentle direction with voice and leg, and he was amazing.”
When the officer arrived the following day, he lead Isaac to the round pen, tacked him up, and mounted the gelding with no issues.
Isaac's future owner takes him for a ride at Double L
The officer then tested Isaac’s reactions to the lights and sirens on his police car, a whistle, a flag, a slamming door, and loud music, none of which fazed the gelding.
“A new team was formed that day and it was decided Isaac would move to his new home the next week,” said Hahn. “When he was loaded into Double L’s trailer for the second time, he was a different horse then he was on his first fateful trip.”
Isaac's future owner tests his reaction to a police car siren
A meeting spot was set up half way between the rescue and the officer’s hometown at a truck stop. Switching horses from trailer to trailer on the road has always Hahn nervous, but this time they had an advantage.
The officer stopped all the trucks from moving and big rigs sat still with their diesel engines purring loudly while Isaac stepped from the rescue trailer and walked calmly and with an air of confidence to the second trailer and stepped right in. The officer released the trucks to carry on and he drove away with his new partner and the newest member of New York’s law enforcement team, Officer Isaac.
Double L Stable Equine Rescue and Sanctuary (www.doublelstableequinerescue.petfinder.org) has assisted dozens of horses since it was founded more than decade ago.
Double L operates solely on gifts and donations with no paid staff. Fundraisers and kind support of private animal lovers keep them going. The rescue is once again holding its Valentine’s For Rescue Horses fundraiser contest.
Double L is asking anyone who can to send a Valentine to the horses at the rescue with a single $1 bill tucked inside. The rescue will collect the Valentines from now until the end of the first week of March. The cards will be hung in the barn.
All the return address labels will be dropped into a feed bucket, and a winner will be drawn to receive a $25 gift card to Tractor Supply Co. The gift card can be used online or in a store. TSC has all kinds of pet supplies, as well as home and garden items and of course, everything you could want for your horse.
Valentine’s can be sent to:
Double L Stable Equine Rescue and Sanctuary
9 Tilford Rd.
Argyle, NY 12809