It’s National Help A Horse Day! WAN’s Exclusive On The Bumpy Road To Rescue Willie Nelson…The Horse!

Photos From Sale Ranch Animal Sanctuary

In the spirit of National Help A Horse Day, which is recognized on April 26th each year, WAN wants to share Willie’s story; focusing on the beautiful rescue and life he lives now despite the sadness that transpired along the path to his forever home.

WAN recently profiled Sale Ranch Animal Sanctuary as our Rescue Of The Week and was overcome by the love, care and concern for their rescued animals which is displayed with every photo and animal story shared on their website, Facebook page, and other platforms.

That is where we noticed Willie, (aka) Willie Nelson, and had to find out more.


Photo of Willie Now

WAN talked exclusively with Jen Sale of Sale Ranch Animal Sanctuary to learn more about this special horse.

Sale explained that her first introduction to Willie took place via video after numerous people concerned about him sent videos to Jen inquiring if there was anything she could do to help the ailing horse who was purchased from a feedlot in Louisiana before beginning a harrowing 1700 mile road trip to his new home, HiCaliber Horse Rescue, near San Diego, California.

“When I saw the video of him my heart sank,” Sale told WAN. “I couldn’t believe that the horse I was looking at had survived such an arduous journey in the condition he was in and he was still alive.”

Sadly, when Jen watched a HiCaliber video of Willie some 30 days later, Willie’s condition had deteriorated and the amazing will to live he had was fading.

“His eyes defeated and empty,” noted Sale. “I knew we had to bring him to our ranch to receive the life-saving care he so desperately needed to have a chance to live.

Jen reached out HiCaliber’s founder, Michelle Knuttila, to suggest they do a rescue to rescue transfer. She agreed, and Jen and her team set forth a plan to get Willie to Sale Ranch Animal Sanctuary as quickly as possible.

“I had seen the video and some pictures of him but was completely shocked and heartbroken to see how close to death from starvation he was in person.  We specialize in animals with medical and special needs so we’ve taken in starving horses before, but Willie was the skinniest horse I have ever seen, ever,” Jen explained to WAN. “When talking with our vet team they both also agreed that he was the skinniest horse they had ever seen, he was in the top 5.”

According to Jen, it is absolutely crushing anytime you see any animal suffer such neglect. It affects you deeply and the fact that the boy she was staring at looked like this after 30 days of care at another facility, was devastating.

“He was literally a wobbly skeleton who struggled to stand. You could see every single bone in his depleted body and the blood pulsating through his arteries,” a shaken Jen continued. “He had bite marks all over him and could barely hold his head up. Horrifically, the poor horse still wore the kill pen tag around his neck.

An emotional Jen shared that she “could not believe he was still alive…”

Jen explained that their vet was there within minutes of Willie’s arrival Sale Ranch Animal Sanctuary to conduct his intake exam and begin his re-feed protocol. He was already in the initial stages of renal failure from the starvation and improper refeed plan.

“We named him Willie for his incredible will to live. With the care he received here, he began to steadily improve and gain weight. Within just a couple of days, the light in his eyes began to shine. Once he knew that he was treasured. He was so excited about his food, loved the company and would knicker when he saw us. Even though he was so weak, he would still take a few steps to meet me,” Jen told WAN describing Willie’s initial days at the ranch. “Within months, his transformation was incredible and today he is a happy, healthy horse, who is incredibly kind, gentle, and trusting. He loves cookies, kisses and his friends. He even spends time with kids in our “Rescued Animals helping Rescued Humans Heal Program.”

“Willie was rescued from a rescue and the only reason he is alive today is that of his incredible will to live and our around the clock care,” stated Jen. “I am so incredibly grateful to know him, love and serve him. Willie will spend the rest of his life here at Sale Ranch Animal Sanctuary where he is treasured for the blessing he is. Never will he have to worry about food or kindness. He is looking for monthly sponsors to help cover his cost of care.”

WAN visited HiCaliber’s Facebook page and realized that it was embroiled in controversy and a recent post stated that it was shutting down.

According to inewsource, which has been covering the story for a while, HiCaliber allegedly had numerous violations and grievances reported against the rescue.

As per the news outlet, which has written 11 articles on this issue, much of the criticism of the horse rescue focused either on the number of sick and suffering horses she purchased to then be put down by her controversial euthanasia practice, or for questionable fundraising methods.

Fortunately, Willie was rescued by Sale Ranch Animal Sanctuary before possibly being killed.

Now the sweet and determined Willie is thriving in his new forever home, but more needs to be done!

Jen calls Willie, “a beautiful ambassador of faith, forgiveness and compassion.”

WAN could not agree more!

You can honor this brave boy on National Help A Horse Day by either sponsoring Willie HERE! or donating to the Sale Ranch Animal Sanctuary’s overall operations HERE!

Please take the time today to do something to help a horse, whether it be learning something new about them, speading the word to your friends about National Help A Horse Day on social media, or volunteering at a local horse rescue. Everyone can do something!

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