In Memory of Sasha

In Memory of Sasha


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In Memory of Sasha

December 28, 1995 – February 9, 2024

Sasha had been with our Founder, Mary Adams, as part of her miniature herd, for 30 years. She was a five-month-old weanling when Mary picked her up and brought her home. The owner was supposed to have weaned Sasha from her mom prior to the pick-up date. To Mary’s surprise, Sasha and her mom were still together in a stall when she arrived. The two-horse trailer Mary had brought for Sasha’s ride home was filled with a comfy bed of shavings and large enough for Sasha and her mom (if Mary could talk the owner into selling). Sadly, Sasha’s owner wouldn’t part with Sasha’s mom, so Sasha, displaying more calm than Mary or the owner at that point, hopped onto the trailer and started on the road to her new life.
Mary worried all the way home. How was this small donkey going to thrive when she had been so suddenly removed from all that was familiar? Well, Sasha was a one-in-a-million gal. Upon arriving at the farm, Mary opened the trailer to find Sasha comfortably lying, forelegs tucked under her, facing the trailer door. Sasha hopped up, jumped off the trailer and immediately took her place in Mary’s little herd. It helped that several of the donkeys had come from Sasha’s original herd, so perhaps she didn’t feel as lonely as Mary was afraid she might – at any rate, Sasha never looked back and continued to be a joy to Mary for over thirty years. When Mary founded Red Bell Run, Sasha was always the calm one, greeting new arrivals, and no doubt letting them know in donkey fashion, that they had come to a good place.
Over the last few years, age and Cushings Disease caught up with Sasha and in February we said good-bye. One of the effects of Cushings is laminitis and founder, where the bones of the feet rotate and point downward. Sasha had begun having laminitis attacks (inflammation of the inner part of the hoof) three years ago. Sasha became uncomfortable again, but this time the radiographs of her feet showed that her feet had deteriorated past our ability to keep her comfortable. With heavy hearts, we decided to let Sasha cross the Rainbow Bridge where she is no doubt joining our Heavenly herd, wings on her feet and pain-free forever. Sasha’s life was made much brighter by the love she received from her Red Bell Run caretakers over the years: Miss Janice, Skylar, Jacie, Ethan, Barbara and many more. Her best friend Poncho will miss her the most, but we will love his sadness away, and he’ll have the remaining members of the original herd to comfort him.
Fly free, sweet Sasha. We will see you again.


In Memory of Seven

In Memory of Seven


Seven 4.1.22

In Memory of Seven

January 01, 2004 – January 22, 2024

Seven was a beautiful, gaited mare who was found injured and starving in a field near Red Bell Run. Thanks to our friends at Polk County Animal Control and Longears Donkey Rescue, Seven was brought to Red Bell Run for evaluation and rehabilitation. Our staff promptly named her “Seven” because of the marking on her forehead. Suffering from starvation, Seven was evaluated by our veterinarian who found that she also had quite severe neurological issues and was very unbalanced. Because she had been starved, Seven was put on a refeeding plan; giving too much too quickly to a starving animal can throw them into Refeeding Syndrome which shuts down their organs and usually causes death. At first, we weren’t sure that Seven was going to survive. Watching her try to walk was painful and there was a period of time when we thought the best thing for Seven was euthanasia, but Seven proved to be one tough lady!

With treatment, medication and intensive care, Seven’s balance gradually improved. She endured several tests to see if her neurological issues were caused by a progressive disease, but in the end, our vet concluded that she must have suffered an injury, possibly being hit in the back by a heavy branch since none of the tests for disease were positive. She continued to improve to the point that she was not a danger to herself and enjoyed her days with her best friend Molly, a red molly mule. The two lived together at our Mountainview Barn where Seven was adored by staff and volunteers. She was quite a handful at times and the epitome of a “red mare”, but we loved her so. 


In Memory of Xander

In Memory of Xander


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In Memory of Xander

January 01, 2007 – December 12, 2023

In February 2022, Red Bell Run participated in the rescue of a group of horses being severely neglected in Rutherford County. Our vet asked us to take the most severe cases. Xander, a magnificent (even in his emaciated state) black Friesian, was among them. He was starved and had a grossly swollen left hind leg. No animal should suffer from abuse like this, so we agreed to take Xander and four others.

Thanks to the dedication of our equine staff, wonderful vet techs and Dr. Emilie Setlakwe, Xander was refed to a healthy weight. His left hind leg was addressed which involved months of carefully cleaning and treating a long-standing skin infection. Proper hoof trimming improved his comfort, and Xander, who was a Labrador puppy in a horse body, took all of this with the grace and calm typical of his breed. Unfortunately, after several months, we discovered that Xander suffered from a condition called megaesophagus. This disease, found frequently in Friesians, causes a deterioration of the connective tissue in the esophagus which causes the horse to “choke” on his food because the esophagus cannot force the food into the stomach. Sadly, at this time there is no cure or even effective treatment. When we discovered that Xander suffered from this, we knew his time was limited, but we instituted the management measures recommended (hay up high in a small-holed hay net, grain “soup”, etc…), and monitored him closely. Signs of choke can be subtle. For most of the time, he was stable and happy, enjoying his pasture time and the company of his “ladies” at the Hilltop barn.
Xander began to have more “small episodes” of choking so we knew the disease was progressing. Yesterday afternoon, Xander had a choking episode which we couldn’t resolve. The danger is that this can lead to rupture of the esophagus or stomach which is extremely painful. After all that Xander had suffered, we were not going to let that happen to him. Our vet concurred that it was time to let Xander cross the Rainbow Bridge. Despite many broken hearts, we let him fly. Our thoughts are with Xander’s breeder who has always loved and supported him, all of our volunteers, staff members, and his many fans. He was truly magnificent and a credit to his breed. He will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.


In Memory of Twinkle Little Star

In Memory of Twinkle Little Star

Twinkle Little Star 

Twinkle 2

In Memory of Twinkle Little Star “TWinkle”

January 01, 2009 – December 29, 2022

Sometimes an equine comes along that makes you believe all those things that you hear about horses having the ability to comfort and heal us humans. Twinkle Little Star was one. A dwarf miniature horse, a teeny tiny pony, she was about 1000lbs of attitude in a tiny, 100lb body. People who know horses will know what we mean. Ponies are, pound for pound, some of the most cantankerous, amazing, loving, dangerous, talented equines on the face of the earth. For generations they have made horsemen out of those who survived learning to ride them as children. Twinkle Little Star was too tiny to be ridden, of course, but that didn’t stop her. Technically a miniature horse, she had the pony attitude down to a fine art, but the diminutive equine lived a life of service that we should all aspire to.

Purchased for a young woman who was left a paraplegic after an accident, Twinkle Little Star became a true service animal. She learned all the things that a service animal learns to help their human and no door was ever safe from Twinkle opening it at will. Twinkle’s owner Kirsty started the “Give Kids a Smile” program and Twinkle was the star of the show. Wearing tiny leather boots on her hooves, Twinkle logged thousands of miles visiting children’s hospitals, nursing homes, and schools – giving smiles wherever she and Kirsty went. As the years passed, Kirsty’s own condition worsened, and she realized that Twinkle needed a safe place with knowledgeable people to care for her. Twinkle herself, being a dwarf, suffered from several issues common in miniature horse dwarves including misshapen hooves and limb deformities. Most dwarves only live five to eight years. Twinkle had taken care of her owner for fifteen years…she had already outlived the statistics, but her feet were needed more specialized shoeing, and she was beginning to show signs of inevitable aging that would require more care than Kirsty could manage. On the recommendation of her vet Dr. Emilie Setlakwe of Tryon Equine Hospital (who also happened to be Red Bell Run’s attending vet), Kirsty brought Twinkle to visit the Sanctuary at Red Bell Run. Dr. Setlakwe knew that they kind of care Twinkle would need was available at The Sanctuary.

Kirsty and Mary Adams, the Founder of Red Bell Run, talked for two hours on that visit. Ultimately, Kirsty felt comfortable enough to leave Twinkle at the Sanctuary. Animal lovers know that giving up a beloved pet can rip the heart right out of you. Even though she was broken-hearted at losing her constant companion of fifteen years, Kirsty did it because she knew it was the right thing to do. That is bravery and selflessness. You see, Twinkle had had equine companions when she was “off-duty”, but they had all been sold or passed away and Kirsty knew that Twinkle missed other equines. She wanted Twinkle to have a well-deserved retirement in safety and with the company of other equines. She knew Twinkle would have that at Red Bell Run.

So, Twinkle Little Star became a resident of Red Bell Run and started her second career…firstly, and in true pony fashion, she whipped all her caretakers into shape. She DID like being scratched on the withers IF she was in the mood. She DID NOT care to have blankets put on or taken off, depending, and had no qualms about aiming a tiny, pointed hoof at a shinbone if someone persisted in what Twinkle considered rude behavior. However, Twinkle did love children. While she kept the adults in her life in line, she was a pushover when it came to kids. She loved participating in the Sanctuary’s Read with Rescues program for children and would intently listen as a child read to her as if understanding every word. Everyone marveled at her. Her tiny size, big dark eyes and snow-white coat made her look like a fairy pony come to earth. She was cuteness personified, and her spicy personality just endeared her to everyone even more.

She was TOUGH, this tiny angel, and she bore the afflictions cause by her dwarfism like a trooper. Dr. Setlakwe and the Red Bell Run staff kept a close eye on her for signs of pain, monitoring her heart rate and general well-being daily. She had a special farrier, Dr. Esco Buff, thanks to several Angel Sponsors. He traveled from New York to care for her, providing special shoes to help stabilize her legs. Twinkle also had two equine friends for her besties – Princess Dilly and Willow, the equine companionship Kirsty wanted for her. However, it was Twinkle who never stopped giving hope, healing, love, and smiles to the people around her, just as she had done all her life.

December 29, 2022, at eighteen years old, Twinkle let us know that she was tired; that her job here was done and that she was ready to cross the Rainbow Bridge. Today, we laid this angel to rest, Dr. Setlakwe and the Red Bell Run staff by her side. We did the right thing, just as Kirsty did when she brought Twinkle to Red Bell Run. With breaking hearts, we let Twinkle go in peace and safety surrounded by people who loved her. Twinkle Little Star, the tiny horse who did so much for so many her entire life, is now no doubt flying with the Heavenly Herd above Red Bell Run. Truly now, our littlest angel has her wings.  



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