Four decades ago, a twenty something woman was working on her farm in Rhode Island. When she made trips to town, she passed a small farm with a horse in a paddock near the road. Over time, she noticed the horse was malnourished and not well cared for so, being the animal lover she was, she reached out to the police and animal control in the hope that the horse would be removed from its current home.
Soon after, the horse disappeared from sight and was no longer visible from the street. However, the young woman was curious, so she investigated and found that the horse had not been removed to a better home. Instead the owner of the farm had simply moved the animal to the other side of the barn, safe only from the prying eyes of drivers-by.
It was in that moment the young woman decided she would break the law. She was going to steal that horse!
On the night of her planned felony, she parked truck and trailer a quarter of a mile down the road and under cover of cloud and shadow, she crept along with a halter and lead rope slung over her shoulder. Walking across an unfamiliar farm was no easy feat, but she quickly found herself in the small paddock with the horse she intended to rescue.
Though rescue wouldn’t be necessary.
The horse was already resting comfortably, having passed away sometime earlier. In that moment, the woman made a promise to the poor creature she’d been too late to save… she would never let another animal suffer like he had. So long as she could help at all, she would move heaven and earth to protect these dear animals from a cruel fate.
And Victoria Goss is a woman of her word.
Today, Goss is a sort of miracle worker. She’s a manual laborer. A nurse. An artist. A horse trainer. A barn manager and has been a Godsend to thousands of horses.
On a small farm in rural Ohio, Goss takes in as many horses as the money will allow.
“It’s difficult to keep something like this afloat.” She explained. “Every year, I ask myself, how am I going to come up with two hundred thousand dollars? How am I going to do that this year?”
But somehow she does.
With several hundred horses moving through her facility each year, you’d imagine a grand farmstead, not the humble four acres Goss calls home. “It’s actually just under four acres! We use every square foot! My horses get exercise and sunshine each day. I won’t have them standing around in mud either, so we bring in multiple dump trucks worth of sand each year to keep things dry. We feed hay year round and keep four different kinds of grain on hand due to different health needs. Everything is tailored for each horse so we can find them a home.”
In order to pay for those dump trucks of sand and thousands upon thousands of dollars’ worth of milk and shavings, Goss is unyielding in her work ethic. “I hustle. I do whatever I can for a buck. I’m relentless!” She stops and laughs for a moment. “My theory is, you work until you can’t. When I can’t work physically any longer, I’ll go into the house and work on things inside… things like book illustrations or model horses made from stray mane and tail hair. If I have to rest, at least I can work on something and know that I’m still making money for all my babies. I’ve come to realize that mercy is not cheap. But we can’t afford to live without it.”
Each year, The Last Chance Corral spends a large bulk of its funds on Nurse Mare Foals. If you aren’t familiar with the practice, Nurse Mare Foals (not to be confused with Premarin Foals who are created to enable a mare to produce the hormone Premarin) are the unwanted by-product of the Nurse Mare industry.
Nurse Mares, usually for hire or lease, are used when another mare rejects a foal or dies unexpectedly. The practice is predominately used in the racing industry and some larger and more established farms actually have their own Nurse Mare barns on premises.
After a mare is “leased” the unwanted foals are shuffled away to a corner, often left to die, never receiving even the most basic needs of food or water.
“The bulk of the foals I purchase are one or two days old. Sometimes they’re a couple weeks old if the barn needs to keep a foal on the mare to prevent her milk from drying up. But sometimes, they get an order and there isn’t a mare ready so they induce birth. A quarter of our babies are pre-mature and those preemies are very difficult. We run IV fluids, feeding tubes, oxygen and breathing tubes, the whole nine yards. Our mortality rate is around 2%. We’ve been very successful keeping these babies alive and we’re really proud of that fact.”
But the bills do indeed stack up. IV’s and oxygen for horses… these things don’t come cheap. Add to that the awesome responsibility of caring for an infant horse. One sick horse is a handful, so imagine nearly 200 Nurse Mare Foals in the first seven months of every year.
“Years ago, I was able to get a veterinarian in the racing business, to talk to me about Nurse Mares and their babies.” Goss confided. “Now this was a long time ago, before the Nurse Mare industry was recognized as a practice. At the time, the gentleman figured there were three or four thousand of these babies born each year. I can’t give you a solid number for today, because people in the racing industry are unwilling to speak about it publically. The processes around Nurse Mares and their practices have become hugely unpopular as the public has been made aware.”
But that doesn’t mean the practice has come to a stop and this is where Goss has stepped in.
In order to take care of the foals, she keeps a carefully curated staff on board to help her watch over each little life entering her barn. Finding people who can act as nurses to these babies isn’t easy though. “I need people who understand what a foal looks like when it’s starting to colic or how to administer an IV. I have to have employees with horse sense and those people come with a price. Our farm isn’t in an area where people have the kind of discretionary income to encourage volunteerism so I hire out the help as much as possible.”
Goss has come to specialize in the placement of the wayward and unwanted.
She takes in who she can and the ones she doesn’t have room for? She spends hours on social media and the phone, connecting with people all over the country to find homes for every single one. “If a dog or cat is starving, they can wander out of the yard to a neighbor’s house and beg for food. But animals kept in barns or paddocks are often out of sight. It’s not until the neighbors start to smell something that there’s a problem. By then it’s too late.”
The stories behind her full grown equine acquisitions, are just as varied as their owners themselves.
“I don’t have the authority to go in and remove horses, but I do work with the authorities.” She explained. “Sometimes, I might sweet talk owners into selling me their animals, but most of them come to me from owner surrender. Sometimes they’ve come to realize they’ve bought the wrong horse for a job or they’re going through a divorce or a child is leaving for college. There are so many reasons for people to come to me. And since I’ve been doing this for 40 years, I’ve gotten a reputation. Now people recommend me. Especially with troubled horses. I guess I’ve got a special touch with those. Very rarely is a horse truly bad, it’s just a bad connection, a bad coupling with the humans they’re around. They just need a new situation and that’s what I can give them.”
Goss’s work has been astonishing in the amount of lives she’s been able to save. From that remarkable night over forty years ago, so many wonderful events have unfolded. Each foal she saves is a miracle on four legs and her depth of knowledge and daring are no less amazing. However, she believes this is the life she was cut out for.
“We are all honor-bound to do something good with our lives.” She stated simply. “The guardianship of these animals is the height of perfection. There’s no cutting corners if you want to make something live that wants to die. They come to us beaten down, their spirits depressed and sometimes they don’t even want to try to eat. It can be so stressful because you’re doing battle with death every day. We win most of these fights, but it takes a toll on you.”
As far as Goss is concerned, the toll comes with limitless rewards and it’s just a portion of doing her part in this life. “I know about horses. I know how to care for them and I’ve learned how to change their lives. So, this is the good thing I’m going to do with my life. I’m going to help save these babies. I’m going to find these horses homes.”
To donate to Last Chance Corral or get information about adoptions, please visit www.lastchancecorral.org or call 740.594.4336. Also, you can visit the farms Facebook page to get updates on Goss’s newest acquisitions: https://www.facebook.com/LastChanceCorral/?fref=ts