Shortly before Labor Day 2019, Susie Lones received a message from the people who organize the Arabian Feedlot and Auction Horse Team Rescue. There was a chestnut mare at Sexton’s Horse & Mule Company in Sneedville, Tennessee, whose days were numbered. Could she help?
Lones has rescued horses and ponies from feedlots since the 1990s, and she follows Sexton’s social media accounts, so she’d already seen the mare with the tag number 8521 online. With no other takers, Lones was spurred to action and made the trip from her home in Lenoir City, Tennessee, to pick up the 13.2-hand pony. Though they weren’t positive the little chestnut was part-Arabian, the Arabian Feedlot and Auction Horse Team Rescue donated some funds to pay a portion of the mare’s “bail.”
“Over time I’ve learned how to have a relationship with the kill pen guy,” said Lones. “Most people think, oh they’re terrible people, [but a] lot of them, they just see horses as cattle. They don’t see them as anything different than a cow, so you kind of have to get on their level. Do I like what they do? No, but [but it’s useful] to be able to work that relationship a little bit. Like the guy at Sexton, I can call and say, ‘What do you really think about that horse? Is everything OK with it?’ And he’ll be honest with me if something’s going on. So it’s good to have that relationship, although a lot of people don’t understand that.”
When Adore Me arrived she spent about a month in quarantine in a friend’s pasture, recovering from a bout of shipping fever and getting routine veterinary work. By mid-October the Loneses brought “Chanel” home, and 16-year-old Bailey Lones started training her.
“Somebody had worked with her because she knew voice commands, and when we first went out to longe she’d walk, trot and canter on the longe line,” said Susie. “She knew that kind of stuff. Somebody at some point had loved her and worked with her.”
The only real hiccup occurred when they bridled Chanel, and she seemed upset by the bit. They discovered she still had her wolf teeth. Once those were removed, things went pretty smoothly.
“She’s a very quick learner; she’s very smart,” said Susie. “She’s been pretty easy to bring along. She’s picked up lead changes super easy. Bailey’s worked hard, but it’s been easy as far as her figuring things out. She’s pretty willing. She likes to jump. She likes to do her job.
“She’s a good girl,” continued Susie. “She talks a lot. She nickers all the time. If you drop your stirrups to swing off, she nickers the whole time. It’s the cutest thing.”
Chanel, who they’ve guessed is 9, made her show ring debut in March at Atlanta In The Spring in the medium green ponies. They finished the weekend with a reserve championship.
Bailey does all the work with Chanel, from riding duties to cleaning stalls, so she’s gotten to know the mare well.
“If you kind of get mad at her, she’ll take it to heart,” Bailey said.
Chanel is Bailey’s second kill pen pony to find success in the pony hunters. In 2018 she showed another medium named Eleven Seventy Two, whom they rescued from Thompson’s Horse Lot in Louisiana. “Elle” was named after her tag number, but this time Bailey didn’t want Chanel’s once dire fate to follow her for her entire career, so they left the 8521 off her show name.
Bailey had hoped to ride Chanel at USEF Pony Finals this year, and she competed in the Kentucky Summer Classic at the Kentucky Horse Park the week before, but when Pony Finals was canceled, they returned to Tennessee to keep giving Chanel more experience and eventually lease her out.
While it’s fun when their rescue projects blossom into successful show ponies, the goal is to help out an equine in need, no matter what the outcome.
“My favorite part of the whole thing is getting them home,” said Susie. “I’m kind of a freak about nutrition and care, so having the makeover day and just getting their overall wellness and wellbeing taken care of is the fun part for me.”