There are many appeals for help through social media with those suffering from illness, injury, homelessness and financial injustice, but it is rare when an appeal goes out for an injured therapy horse mauled by a dog whose life now hangs in the balance.
Such is the case with “Maxi,” a 5-year-old half Arabian pleasure horse owned by Canyon Lake resident Dori Clemence Lowe. Maxi served not only as a beloved four-legged friend but as a therapy horse during her owner’s recent illness until June of this year.
Maxi remains in Chino Valley Equine Hospital in “frail” condition for painful laminitis on both front feet brought on by the initial dog attack. Maxi may never be ridden again, even if she recovers.
Clemence Lowe described what happened to her and Maxi while riding on a Bureau of Land Management trail in Canyon Lake the morning of June 27. She said she first noticed a woman with a pit bull mix off the leash near the trail. Thirty minutes later, as she was riding on the trail on the way to the barn behind the baseball fields the same dog ran up to her and Maxi and began biting at Clemence Lowe’s boots.
“The dog’s owner said her daughter used to have a horse, and the dog loved to play with boots and stirrups,” she said.
Trying to get away from the dog, Clemence Lowe said she turned Maxi around.
Instead, the dog grabbed the horse’s tail wrap, tearing it off.
“Once the dog tore the tail wrap, he bit both of Maxi’s legs and her stomach,” Clemence Lowe said. “I couldn’t get the dog to stop, and the woman just stood there and watched.”
Then, she said, the dog jumped up at her and tore her pants, before grabbing her jacket and pulling her off the horse. She hit the ground.
“I am a rescue mom and rescue pit bulls, Clemence Lowe said. “I have never seen a pit bull do that.”
Maxi, injured, took off running to the nearby barn at Canyon Lake Equestrian Center where she was stabled.
Clemence Lowe, still stunned, sat on the ground.
“I turned around to look at the woman, and she was just walking away back toward the Jump Lagoon,” she said. The woman with the unleashed dog told her “your horse is running free.”
As Maxi ran into the barn, equine veterinarian Wayne McNeel was there attending another horse. He saw that Maxi was seriously injured. He began treatment for Maxi’s bleeding wounds.
“Fortunately, when a horse runs into a barn without a rider, good friends are there to help,” Clemence Lowe said.
Clemence Lowe returned to the barn still shaken and reported the incident to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Animal Control and Canyon Lake Community Patrol. She said an ambulance, paramedics and an Animal Friends of the Valley officer were already called.
Her injuries were minor, but Maxi’s injuries proved to be much worse over time. Clemence Lowe, using social media, was later able to locate the address of the dog owner, who lives in Canyon Lake and give it to Friends of the Valley Animal Control Officer Monique Middleton.
She said Middleton contacted the dog’s owner, found the dog was unlicensed and cited the owner with an administrative ticket, which puts the dog on probation for three years. In that time, the dog must be on a leash and wear a muzzle when walking, so as not to endanger anyone.
Meanwhile, Maxi’s bites were healing and getting a lot of attention from sympathetic horse owners in Canyon Lake; however, she was standing on one side and putting more weight on the opposite front foot, causing laminitis, which can be very painful. A short time later, the front foot on the injured side was also showing laminitis. In late June, Maxi went through two surgeries on her front feet. The veterinarians are hoping the surgeries will keep her out of pain, but it will make Maxi unable to be ridden, Clemence Lowe said. The horse will be in the care of the Chino Valley Equine Hospital’s intensive care unit for the next 30 days of recovery.
“The hope is to have Maxi live a pain-free life with her forever home,” Clemence Lowe said in her June 28 Facebook update. “Maxi is an innocent victim who is now fighting for her life.”
The surgeries, Clemence Lowe said, may cost upward of $30,000 she cannot afford. She has brought her unusual appeal for financial help to social media, including GoFundMe, to help with Maxi’s recovery. Even before Maxi’s surgery was needed, Clemence Lowe opened a Facebook account giving a day-to-day report on Maxi’s healing and hopeful recovery and calling for a better effort to control animals on horse trails and in public places.
“This one incident has costed me of $30,000 and counting,” she wrote. “Maxi is in such a frail stated that she cannot leave Chino Valley Hospital for another 30 days. This horse is my love, my therapy. I had to go thru radiation last year, and Maxi was my saving grace, and I don’t want to lose her because I have no money and an irresponsible owner stood there and let this happen.”
She reported that she has seen the same dog and her owner still walking around the lake, and the dog is still off the leash with no muzzle.
Clemence Lowe and Maxi’s Facebook page gives a complete accounting of the progress Maxi is making at the Chino equine hospital and seeks help for the considerable surgery costs.
Editor’s note: Phone calls made to Animal Control were not returned before press time.