In a previous post, Nicole Ehrentraut from Da Vinci Equine gave an overview of her building a specialty emergency response and transportation business. In this follow up, I wanted to share her very touching story of moving Tootsie the Appaloosa mare, who had some special physical concerns and advanced age. Turns out they had to go during the storm of the century in the Northeast this winter, and it illustrates many features of specialized transport with ambulances.


By Nicole Ehrentraut

This story started with a woman (Mary Mogenson in Connecticut) desperately needing specialized transport for her elderly mare. Finally she found Tori Miller via the Internet (SMART in North Carolina), who referred her to Da Vinci Equine Emergency Transport. Mary's horse Tootsie is an elderly Appaloosa mare that has lived with her since the horse’s birth. This mare taught Mary’s daughter how to ride and faithfully transported children around in a therapeutic riding program.

After years of service to her humans, Tootsie was wobbly on her hind legs and needed a warmer climate to spend her old age. That’s when Mary began her search for specialized transport. Her daughter lived in Virginia, and Mary knew Tootsie would have a hard time standing for such a long trailer ride. Ten-plus hours of hauling is hard on a healthy horse, much less an elderly horse with a weak hind end. Mary contacted me for transport and told me of the condition and age of her mare.

I admit, I was nervous in the beginning for liability issues, worried that the horse was in too fragile condition to make the trip even with our sling. I asked Mary for a current video of the mare and to get written permission from a vet for the trip. The video proved that Tootsie was in sufficient shape for the trip in a support sling, and we set a date for transport.

I knew this would be a tough trip, so I secured a midway stop to overnight and let Tootsie rest before continuing the journey. A week before transport, the worst snowstorm of the last 50 years was predicted for the New England region exactly during the time we were scheduled for transport. However, it was the only weekend we had free for another month and Tootsie needed to get south before the storm hit, because of her difficulty moving and the snow expected to be so deep.

I watched the weather carefully and listened to several different weather reports to figure out if we could even do this safely. After looking at several routes and the expected path of the storm, we left Thursday night to drive through the night to pick Tootsie up in Connecticut, and then get her to the overnight stop in Pennsylvania before the storm was expected to hit. We left Maryland at 6 p.m.

T.J., my staff member assisting in the haul, slept on the way up to rest for our switch off for the second shift of the haul. We arrived at Mary’s barn at 2 a.m. It was 8°F outside and windy. Mary and Tootsie were stars! Mary didn’t complain about meeting us in the middle of the night, and all her stuff was ready to go so we could just load Tootsie and go south!

Tootsie loaded right up onto the trailer, was hooked up into the sling like a pro. She was completely at ease, almost like she knew we were helping her. At 3 a.m., we took off across the north end of Connecticut, through New York, and then down to Reading, Pa., area.

We hit one bad bump about an hour into the trip and Tootsie did lose her balance. The sling caught her and she stood right back up. It was so comforting to see our equipment working the way it should! We enjoyed watching her calmly turn her head to check her rear end, and then go right back to eating hay on the video screen. She didn’t move or fall during the rest of the trip.

We found some icy rain just before dawn, but the roads had been pre-treated and very little traffic. We took it slower, just us and big truckers who better understand safer following distances and the limitations of driving a trailer. At daylight, we started south and the rain stopped. It was almost sunny at Reading. We arrived at the break stop around 11 a.m. Carefully unhooked, Tootsie popped right off the trailer and into her overnight stall without a batting an eyelash. We were so impressed by her and could clearly see why Mary was going through so much effort to get Tootsie to a warmer place.

Going to our hotel, the snow started coming down. We slept and relaxed until the next morning – when 6 inches of fresh snow greeted us! Fortunately, the roads were treated and clear. Again, Tootsie loaded right up and off we went. It got sunnier and warmer the further south we traveled. That afternoon, we arrived at Mary’s daughter’s farm in Virginia. It was a balmy 50°F and sunny, as opposed to the two feet of snow up at her former home in Connecticut, where the center of the storm had hit.

Mary reported that she couldn’t even get out of her front door without a lot of shoveling. We had just missed the Storm of the Century by hours. Tootsie unloaded and we led her to a 5-acre field. She perked her ears and started cantering around the field to check out her new place. We were all in tears, and Mary’s daughter said that was the first time in years that they’d seen Tootsie canter.

This was exactly why I started Da Vinci Equine, I was so touched that Mary would go through so much coordination and effort for her beloved horse, and then to see this grand old dame moving so beautifully was the icing on the cake. It’s amazing to watch their will to live, and how much people care for those that are very special.

Do you have similar experiences? Please share with the rest of us.