Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Calhoun County series.
A horse rescue and sanctuary operation in Pennfield Township is a love of labor as much as a labor of love for Nadin and Corky Malcom.
In 2016 the couple purchased 95 acres and began building barns and installing fences for pastures where the horses they would soon begin to rescue could roam freely. There are now three barns and 13 pastures for the 10 horses the Malcoms are caring for at Paint Pony Haven, Inc., which became a nonprofit in early 2019.
“I grew up with horses and we do it for the love of horses and so we can make a difference,” says Nadin Malcom, who was born and raised in Germany. “We can’t save every horse, but we can save one at a time and give them a better future.”
The horses that make their way to Paint Pony Haven are either destined for a slaughterhouse or given up by owners who can longer afford to care for them. It is not uncommon for the Malcom’s to pay a fee or “bail”, as they refer to it, of $1,000 or more to remove a horse from the slaughter pipeline.
Nadin Malcom kisses Digger, one of three horses the Malcoms own and which are not up for adoption.
“Many times we get horses whose owners haven’t been able to continue their veterinary care or can’t afford to continue paying vet bills,” says Corky Malcom, a retired Naval officer who works at the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center. “We had one horse that had suspected cancer of the throat and he could only eat soaked grain. For financial reasons, the owners couldn’t afford to feed him the three or four times a day that was necessary.”
For those owners who don’t want to take the time to find a horse rescue, slaughter is a quick and easy option. More than 100,000 horses are sent to slaughter each year, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
An article on the Humane Society’s website
says, “The vast majority would be rehomed; not every horse going to slaughter needs to go to rescue. The USDA (United State Department of Agricultures) documented that 92.3 percent of horses sent to slaughter are in good condition and are able to live out a productive life. These horses would be sold, donated or otherwise rehomed; however, kill buyers outbid legitimate horse owners and rescues at auctions, robbing horses of ever having a second chance at life.”
The last two horses the couple rescued – Jolene and Tiny - were headed for slaughter and removed from the pipeline and taken to Paint Pony Haven in early 2021, Corky Malcom says.
Princess Zoe was picked up by the couple in December 2017.
“Our vet called and said Zoe had kicked through some metal and injured her leg and the owners couldn’t pay for any more treatment that she would need. You look at how well Zoe is doing now and yet, she could have been put down,” Corky Malcom says. “She’s got such a great soul and we were just glad we could save her.”
Corky and Nadin Malcom of Paint Pony Haven say the equine rescue is their life and their passion.
Zoe, a buckskin-colored horse with a subtle pattern of circles on each side of her front stomach area, was among the horses alternately eating from a large pasture on the property while also walking up to be petted and stroked by the Malcoms on a recent Friday afternoon. Her story, like those of the other six horses that are available for adoption, is carefully and faithfully updated by Nadin Malcom on the Paint Pony Haven website
Another story is in the works about a Pinto Pony mare who the Malcolm’s were able to rescue from the slaughter pipeline this past weekend. This mare will soon join the other horses at Paint Pony Haven.
“An angel came flying my way covering almost all of the bail,” Nadin Malcom says.“It was a person I’ve never met before.”
Zoe was rescued by the Malcoms after she kicked through some metal and injured her leg and her previous owners couldn’t pay for further treatment.
Missing from that website are stories about Bella, Digger, and Diva, the horses owned by the Malcoms and who are not available for adoption. The Malcoms frequently ride them on trails located on their property and on the equestrian trails at Fort Custer Recreation Area when they have the time to load the horses into trailers and can get away for a few hours.
Information on the website about each horse available for adoption includes medical procedures they undergo and the money spent to pay vet bills.
The couple is always looking for donations to cover the care and feeding of their rescue horses. Every dollar that is donated goes directly to cover these costs. Currently, Corky Malcom’s retirement fund is being used to pay for well more than 80 percent of the bills for food, slaughter bail, vet bills, and the upkeep of the pastures, buildings, and barriers for the horses.
Because of these financial constraints, “we’re limited as to how many we can support at any given time,” Corky Malcom says.
Doing what they can
Paint Pony Haven is one of about 30 horse rescue and sanctuary organizations in Michigan, according to Michigan Horse Rescue Groups website
Beau is one of the dogs the Malcoms rescued,
As with the other rescue and sanctuary organizations, the overarching mission and goal for the Malcoms is to find forever homes for their horses. Those seeking to adopt a horse undergo a rigorous vetting process.
“One of the conditions we have is that we have the right to take it back if we don’t think the horse is being cared for or they can’t keep it,” Corky Malcom says. “It’s a long-term commitment for us with our horses.”
The stringent vetting process appears to be working since the couple has yet to have a horse come back that has been adopted out.
Lesley Horsman, of Battle Creek, is among a very few people who have adopted a horse from the Malcoms after meeting their rigorous requirements. In December 2020, she adopted an Appendix Quarter Horse named Bentley after learning about Paint Pony Haven through a friend whose husband works with Corky Malcom.
“My friend knew that I was looking for a horse and what I was looking for. She told me about Nadin and the rescue, and a horse that she had up for adoption,” Horsman says. “I went to Paint Pony Haven and met Nadin and Bentley. I could see that he was well-mannered and gentle. He was well-cared for and comfortable in his environment. Nadin worked well with him and you can tell she has a lot of experience and loves what she is doing.”
On top of the show barn at Paint Pony Haven.
Horsman took Bentley on a trial ride at Paint Pony Haven to see how he would do. Bentley, she says, “was amazing and I knew that he would fit in in our barn very well. I took my youngest son who is 10 over to meet him and we walked him out on the trail with my son on his back, and he was great. I can see that Nadin puts thought and a lot of effort into maintaining the horses she has at the rescue.”
Bentley is now spending his days being well-cared for and taking Horsman and other family members on rides through woods and fields on their property.
“It has been great to have a horse that my 10-year-old can learn to ride on and the rest of the family can ride as well,” Horsman says.“We love to see him at our barn and enjoy having him.”
The horses at Paint Pony Haven go through many bales of hay.
Nadin Malcom says they are just as “picky” when it comes to taking the horses that no one else wants as they are about choosing the families who will give their horses a new home. The horses they take have to pass certain standards so the Malcoms are able to have some surety that the horses will be able to have a good life at some point.
“We say we’re a sanctuary and that means that we’re going to get some older horses that nobody wants,” Corky Malcom says. He offers the example of a horse named Tinkerbell who came to them when she was 30-years-old.
“She wasn’t having a great life where she was at, but in the two years that we had her, she had the best time of her life. It brings tears to your eyes because she was a special horse,” he says. “The hope is always that you get a few who can be moved on to forever homes.”
Tinkerbell never got that opportunity. After loving care provided by the Malcom’s she passed away in 2019. Her boxed cremains are buried near a jagged, gray rock that stands on a hill overlooking the property. That rock serves as a memorial to two other horses – Spartan and Trouble and a dog – Woody - that also passed away, each of which has its own small placard on a metal stand bearing their name and a short worded tribute.
From left, Lilly, Red, and Jasper graze at Paint Pony Haven.
These losses are difficult for the couple who refer to these horses as their “babies” and shower them with attention at every opportunity. As they walk through a pasture where all of the horses were walking around and playing with each other, the couple nuzzled their faces next to the faces of the horses and talked to them.
Among the biggest misconceptions people have about horses is that they're “such big animals and really resistant and tough — they’re not,” Nadine Malcom says. “They’re like pumpkins walking on toothpicks.”
“They’ll get a horsefly on their back and they’ll come running to Nadin to get the horsefly knocked off,” Corky Malcom says with a grin.
Horses also are not meant to be alone and thrive when they are in the company of other horses. When a new horse arrives, there is a learning curve for both the Malcoms and the new addition. A horse named Jasper was chased everywhere by Digger and Corky Malcom says it took him a couple of months to get integrated into the group.
Beaujolais grapes in the vineyard at Paint Pony Haven.
“Once they find their place, they’re OK,” he says. They know their names and pick it up after a while. They love carrots and we give them special treats like Ginger Snaps every once in a while.”
Operating at a walk, trot, and gallop
Between the feeding, pasturing, stabling, and loving the horses, and the maintaining of the property, the Malcoms have little time for anything else, including vacations or even trips to get their hair cut.
But, the couple who met while Corky was stationed in Germany, say this is their life and their passion.
Corky Malcom and Diva Bella, Digger and Diva, the horses owned by the Malcoms are not available for adoption.
Nadin Malcom says she was put on a horse’s back even before she could walk. She and her husband met when he was looking for another dog after having to put down the two dogs he had owned.
At that time, she was operating a dog rescue business and a friend had told her about “this guy who was looking for another dog,” she says.
“I was working for the Department of Defense in Germany and a friend hooked me up with Nadin to get two more dogs and we became friends and one thing led to another,” Corky Malcom says. “I got transferred back to Battle Creek and Nadin came over to join me in 2015.”
Nadin’s full-time job is caring for the horses while her husband splits his time between his work at the Federal Center and helping her run Paint Pony Haven. They both rise early and often aren’t done until 9 or 10 at night.
“A horse needs access to forage hay at least 18 hours a day and eats between 15 and 20 hours a day,” Nadin Malcom says. “They eat until they’re tired and sleep until they’re hungry. There are no days off or sleeping in” and that’s OK, she says.
“These are our babies and if we can save one at a time and give them a good life, there’s not much more that we could ask for.”
To learn more about Paint Pony Haven or to make a donation, visit their website or contact the Malcoms at (313) 788-2240.