Peace Ranch Loses Horse to West Nile Virus Contracted Downstate, Leaving Behind a Legacy of Love, Life Lessons and Recovery


Midnight, a Friesian horse, came to PEACE Ranch as a five-year-old in September 2011 and was quickly dubbed “Knight” for his courageous and valiant spirit. Peace Ranch was the perfect place for Knight. Peace Ranch is a faith based equine assisted therapy center founded on the belief that there is great potential for healing in the parallel process of Rescue, Rehabilitation and Restoration between horses and humans. They rescue horses and they rescue people.

Before coming to Peace Ranch, Knight’s elderly owners deteriorating health prevented them from properly caring for Knight and their neighbors took over his care. Knight had been stalled for several months and had serious health issues including being low in weight and having no muscle tone. His tendons were unable to stretch correctly as his body grew so his hips and hind legs were stiff and the muscle was underdeveloped. His neck developed “upside down,” that is, more muscle on the bottom than on the top. 

He was sent to a rescue in Kentucky who thought he would be a good placement for a performance home but soon after beginning training he developed swelling in his legs. Several months of medication and rehabilitation finally resolved the issues. Knight was sent to a foster home in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Pat’s (Knight’s foster mom) work with Knight was thorough, focusing on laying a good foundation for him – but he still struggled physically and she knew performance was not in his near future. The damage which resulted from his confinement would require long term rehabilitation. However, Knight was incredibly personable and quickly became a barn favorite. It was Pat who advocated for Knight to be placed at PEACE Ranch believing the placement to be a perfect match, and it was.


Knight’s rehabilitation process included chiropractic care, the re-angling of his hooves, strengthening his hind end, stretching his stride, supplying his neck, growing in trust and continuing his training.  The healing process occurred as he was integrated into opportunities for him to help others. He emerged healthy, happy, and healed. Knight served in Hug & Groom, equine assisted counseling and education programs and made his debut in the Summer Camp program in 2013. He was a favorite among many.


On July 30th, 2014, Knight twisted his large intestine during a therapy session with a group of Veterans dealing with PTSD. He was rushed down to Michigan State University but the condition righted itself on the way down. Knight received a clean bill of health with honors for good behavior and was taken home on August 1st. However, by August 9th, something is not right with Knight. He was down but does manage to get back up. Local vets are called but are out of town. On August 10th, Knight is down and doesn’t get back up. The local vet arrives and administers fluids and other treatment. Knight required round the clock care for three days which was provided by the ranch volunteer community. People brought food and drink to help feed each other and shelter for the horse and people. People rolled him every three hours, fed, cleaned, fly sprayed, applied ointment to wounds (like bed sores), lifted his head to drink, administered medication, sang and read to him, prayed for him, comforted and sat with him 24 hours a day.

volunteer with knight

volunteers with knightOn August 11th, Dr. Schott, head of Equine Internal Medicine at MSU indicates that it could be a fracture, injury or worm and if Knight can’t become sternal (on their chest with legs underneath them) within 48 hours of going down, he recommends euthanasia. Dr. Molby and Dr. Bhuyan concurred.

Unfortunately, Knight did not get up again and was humanely euthanized on August 12th. On August 21st, the results of Knight’s blood work confirmed the presence of the West Nile Virus. The Michigan Department of Agriculture Infectious Disease unit confirmed that Knight contracted the virus while he was at MSU for a twisted intestine.  This conclusion was reached weighing several facts about the case and their broad base of experience including: the absence of the presence of West Nile virus in Northern Michigan birds; the known presence of turkeys infected with the virus in close proximity to the Vet hospital at MSU; the onset of symptoms within the 5-15 incubation window and the statistical unlikelihood of both situations occurring without being connected. Knight, and the rest of the herd, had been scheduled for annual shots in late June but due to a vet emergency and conflicting schedules, those shots were postponed and a loved one was lost.

In life, Knight contributed much. He had a strong, likable personality, was very handsome and a real jokester. He was the only herd member that could pull off the neon orange halter. He taught many of his herd members to play enticing them with sticks and toys. In session, Knight often had something in his mouth—a ball, a cone, a rope or my hat but also knew how to be the strength for those in need. His best buddy was Captain and his favorite girl horse was Roxy. He was the Herd Ambassador to the Grand Traverse Pie Company in 2013 and 2014. He had a special girl, Tori Porteous, who took lessons on him, helping him to build his hind end and helping her to learn about horses and riding and many other people who visited and loved him.

Knight serving our nation by helping Veterans

Knight serving our nation by helping Veterans

According to Jackie Kaschel, Founder and Executive Director of Peace Ranch, the most touching moments in the end were seeing people young and old pay their respects and thank Knight for helping them as tears fell from their eyes. The outpouring of love to him is a testimony of how he had touched many lives.

knight with kid


Peace Ranch feels that Knight’s life story should become everyone’s story – No matter what our history, may we find healing as we connect in community, may we develop an appreciation for our herd and others, may life be spiced with fun and laughter, and as we experience peace and compassion may we share it with others.


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One thought on “Peace Ranch Loses Horse to West Nile Virus Contracted Downstate, Leaving Behind a Legacy of Love, Life Lessons and Recovery

  1. Cathy Connolly September 11, 2014 at 6:07 am Reply

    I’ve shared this beautiful but sad story on our website. Thank you for paying tribute to Knight!

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