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March 28, 2011

Coming Together to Save Neglected Horses

It was the abuse of the horse that prompted the formation of the humane movement in the middle of the 19th century. Nearly a century and a half later, it’s still a problem, though the form is often different. Our equine cruelty specialist, Stacy Segal, sent an update to me recently about the continuing progress we have made in a case we first responded to last December, when staff from our Animal Rescue Team headed to east Texas to assist law enforcement with a large-scale horse neglect case.

Rescued horses at the Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center
Anne Rathbun Favre/ The HSUS
Two formerly neglected horses rescued from east Texas
graze at the Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center.

The scene was heart-wrenching: more than 40 quarter horses, ranging in age from 5 months to more than 20 years old without adequate food or water.

Here’s Stacy’s report and an update on the case:

When we first arrived on the scene in December, many of the horses were underweight and suffering from parasite infestations and painfully overgrown hooves. But the most tragic sight was the skeletons scattered across the landscape, giving silent testimony to those who suffered and died before law enforcement could act.

We swung into action to help the remaining horses, working with law enforcement and other rescue groups including the SPCA of East Texas, the Humane Society of North Texas, and Safe Haven Equine Rescue & Retirement Home.

We moved the horses to an emergency shelter nearby, where we spent more than two months providing round-the-clock care and feeding to nurse these animals back to health. Holiday cheer came to our team not in the form of gifts, but in the horses’ happy nickering sounds and bright eyes as we watched our charges begin to thrive physically.

This was just the beginning, though. To give these horses the successful futures they deserve, we knew we had to invest in their emotional and behavioral well-being and recovery as carefully and thoroughly as we were attending to their physical needs.

We put a call out for help to the local horse community, and they came forward in droves. Natural horsemanship trainers throughout the region have agreed to take dozens of horses for training. Five others are being schooled at HSUS’ Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center in Texas, and all will be debuted at the grand opening on May 14.

When word got out about the chance to adopt a horse trained by professionals, the adoption applications poured in. Approved adopters showed up at the shelter to watch their horses be loaded up for training and are eagerly following their progress on Facebook.

For us, this rescue represents a new paradigm: one where the horse industry and the animal welfare community work together to give needy horses the leg up they deserve.

I’m happy to report that about half of the Texas horses have now been adopted, and the others are making great progress with their trainers. Be sure to watch for updates on these special horses as we move toward the grand opening of our Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center on May 14. Meanwhile, staff from the HSUS, the ASPCA, and other groups continue to provide care for more than 100 neglected equines in Arkansas who were also rescued in December.

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