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Neglected horses get new lease on life.

Byline: Randi Bjornstad The Register-Guard

Five days after being rescued from what animal welfare officials estimate as a year or more of severe neglect, most of the 34 horses removed from an elderly woman's farm near Junction City seem to have found a new lease on life.

On Tuesday morning, many of them grazed in a donated pasture, basking in the warm fall sunshine that some - apparently confined since birth in dark, dung-filled stalls - had never felt before.

"When we found them last week, they were all hunched over with their heads hanging down," said Bernie Perkins, abuse investigator with the Lane County Animal Regulation Authority. "Now they're out there eating, with their heads up, their ears up. It's a real difference."

In a daylong work party Tuesday, volunteers helped veterinarian Jeff Pelton isolate the animals one or two at a time for a general checkup and a wipe-down with fly spray to get rid of the flies that pestered their manure-matted coats. Some of the horses got their tails bobbed and manes roached - the equine equivalent of a "mohawk" haircut - to get rid of hair so tangled a curry comb couldn't begin to cope.

Pelton, who practices at the South Willamette Veterinary Clinic in Creswell, said the abuse suffered by the horses "is probably the worst case I have been involved with, certainly in the sheer number of animals."

Offering his services at a "much, much reduced rate," Pelton examined each horse to establish age, sex, possible pregnancy and overall physical condition.

"Then we'll know better whether they'll be suitable for adoption," he said. "It will take a tremendous amount of commitment, time and money to bring some of these animals back to normal health."

Some of the horses should recover sufficiently to become working horses or trail horses, while others will need homes where they can be "professional pasture ornaments," Pelton said

It's still possible that the health of a small number may be so deteriorated as to require euthanasia, he said.

As Pelton finished his exams, farrier Merle Olson tackled the grueling task of cutting back hooves so overgrown that they curled up in front of the horses' feet by as much as eight inches, crippling the animals until some hardly could walk.

Olson, owner of Wallace Creek Farrier in Jasper, said it will take several more trims at intervals of six weeks or so, for up to a year, before many of the horses will be able to walk normally, because of the damage the overgrowth causes to ligaments and tendons in the horses' legs.

Many also suffered from abscesses in their hooves, as well as severe cases of thrush, a fungal growth caused by continual standing in damp, filthy conditions.

The owner of the ranch where the horses have been invited to stay said the condition of the animals both shocked and moved her.

"Some of them were in such bad shape, my heart just went out to them," said the owner, who asked that the identification of the ranch not be publicized until the horses have recovered enough to be adopted. "Others look so good - there's just no rhyme or reason."

One stallion came in with feet so deformed that even after his hooves had been trimmed, "he wouldn't get up for two days," Jan said. "I took food and water to him and fed him, and now he `talks' to me when I give him his oats, and he's up walking around his stall. He looks so much better."

Mike Wellington, program manager of the Lane County Animal Regulation Authority, said he hasn't yet determined which horses he may put up for adoption.

The herd includes as many as a dozen miniature horses and perhaps as many pintos, as well as several solid chestnut and black horses and two donkeys, one black and one gray.

LCARA's Perkins said he plans to serve the owner of the horses, who has relinquished her claim to them, with 41 charges of animal neglect.

The possible penalties range from probation to fines to prison.

"I don't know what we'll do - we have to figure out what's the greater good here," Perkins said.

On the one hand, the woman's judgment appears to have failed because of age, frailty and fear of the consequences, but at the same time, "when I asked to see the horses, she said, `It's horrible out there,' ' he said. "She knew full well what the situation was.'

For information about adopting the horses, call LCARA at 682-3647.

CAPTION(S):

Volunteers examine one of 34 horses removed from a farm near Junction City. Officials estimate the animals suffered a year or more of severe neglect. A n i m a l s Many of the animals have curled hooves, which can damage leg tendons and even cripple a horse. `It will take a tremendous amount of commitment, time and money to bring some of these animals back to normal health.' - JEFF PELTON, SOUTH WILLAMETTE VETERINARY CLINIC IN CRESWELL
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Title Annotation:Animals; Volunteers help nurse them back to health after a rescue at an elderly woman's farm
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 22, 2004
Words:833
Previous Article:FOR THE RECORD.
Next Article:VOLUNTEERS SHOW THEY CARE.


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