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Violet, On the Mend at Duchess

Horse rescued from a neglect situation finds sanctuary

The Humane Society of the United States / The Fund for Animals


by Julie Hauserman

When Duchess Sanctuary manger Jennifer Kunz went to investigate a report of possible animal neglect at a nearby Oregon ranch last fall, the sight that greeted her was heartbreaking.

Starving Horses

"There were at least 12 horses in the pasture, half were definitely too thin, and one mare with a foal at her side was positively skeletal," Kunz said. "I reported the place to Animal Control."

The horse's overwhelmed owner was cooperative with the Animal Control officer, and agreed to provide additional food to the thinnest horses in the herd.

The animal control officer, along with the Mounted Posse, kept an eye on the ranch, and conditions for the horses were unfortunately not improving. On December 29, after a visit from Animal Control authorities, the owner agreed to surrender at least six of the horses.  Animal Control picked them up, but they had nowhere to take them.

"Sadly the skeletal mare had died," Kunz said. "Her foal was adopted by some neighbors and is doing well."

A local rescue, Strawberry Mountain Mustangs, took in the neglected horses while they sorted out where they could go. Kunz and the other rescuers were especially worried about one of the horses, an Arabian who was too skinny, with a nasty-looking skin condition and parasites. On top of that, the mare was thought to be pregnant.

Temporary Sanctuary

Duchess was happy to provide a safe place for her to recover until permanent arrangements can be made. Since then, the mare – now known as Violet -- was started on a special diet to help her gain weight, and her medical issues were treated. She's well on the mend, although it turns out her suspected pregnancy was a false alarm.

"Violet settled in very well and is exceptionally sweet," Kunz said. "We were so glad for her sake that we were able to lend a helping hand during this emergency."

Duchess, a 1,120-acre sanctuary, is a safe and nurturing home to about 200 formerly abused, abandoned, neglected and homeless horses. The majority were rescued from the pharmaceutical industry. These mares were kept confined and pregnant half their lives so that drug makers could collect their urine – an ingredient in women's hormone replacement therapy. When the industry collapsed due to unfavorable health studies, the horses were no longer considered useful and many were destined for slaughter.

The sanctuary is also home to orphaned mustangs, horses rescued from slaughterhouse auctions and feedlots, and once-abused horses like Violet.

"Since her arrival we've learned a little bit more of her history," Kunz said. "She was given to this previous owner, along with at least two other mares, last June. She's obviously had some handling and is enthusiastic about interacting with people."

"We're so glad to give her a safe place to land. Times are tough in Oregon right now and there are a lot of horses in trouble. It's nice being able to help."


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