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Starving Mares Recover at Duchess

Due to foal in a few months, the mares receive round-the-clock care

  • Now safe at Duchess Sanctuary, Penny is getting nourishment for herself and her foal, due in early summer. Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

  • Like Penny, young Sadie is receiving round-the-clock care from Duchess staff. Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

by Jennifer Kunz

Sadie is a young and frisky palomino. Penny is an older and more sedate sorrel.

Both mares came to Duchess Sanctuary in late January, after being rescued from near starvation in Brookings, Oregon. And both are due to foal later this year.

Starvation and desperation

Sadie and Penny were two of ten horses found starving in a barren pen, left there by a man with a history of animal neglect. For more than three months, the horses scrounged whatever food and water they could find, even eating the bark off trees.

They stood up to their knees in a slurry of mud and manure that left them with mud fever, a painful condition of scabs and sores covering their legs. Unable to escape the constant onslaught of pouring rain, their backs and necks developed rain rot, another painful skin condition.

By the time of their rescue, one horse was in such poor shape that he was humanely euthanized on the spot. Another went into county custody, too sick for transport. The remaining eight horses went first up to Strawberry Mountain Mustangs in Roseburg, Ore. From there, three went to Sound Equine Options in Gresham, Ore., while Duchess Sanctuary took in Penny and Sadie.

Mares in recovery

Upon intake, Penny and Sadie scored a 2.5 and a 3, respectively, on a nine-point body-condition scoring [PDF] scale that veterinarians use to rate equine health, placing them just barely above emaciation. With foals on the way, their rehabilitation is all the more urgent.

In quarantine for the next three weeks, the duo are eating well, following the UC Davis re-feeding protocol for emaciated horses. With hoof trimming, medication for their sores, and a parasite-control program, the girls are gaining strength daily and appear headed for a full recovery.

Their improvement is owed in much part to the Curry County Sheriff's Department, which took the lead in rescuing these horses, as well as Strawberry Mountain Mustangs and Sound Equine Options, which stepped up quickly to offer a safe place for them.

Exciting days ahead

Once they have cleared quarantine, Penny and Sadie will move into a larger paddock at Duchess to be monitored closely as their foaling dates approach. As theirs will be the first babies ever born at Duchess, the staff is feeling anticipation and delight.

Our two newest mares seem equally pleased. The younger Sadie runs and bucks with energy when she's let out of their stall in the morning. The more relaxed Penny prefers to saunter out for a roll in the shavings before returning to the barn for attention from whomever is cleaning out her stall.

This morning when Penny walked back into her stall from her morning stroll, she rested her head on my shoulder and gave a deep, contented sigh—as if understanding that she has found a safe place at last.

Keep up with all the news on Penny, Sadie, and the rest of the herd on our Facebook page.

Jennifer Kunz is ranch manager of the Duchess Sanctuary, operated by the Fund for Animals in partnership with The Humane Society of the United States.

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