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Pony With Overgrown Feet Rescued

Herbie overcomes painful condition caused by years of neglect, learns to walk on new feet.

  • When Herbie was rescued, his feet were horribly overgrown and required trimming. Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

  • The length of Herbie's feet meant the initial trimming had to be very carefully done. Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

  • During the initial trimming, 24 inches of foot were removed. Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

  • Although his feet are trimmed, Herbie still requires rehabilitation to adjust. Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

  • Herbie has proven to be the perfect patient, friendly and tolerant. Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

He almost wasn't rescued.

A telling photo
Herbie's owners were just interested in re-homing one of their other horses, not Herbie, and they sent a photo of the available horse to the Mustang and Burro Freedom Foundation, an equine rescue group that had offered to help find him a new home.

But there was something startling about the photo. Standing in the background was a pony, face unseen, with feet so horribly overgrown that they curled up to resemble elf slippers.

The alarming condition of the pony's feet was an obvious sign of years of neglect, and immediate action was taken to rescue the pony, named Herbie, from the situation. The Ark Watch Foundation, a horse rescue organization that has years of success in re-homing horses and helped to establish our Duchess Sanctuary, stepped in to help. Duchess agreed to provide a temporary home.

After quite a bit of negotiation, and with necessary assistance from the local sheriff's office, Herbie's owners finally allowed for him to be removed from their property and taken to a veterinary clinic for care.

Jennifer Kunz, Ranch Manager at Duchess Sanctuary, arrived with others to help with the transport. Unfortunately, the task of loading Herbie into a trailer proved to be extremely challenging. His curled feet clipped the bottom of the trailer each time he attempted to step up into it, and Kunz and others eventually had to resort to manual lifting and creative parking in order to successfully load Herbie into the trailer.

The first stop for Herbie after he left his home was a veterinary clinic. He was allowed to rest for several days before an attempt was made to trim his overgrown feet. Unbelievably, the farrier removed almost 30 inches of hoof in the initial trimming of Herbie's feet, making it the most dramatic case of overgrown feet that Kunz, the veterinarian, or the farrier had ever seen.

After the initial trimming, Herbie took frequent naps while he adjusted to his new feet and recovered from any aches and pains caused by such a drastic change to his body. Soon after, he was ready for transport to Duchess, which proved much less tricky than the last attempt at transport.

Sanctuary at Duchess
After arriving at Duchess in July, 2012, Herbie's feet required a little bit of trimming each week for maintenance. Even now, his feet are trimmed every two weeks, which is far more often than the once every eight to ten weeks for the average horse. But unfortunately, no amount of trimming can reverse the fact that the coffin bones in his feet are rotated from years of overgrowth. So, despite now having normal looking feet, Herbie's walking is still a bit unsound, and he'll never be able to bear weight on his back.

Herbie has been friendly and approachable throughout the entire rescue and healing process. He's become a favorite at Duchess, where volunteers treat him to lengthy grooming sessions and take him on long walks. And now, despite coming to Duchess originally on a temporary basis, Herbie is officially a permanent member of the Duchess herd. He will never know neglect again.

Follow Duchess Sanctuary on Facebook to see recent photos of Herbie and other members of the Duchess herd.

For more information about Herbie and other horses at Duchess Sanctuary, please contact Ranch Manager Jennifer Kunz: jkunz@humanesociety.org

Duchess Sanctuary is operated by The Fund for Animals in partnership with The Humane Society of the United States.

Many thanks to Carol Poole of the Mustang and Burro Freedom Foundation, Celine Myers of The Ark Watch Foundation, Dr. Elizabeth Rainsberry, Tyrell Allgood, Dave Vredenburg, and Deputy Dave Ward for making Herbie's rescue and immediate care possible.

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