- Associated Press - Thursday, January 7, 2016

WOODSTOCK, Ill. (AP) - Jenna Dickson expected to rescue only the miniature horses in the worst conditions when she headed to a farm in central Illinois.

No more than six would be coming back to the Hooved Animal Humane Society in Woodstock, she thought. But then she saw all 14 miniature horses.

“They kind of greet you at the fence, so you walk up and it’s like, ‘What cute little ponies. This will be great,’ ” said Dickson, the organization’s adoption coordinator. “And then you look at their feet. Some of them, their feet were so long and curling up (that) when they walked, their feet were flapping.

“We can’t just leave some of them here to get worse,” she said.

The first rescue came in early December after someone called the Hooved Animal Humane Society to alert them to the animals’ deteriorating conditions. One of the owners had died, and the widower was in poor health and couldn’t provide the animals the proper care, said Tracy McGonigle, executive director and Illinois Department of Agriculture-certified investigator.

The animals’ hooves were overgrown to the point where it was likely painful and could have caused permanent damage to their skeletons leaving them with constant discomfort.

Among the worst of the pack was Pony Boy, a 10-year-old stallion whose hooves likely had not been cut for about five years. In comparison, Dickson said her organization typically trims hooves every six to eight weeks.

A farrier and veterinarian visited the animals after they arrived - eight at first, and six a week later - and it doesn’t appear they sustained any irreversible injuries. It cost the nonprofit, which is responsible for about 140 animals in total, more than $4,000 for the triage.

The ponies will need additional trims, as well as dental care, but they’re in good shape otherwise, Dickson said. Most will be ready for adoption in about two months.

Some will use that time to get comfortable with people. Dickson said the horses in the second lot were hard to catch and seemed as if they had never had a halter put on before.

“Even the ones who are hard to handle, you can tell they’re curious. They want to and then they just get nervous,” Dickson said. “So I think as long as we’re gentle and keep working with them, they’ll come around really nice.”

In all, however, they’ve made strides since they first arrived, a couple even allowing a volunteer groomer to braid their hair. In the barn where they’re all being kept, they “talk” to each other, the horses named after “The Outsiders” characters neighing to those with “Harry Potter”-themed monikers.

Their calls reach across the barn to Pony Boy, who’s being kept separate until he’s gelded.

Playing and talking aside, they’re favorite pastime is eating hay.

“It’s rewarding for everyone,” McGonigle said, looking at the mini-horses muzzles peeking out of a gate. “It’s nice. It’s seeing them act like horses again, like normal animals.”

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Source: The (Crystal Lake) Northwest Herald, https://bit.ly/22N9or0

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Information from: The Northwest Herald, https://www.nwherald.com


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