Sixteen horses — first 10, then another six — were rescued from a Wells County, Indiana property in January 2018. All were malnourished, and some had untreated infections and injuries.
A few, including two of the six horses I worked with, did not survive. Others returned to their previous owners or found new ones, but faced a long and difficult healing process.
The case was all the more disturbing because the person responsible was known and trusted by area horse owners and rescuers. Yet, according to the conversations that followed, there were previous signs that all was not well.
What can we pull from this to create a better outcome the next time something doesn’t seem quite right, but we don’t know what to ask or how to help? How can we get better at spotting signs of animal abuse and neglect, speaking up, listening, and following through?
As I write this, winter is coming. That’s when many of these heartbreaking situations come to light, and when it’s difficult to respond.
I’m not a veterinarian, horse handler, or law enforcement officer. My job with horses is to listen to them, and to the people who love and care for them, and offer a calm presence that allows healing. But as a journalist of many years, I also wanted to offer some quality information that might prove useful to those of us in northeast Indiana and beyond. Here’s what I found.
• These two articles were both sparked by the Wells County case: When to Speak Up: Red Flags & Warning Signs for Reporting Abuse in Horse Nation; and If you see something, say something by Carleigh Fedorka, a horse handler and postdoctoral researcher who was part of the same network as the neglected horses’ owner.
• Another, Neglected, abused and abandoned horses: How to help in Equus Magazine, was written earlier but includes helpful information on staying on the right side of the law in these situations.
• Also of note: Friends of Ferdinand, which played a key role in the rescue of the horses in the above case, received a Standing Ovation by Ovation Riding in 2018. This story talks about how other rescue organizations stepped in to help.
Creating a better world for horses (and everyone else) does, in fact, take all of us.
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