WOODBINE — Veterinarian Peter O'Halloran and farrier Kenny Romjue carefully maneuvered Quest, an 18-year-old stallion, as they took X-rays of his overgrown hooves Monday afternoon at the Days End Farm Horse Rescue.
"I've never seen feet that long. It may take us a year to get his feet back in decent condition," O'Halloran said. "They will require weekly care to get into decent shape."
Quest and his companion Rio, an 18-year-old miniature stallion, were found during a welfare inspection of an unspecified Washington County farm to check on pet pigeons, according to Kim Intino. Another horse, a miniature mare, had to be euthanized on the property due to ruptured ligaments causing irreparable fetlock dislocation, which causes a deformity of the leg.
Intino, president and CEO of the Humane Society of Washington County, said it is standard practice during welfare inspections to check all animals on the property, which is how the horses were discovered. An investigation is ongoing.
Days End Farm Horse Rescue, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization currently providing rehabilitation and ongoing care for 78 rescue horses, aided the Washington County Humane Society in the removal of the three horses.
"The horses were found in a stall piled high with 3 to 4 feet of manure, where it is suspected that they were locked up for at least 15 years without necessary farrier or medical care," said Caroline Robertson, the development director of Days End Farm Horse Rescue.
"It's the worst we've seen in our 26-year history," Robertson said. "They could barely move without being at risk of getting tangled in their own hooves."
Robertson said the curled hooves on two of the horses were more than 3-feet long when the animals were discovered.
"A horse's hoof grows like a fingernail. If they aren't given enough space to wear down them naturally, the farrier should visit them every six to eight weeks," Robertson said.
Robertson said in order to transport the rescued horses safely to Days End's rehabilitative care facility, O'Halloran and Romjue worked together to sedate the animals and lay them down so they could remove portions of their overgrown hooves.
"Hoof neglect is the most difficult rehabilitation they can experience," said DeEtte Gorrie, Days End's equine program director.
Gorrie said in addition to hoof neglect, the horses are also experiencing severe dental neglect.
"Horses require vet visits each year to level off their teeth," Gorrie said. "It's essential to their nutrition to have that cared for."
The horses will remain in standard quarantine for two weeks as O'Halloran and Romjue monitor their progress.
Romjue said he hoped the X-rays would not reveal too much internal damage.
"We will trim their feet to start creating angles to reestablish normal position of the bones in the foot," Romjue said.
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Days End Farm Horse Rescue relies on donations to help rehabilitate horses. Donations are tax deductible. To donate go to www.defhr.org.