Starved horses get new home

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By Jenny Hartley

On Black Beauty's stall door at Larkspur Ranch hangs a delicate dream catcher decorated with feathers.

Some people believe that dream catchers filter out bad dreams, letting only the good dreams filter through the web in the middle, and travel down through the feathers to the dreamer.

Black Beauty and her barn mate, Ginger, need all the good dreams they can get.

The two horses were found in southern Lancaster County by county sheriff's Capt. Craig Bailey last week. Bailey knew right away that the horses needed help.

The horses were living in a tiny, overgrown enclosure with six goats. There was no food, water or shelter, and the horses were apparently drinking from mud puddles.

Black Beauty and Ginger are starving. Their hip bones jut out under their sagging skin. Their backbones are long, hard ridges where malnutrition has worn them away.

"I knew they were in a bad situation," said Bailey, who owns three horses and was looking to buy another one when he discovered Black Beauty and Ginger.

Bailey said he called about 20 people, trying to find someone who would take in the horses. But because of the drought and shrinking hay supplies, he couldn't find a willing foster home.

Healing Horses steps in

Bailey called Lancaster County Animal Control, and Director Joel Hinson got Bailey in touch with Indian Land resident Katie Holme, director of Healing Horses, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving neglected horses.

Larkspur Ranch in Indian Land is providing large stalls lined with a thick cushion of wood shavings.

But the mares' trials are far from over.

Ginger's abdomen is round, with the foal that she'll likely give birth to soon. Black Beauty, the more malnourished of the two mares, gave birth to a foal on Monday. The foal, which appeared to be premature, died, but Black Beauty seems to be doing fine, Holme said Tuesday morning.

No charges will be brought against the horses' owners, because they willingly surrendered them. Healing Horses will be rescuing the goats this week, Holme said.

Hinson said horses and other livestock are covered under new provisions in the county's tougher animal control laws that mandate adequate food, shelter and water for animals.

Animal Control occasionally receives calls about neglected horses. Hinson said it sometimes seems as though the owners have good intentions, but don't know proper horse care. Horses are often put up for sale for a few hundred dollars at auction barns, but upkeep is much more expensive, because they require hay or grain, shots, wormer and proper hoof care.

"A lot of people don't know that part of it, and that's where they get into trouble," Hinson said.

How to help

Holme named the two mares after characters in the beloved children's book, "Black Beauty," by Anna Sewell. The story details the life of Black Beauty, who lived with several different owners, gentle and abusive, as a horse during the late 1800s in England.

Holme, who has an uncanny connection with four-legged animals, wrote about her own Black Beauty and Ginger, as she often does about the animals that come under her care. The story is written from the horses' point of view, like Sewell's famous novel that celebrates kindness to animals.

"And then, a few days ago, some good-hearted two-legged's came, who love horses," Holme wrote. "One of them hugged us around our necks, gave us hay and water and told us we were beautiful. She whispered to us both about clean, green pastures, butterflies and brighter days.

"And she promised us that we would never suffer again."

The sad thing is, Healing Horses may be rescuing three more horses in the Black Horse Run area soon, Holme said.

"It's not a good time for horses right now," she said.

Healing Horses needs donations to buy hay and other supplies and pay for vet care. Those interested in donating may buy a Healing Horses T-shirt for $20. The shirts come in blue, pink, red, white and gray and are available in a variety of sizes.

Donations may be mailed to: Healing Horses, 9706 Black Horse Run Road, Indian Land, SC 29707. For details, call Holme at (803) 804-0544 or go to www.healinghorses.us.

Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at jhartley@thelancasternews.com or at 283-1151