Most of the 21 horses, three donkeys and a mule that were starving when seized from a pasture in February near Cleburne have regained their health and found new homes.
Four horses are still under the care of the Humane Society of North Texas, which worked with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department to remove the animals.
An 8-year-old sorrel mare was the sickest — at about 14 hands tall and 600 pounds, she was skin and bones when she was rescued. Rescuers were worried she wouldn’t survive.
“I’m really proud of her,” said Dawn Foil of the humane society’s equine program. “She has come a long way. She was full of parasites. She was lethargic at the shelter, and we put her on 24-hour watch.”
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The mare’s eyes and nose were filled with discharge. She also had a bad cough and a high temperature, which indicated she had an infection.
She stayed longest at the humane society on Lancaster Avenue, but has joined the others at a 17-acre pasture near Decatur. She needs to gain 200 pounds to reach a healthy 1,000, Foil said.
The rescued horses were put on medication to purge them of parasites, and the sorrel mare also received antibiotics to fight her infection.
“If they hadn’t seized them when they did, they all would’ve been that way,” said Johanna Wilson, who has been working with Foil to rehab the horses near Decatur.
The mare and other horses were treated for overgrown hooves, which made it painful for them to walk, Foil said.
“You got to have healthy feet to get to the food,” she said. “No food, no horse.”
There was no food at their previous home near Cleburne.
Neighbors complained to the Humane Society of the United States about the animals’ condition, and the group notified the sheriff’s department.
Deputies had received a tip about the property last summer and told the owners to make improvements or face consequences.
Progress was made, deputies said, but when they returned in February, the animals had no hay, feed or grass. A pair of horses were too sick to be moved and were euthanized.
Wilson credited deputies and animal control officials in Denton and Wise counties for their efforts to find and rescue neglected livestock. But she said Johnson County officials are particularly active.
“They don’t turn a blind eye,” Wilson said. “If they see a horse struggling or a family struggling to take care of it, they work with them to help them find options.”
As a last resort, they call on the humane society to help seize animals and get them healthy for adoption. The animals were adopted over the past months through the humane society.
In Decatur, the horses quickly gained weight on pasture grass, supplemented by pellets of Thrive Feed.
Foil and Wilson credited Hugh McElroy of Time N’Timber Ranch near Tioga for donating pallets of Thrive for the Johnson County animals, and challenging others to match his donation, bag for bag.
The four remaining horses were the ones in the worst shape.
But, Wilson said, any of them could be adopted now, if potential new owners understand how to continue their treatments.
Foil said they are lively and ready for new homes. One day last week they were pushing against each other while they were being brushed, vying for the caregivers’ attention. Sleek, shiny coats are starting to emerge.
“This is an awesome group of horses,” Foil said. “They have come a long way from ‘I don’t want to be touched’ to ‘I’m going to maul you for attention.’ ”