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Group rescues, nurses neglected horses

February 28, 2000

Robin and DaisyBy ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




BOONSBORO- Daisy's grazing in greener pastures because of a new equine rescue group in Boonsboro that saved the horse from neglect.

R&R Stables owner Robin Rippeon, founder of Homeward Bound Horse Rescue Inc., found Daisy living in squalid conditions on the Pennsylvania farm to which the horsewoman had traveled last June to buy another horse, she said.

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Rippeon saw Daisy in a 20-by-20-foot dog pen with two dogs and no water, hay or grain. The horse was nearly 500 pounds underweight with hooves at least six inches too long.

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"She was so emaciated, so downtrodden, that she could only walk about 10 feet before stopping," said Rippeon, 37.

The horsewoman casually asked the farm owner what he planned to do with Daisy, and was told, "I'll probably shoot her," Rippeon said.

The man's callous disregard for Daisy's well-being was the last straw for Rippeon, who had already watched two horses die after she had independently rescued them from neglectful and abusive homes.

A thoroughbred racehorse, Dream boasted more than $180,000 in track winnings. Then his winning streak ended and Dream was sent to the meat auction, where Rippeon found him grossly underweight, she said.

She took the horse to her stables, but he didn't survive.

Sassy was advertised for $300, but was so malnourished and worm-ridden that her breed was indiscernible, said Rippeon, who told the horse owner she would take Sassy and pay her the money if the horse recovered.

Sassy died under her favorite tree four months later, Rippeon said.

"I just cry," she said. "How can anybody let a 1,000-pound animal become a 500-pound animal? I just can't believe that somebody could be that neglectful. When I found Daisy I knew something had to be done."

"It's happening in your own backyard, and there's too much of it."

Horses can live up to 30 years, and are completely dependent upon their owners for food, grooming, medical care and love. It takes about $75 a month, not including boarding fees, to properly maintain a steed, Rippeon said.

Their hooves must be kept cleaned and trimmed or the horses will gradually lose their soundness - the ability to walk on all four legs. They need plenty of water, and must be fed a proper diet or their teeth will begin to fall out.

Each horse needs at least one acre for exercise, Rippeon said.

"It's a huge undertaking, and it's an undertaking for life," she said.

In hopes of fostering prevention through education and rescuing horses from abuse, neglect and unnecessary trips to the slaughterhouse, Rippeon and four other horsewomen formed Homeward Bound.

With guidance from a similar group in Mount Airy, Md., Homeward Bound incorporated in January and is seeking nonprofit status, volunteers and sponsors, Rippeon said.

The local rescue service doesn't advocate the radical measures used by some animal rights groups, but wants only to "work with everyone and do what's best for the horses," she said.

Rippeon has rescued five horses since January, including a 21-year-old registered quarterhorse that was being abused.

Blaze hobbled into her horse trailer on hooves that were so long that they curled up at the ends, Rippeon said. Once abused, the horse is afraid of people, but Rippeon will work with him daily in hopes of helping him gradually overcome his fears and regain his health, she said.

"Out of kindness," one area horse owner recently donated a healthy quarter horse because she could no longer properly care for the animal, Rippeon said.

That horse has been adopted for a $2,000 adoption donation, which will be used to pay for feed, medical care and the purchase of "still salvageable" horses bound for slaughterhouses, Rippeon said.

She said 75,000 thoroughbreds are sent to slaughter each year, and Homeward Bound plans to approach trainers and owners at Charles Town Races about donating retired racehorses for adoption.

Rippeon often attends the auction, which is held every Monday in New Holland, Pa.

At the auction, meat company representatives buy downtrodden horses and cram them onto trailers bound for Canada, where the horses are bludgeoned and bled to death so their meat can be used for human consumption in Europe, Asia and Japan, Rippeon said.

She said more than half of the horses in the auctions' "killer pens"- holding corrals for horses about to be auctioned for slaughter - still have years of good life left in them.

"I'm not condemning the auctions, but there's a lot of horses that just shouldn't be there," Rippeon said.

Horses like Samuel.

Rippeon found the stately 15-year-old saddlebred at New Holland on Jan. 10. An ex-Amish carriage horse, Samuel was nearly 400 pounds underweight and scarred from too many years of grueling road travel, she said.

The horse has protruding bones and deep dimples above his eyes from malnourishment, and suffers from degenerative suspensary ligament damage, Rippeon said.

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