Despite tough road ahead, rescued Fillmore County horses make progress

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Six horses and one donkey are recovering at a veterinary center in Elk River after they were found neglected last week in southern Minnesota.

The Fillmore County Sheriff's Office has been investigating the case since Monday March 25, when they received a report of horses not properly cared for in Chatfield. 

When they investigated, officials found two horses dead on the property. The remaining horses were voluntarily turned over to the Animal Humane Society by the owner.

“They were certainly not fed correctly; some of them don’t seem to have been fed at all,” said Drew Fitzpatrick, Director of Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation.

As officials investigate the case, the remaining eight equines were brought from the property to Anoka Equine Veterinary Services for recovery. There was one bay, however, that lost the fight.

“Losing the gelding once he got here, that was very, very frustrating,” Fitzpatrick said. 

The horses arrived moderately or severely malnourished. Fitzpatrick said had they gotten there any later, two others might not be alive.

“These horses all came in pretty rough shape,” confirmed veterinarian Dr. David Schwinghamer.

Aside from malnutrition, Dr. Schwinghamer said the stock also came in with skin infections and mild to severe dental problems he and his team will need to gradually correct.

“That rehabilitation and re-feeding process will take months,” Schwinghamer nodded.

Even with a long road to recovery ahead, the seven remaining equines are progressing after only five days.

“They were anxious and, over time, they’ve learned to settle in and have taken to the food right away and haven’t turned back on that, which is wonderful,” Schwinghamer smiled.

The care team’s optimism will help pull the horses through rehab, training, and eventually, a proper home.

“They’re a large responsibility and they’re a 365-day a year responsibility, and if you don’t have that, the only thing that suffers is the horse,” Schwinghamer said.

The Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue will plan for the horses to end up with an owner who already has or is willing to get an education in livestock. Meanwhile, once the Fillmore County Sheriff's Office is done with the investigation, the case will be sent to the county attorney's office for review.