EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A far East El Paso horse sanctuary has more than tripled in size in the past year, working with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office to rescue abused and abandoned horses.
Horses Unlimited Rescue and Education Center, run by horse behaviorist Victoria Hall, is home to 32 horses that were abandoned, abused or surrendered by their owners. The center has also expanded its stalls and added new amenities for the horses.
The El Paso Times reports Hall partners with the sheriff’s department to pick up the horses, which often come to the center malnourished, underfed, with overgrown hooves and unchecked conditions like arthritis.
Not all of them make it, despite Hall’s best efforts.
Horses Unlimited relies on donations and volunteers to keep its doors — or stalls — open. Hall said the center now has about 15 volunteers. They received a donation from Western Refining to help build a large storage shed, but Hall is still seeking other funding to help pay for the entire shed.
Others have donated equipment, like tractors and an ATV. Hall said the tractor has been useful in keeping the stalls clean, and was even used to help transport a very weak horse.
“It makes things so much easier. It really helps us a lot,” Hall said.
Hall said she’s been able to re-home a number of the horses, and the ones that haven’t been re-homed still have a caring space to live.
In the past year, Horses Unlimited has more than tripled the number of horses they keep, thanks to stall expansions on their 2.5-acre property that sits in view of Hueco Tanks. Hall also added automatic watering dishes in all the stalls, giving horses continual access to fresh, clean water.
Each horse now has a handwritten, personalized nameplate on their stall — a small rectangle of chalkboard with names like Thor, Picasso, Buddy and Scarlette.
Hall and volunteers also built a pasture for the horses to have space to roam, and added sturdier fencing around the riding arena.
Chris Acosta, a spokeswoman for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department, said Hall and Horses Unlimited have saved horses that might otherwise might not have made it.
“She’s been very helpful with the horses we’ve come across that are either lost or left out to die,” Acosta said. “When people can’t afford to feed them, they just leave them out in the desert. We support her program.”
Hall, who has a bachelor’s degree in equine science from Sul Ross State University in Alpine, said it can be hard to see the horses arrive in such horrible conditions.
She recently picked up five horses from an animal abuse case in Clint. The horses were found in stalls with other dead horses, which were being eaten by dogs.
“They were treated so badly,” Hall said. “One took so long to fatten up because I think he was depressed about the dead horses in his stall.”
After the horses arrive at the center, Hall focuses on fattening them up and taking care of whatever health problems they’re facing.
But not all horses survive.
“Sometimes I think they’re just too far gone,” Hall said. “Horses hit a plateau sometimes and won’t gain any more weight, even if you work really hard with them and try a bunch of things to get them healthy.”
The horses that remain at Horses Unlimited spend their days grazing, riding and in therapy. Hall said the center offers free equine therapy for children with learning disabilities like autism, as well as for those with PTSD.
“Most people just enjoy being around them, and petting them is relaxing,” Hall said.
The center is also offering a summer camp for children from July 10 through the 14th. The $150 fee includes food and crafts and plenty of time with the horses.
Hall’s sun-weathered skin reflects her dedication to Horses Unlimited, and said she hopes she can receive more donations and community participation to keep the center up and running. She said she enjoys seeing the progress the horses make.
“It’s so cool to see them grow,” Hall said. “It’s like being a teacher.”
Information from: El Paso Times, http://www.elpasotimes.com
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