A member of the Antioch Police Department and one of his relatives recently adopted the pony and one of the horses. The third horse is still under the care of center, and will likely be adopted by an animal rescue group.
“It’s a bittersweet story,” said Antioch Animal Services Supervisor Monika Helgemo. “We have all gotten attached to them. When we found out we had an adopter for Dixie (the pony), we went, ‘Oh yay,’ but then we also went, ‘Oh no.’”
Although the adopted horse and pony suffer from lingering effects of neglect, which includes damage to the back legs of the horse from repeatedly being hit with a lasso plus muscle-memory problems for the pony, both are expected to recover within the next year, Helgemo said. The neglect case, which also involved two goats and a pot belly pig, has been forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office.
“They (the adopted horse and pony) have their own in-house issues,” Helgemo said. “But both people that adopted them are very knowledgeable, and what they don’t know, they’re willing to learn.”
Since being impounded, the pony and horses have gained a few hundred pounds and successfully undergone treatment to heal open sores and remove lice.
The third horse, a mare, sustained permanent damage to its hind legs, which will prevent it from being ridden and require it to wear special shoes for the duration of its life. Its limited mobility makes it undesirable for adoption by the public, Helgemo said.
“Nobody is going to want to adopt a horse you can’t ride,” she said. “Some people might just want her for a pasture or for a mate for their horses, but we’re not finding that.”
Despite the evident trauma the animals have endured, they’ve taken strides in rebuilding trust in humans. “I’m not a horse person,” said Helgemo. “But when I went out there and fed the mare a carrot, this big brown eye just twinkled. You didn’t see that before. It was very tear-jerking. A real emotional thing to see this horse actually show a response.”
Finding permanent homes for the pony and one of the horses has the center’s staff feeling like it’s on the home stretch of a journey that left it financially strained.
At the time the animals were impounded, the center had rarely dealt with cases involving horses, forcing it to seek help from outside agencies and donations to cover the cost of caring for the animals.
Since the center doesn’t own horse trailers, simply transporting the horses required outside assistance. The horses also ate an estimated $131 worth of food per week while under the care of the center – an expenditure not anticipated in its budget.
For Antioch resident Barbara Herendeen, who donated $500 as one of three major donors to the center after word got out it needed help, seeing the animals get adopted is a happy ending to the community’s collaborative effort.
“It’s unusual for the animal shelter to suddenly have to intervene and take into protective custody a couple of horses and an assortment of farm animals all at the same time,” Herendeen said. “Our small community shelter stepped up to the challenge and reached out to the community. I’m grateful for their dedication and that of their volunteers, and was glad I could be of help.”