Typically, farriers don’t use grinders and Sawzalls to do their job. But the heavy equipment was needed to help the horses recently brought to Deschutes County’s rescue ranch showing signs of extreme neglect.

Authorities with the county seized 83 horses they say were being severely neglected by their owner in Terrebonne. The animals are being held at the ranch on Rickard Road, which just days ago featured only a handful of farm animals, and which on Monday was thick with the acrid smell of burning horse hoof.

The case was instigated over the weekend after a resident tip. A welfare check Saturday afternoon revealed obvious signs of neglect, according to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. Law enforcement personnel and volunteers spent much of the remaining weekend relocating the horses, many of which displayed serious hoof overgrowth, tooth disease and other forms of alleged neglect.

Monday afternoon, officials hosted media members at the ranch southeast of Bend, but they declined to discuss the underlying criminal investigation.

Sheriff’s spokesman William Bailey said it’s important for the community to see the extent of the alleged neglect.

“It’s one thing to say there was some neglect,” Bailey said. “It’s another to actually see the neglect for yourself.”

The horses — mostly Arabians — range in condition. Some are apparently healthy, while others have difficulty standing. A number of them have hooves so overgrown the upturned ends have the distinctive “elf slipper” look common to neglected equines.

A normal hoof represents about one year of growth. Horses need their hooves trimmed every six to eight weeks, depending on the time of year. Walking with overgrown hooves stresses the horse’s tendons, ligaments and leg muscles.

Some horses with hoof conditions were reluctant to walk and did so with exaggerated leg movements.

Several at the rescue ranch were covered in mud.

“He’s dirty because he lays down a lot,” said Deputy Laura Conard, referring to a stallion with a hoof condition.

Though the owner had apparently provided adequate food and water, some horses hadn’t received oral health care for some time, and perhaps are not up to date on vaccinations, said Conard, a former animal control technician for the sheriff’s office.

The Deschutes rescue ranch is a unique facility in Oregon. At 23 acres, it’s billed as the only such facility operated by an Oregon county government.

The addition of the horses will test the capacity of the facility. Before the horses’ arrival, the ranch was home to just a handful of goats, donkeys and chickens and three horses. A staff member will move into the property to provide maintenance and care. The Deschutes County jail’s inmate work crew will increase its presence at the facility.

Preventing several stallions from getting to the mares will likely require additional fencing at the rescue ranch.

— Reporter: 541-383-0325, gandrews@bendbulletin.com

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