CROOKED RIVER RANCH, Ore. - A colt was born at a Terrebonne horse-rescue operation early Thursday morning, just hours after its mother was seized from what authorities call a neglectful owner.
The mare was one of four horses taken into custody by Mustangs to the Rescue, an equine shelter.
"He appears very healthy. He is small, and that's really typical of a mare that is struggling to get enough nutrients," said the organization's spokeswoman, Kate Beardsley. "They give it all to the baby. The baby comes out healthy, but small."
Beardsley said the colt was about 20 pounds lighter than a typical foal, and she believes it is likely he was born a couple days early, due to the stress of moving his mother from her owner's home the day before.
A Crooked River Ranch man was arrested Wednesday on animal neglect charges at his home as Jefferson County authorities seized three mares and a stallion who they say were starving to death.
"Two of them are in critical condition, and two of them appear to be pregnant," said sheriff's Deputy Melody Zistel.
The raid was the culmination of a year of investigation, following tips from neighbors and people passing by.
Sheriff Jim Adkins described Jonathan Michael Vance, 31, as a man who refused to give up his horses or accept help to properly care for them. He said a second suspect, Melody Ann Barnes, 30, was not home at the time of the raid but will be contacted and arrested later.
Adkins said the sheriff's office "tries to work with and educate animal owners about proper care for their animals, and only seize animals as a last resort."
When NewsChannel 21 accompanied deputies to Vance's home off SW Deer Crossing Place, it was apparent most of the horses were emaciated.
"You can see the bone lines -- the protruding ribs, protruding hip bones -- that's not a good sign," Zistel said.
Zistel added that she had been out to Vance's house several times through the year, and sometimes he would have different horses.
"In the past, he has surrendered several horses -- not to us, but a private deal," she said. "And since then, he has acquired more horses, and this time he did not want to give them up."
Zistel said they got a tip a week ago the horses were again in dire condition. A vet confirmed they were in bad shape, and a Terrebonne rescue group stepped up to help.
"Our job is to safely remove the horses and put them in a place they can be nursed back to health safely," said Mustangs to the Rescue spokeswoman Kate Beardsley.
Beardsley said the organization currently has about 40 horses, and will help their new additions beef up before adopting them out.
"We actually put them in roles of service, such as packing or forest patrol, things like that," Beardsley said. "And then they get skills, and people get to see these animals can be worthwhile companions, and then they get adopted."
A sad sight now that Beardsley says soon will be replaced with glossy coats and healthy horses.
Two goats were found at the home, along with three dogs inside, but they were left there when the sheriff's office found them to be in good health and with adequate access to food and water.
Adkins said state Child Protection Services also was notified because of the "deplorable living conditions observed around the residence and inside the home."
No children were home at the time of the raid, and they were believed to be at school, the sheriff said.
If you would like to help Mustangs to the Rescue care for these horses and other horses it rescues, you can reach the organization (541) 350-2406 or by searching for their page on Facebook.
You can also donate directly to their account through Cinder Rock Veterinary Clinic or Oregon Feed and Irrigation, both in Redmond.
Beardsley says the rescue can always use cash donations, as well as donations of feed, hay, halters and other horse supplies.
"The sheriff's office takes these cases very seriously and thanks the community for their help and support with this investigation," Adkins said. "We encourage anyone able to help offset the financial costs for caring for these horses to please make a donation."