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Caring for an orphaned foal can be costly and labor-intensive, but Sharon Hancock said the emotional rewards of running her new foal rescue in Dunkirk are amazing.

Lilly Pond Foal Rescue was opened in November to shelter orphan foals after rescuing them from auctions and the nurse mare industry, Hancock said.

Hancock recently rescued a mare and her foal named Bella from a horse auction in Pennsylvania. Hancock said many of the auctions are for people who need to sell their horse if they can’t afford to keep it anymore, but some are motivated to sell their horses for other reasons.

“Unfortunately, the reality of it is, probably 90 percent of the horses sold at these auctions will end up being bought by the meat man, or the kill buyer,” she said.

At these auctions, Hancock said, many of the horses are bought at a cheap price, sold to slaughterhouses in other countries for a per-pound price and then shipped to different places in Europe.

Lilly Pond volunteer Rosie Wynne-Meador said she and her daughter recently drove to Pennsylvania to rescue the Shetland pony mare and Bella after a friend sent her a message about an auction where the two were being sold. Wynne-Meador said Bella “obviously had some genetic deformity” and would need a special home and family to take care of her.

Hancock said Bella would likely not have been bought by a private buyer because of her deformity, known as parrot mouth. The deformity causes Bella’s lower jaw to be underdeveloped and creates a severe overbite, Hancock said. Bella will never be able to graze grass and will need to be fed a special diet of grain soaked in water so it has an oatmeal consistency, Hancock said.

Hancock said she will also rescue mares from the nurse mare industry, where farmers breed mares so that they will lactate. Once the mare delivers the foal, the farmers allow the foal to nurse from its mother for about three days before renting the mare out, likely to a thoroughbred foal, she said. This allows the thoroughbred mare to go back to work while the nurse mare nurses the thoroughbred foal.

“The product of what they’re doing is leaving hundreds of uncared-for horses,” Hancock said. “They’re nicely bred horses and can make very nice pleasure horses or show horses that usually would be left to die or sold for their skin.”

Raising and supporting an orphan or a disabled foal like Bella takes a lot of money, Hancock said. Since the foal is not nursing from the mother, replacement milk is needed to make sure they are getting the proper nutrients they would normally get from their mother.

“It’s a difficult type of rescue to be in because of the cost and because of the time,” Hancock said. “It’s very time-consuming taking care of orphan foals at two weeks old and you’re mixing milk four to five times a day. It’s very labor-intensive, but the rewards are amazing emotionally.”

Hancock said the 231 Feed Store that recently opened in Prince Frederick donated 1 ton of feed to Lilly Pond several days ago, and will help her feed the rescued foals and mares that Lilly Pond houses.

After she rescues the foals, Hancock said she will look for suitable homes for them so they “can have a second chance.” Hancock said she already has offers from two homes to adopt both Bella and her mother.

Bella is going to stay with her mother for about one more month because she was so malnourished, Hancock said. The two will then be taken to their separate homes, which Hancock said were both “perfect.”

To find out more about Lilly Pond Foal Rescue, go to its Facebook page or website at www.lillypond.info.

kfitzpatrick@somdnews.com