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Holding Their Horses

Two Massachusetts shelters partner to rescue, rehab, and rehome herd of miniature equines

  • A miniature horse at the Animal Rescue League

    The Animal Rescue League of Boston’s livestock liaison, Ashley Arseneau, spends a moment enjoying the company of Andy, one of 19 miniature horses the ARL cared for at its Dedham shelter. ANIMAL RESCUE LEAGUE OF BOSTON

The animals she went to rescue may have been short of stature, but nothing else about the scene that confronted Melissa Ghareeb on that dark and icy night in early March was small in scale.

Rarely does a person find herself looking down on a horse—much less 38 of them. But “when we got there, we saw a lot of horses that were very, very skinny, covered in mud, covered in manure. ... There were just a lot of sad little faces looking up at us,” says Ghareeb, manager of the equine and farm animal center at the MSPCA-Nevins Farm in Methuen, Mass.

The horses’ overwhelmed owner surrendered the animals to the MSPCA and the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) after the state veterinarian concluded that their basic needs were not being met. Ghareeb was among a handful of staff and volunteers who went to the farm in West Boylston, Mass., to help. The closer that the rescuers looked at the horses, the more suffering they found. They were infested with worms, which caused diarrhea that ran down their legs and, left caked there, scalded their skin.

Many of them, too, had “rain rot,” an itchy bacterial infection of the skin that afflicts horses who don’t have adequate access to shelter. And they were infected with lice, something that Ghareeb says you don’t see on healthy horses.

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