Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Horse lovers take to auction

Group works to give local animal neglect laws more teeth

Express Staff Writer

Wood River Valley horse trainer Doro Lohmann looks over one of four horses she won at an auction in Twin Falls on Friday. Lohmann, who recently helped found an organization called Silent Voices Equine Rescue, purchased all four horses for $165. Photo by Willy Cook

Last summer, it was a herd of horses—mares and their offspring—that trainer Doro Lohmann helped rescue and then relocate to the Wood River Valley from Salmon. The horses were scheduled for slaughter in Canada until she and several local horse enthusiasts stepped in and came up with an alternative.

Lohmann is now involved with another horse rescue effort that involves a herd of 16 horses from the Jerome area that she and others say were not being treated properly. In the past several weeks, Lohmann was notified of the horses' deteriorating condition, which prompted her to contact the owner to see if they would sell the four that were in the worst condition to her.

The owner refused the offer.

Late last week, Lohmann was told that the owner had instead decided to sell the same four horses at a horse auction in Twin Falls. Moving fast, she called the owner of the auction Friday and asked him to bid as aggressively as he had to to purchase the horses for her.

"I told him to outbid anybody," she said.

By Friday evening, the four horses were hers. Total cost: $165. Split between Lohmann's place and another spread in the south valley, the animals are beginning to recover from malnutrition, she said Monday.

For now, the two younger horses at Lohmann's place only seem interested in hay.

"They're not used to grain," she said.

Lohmann and others recently made headlines after they pressured Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling to remove three horses from an owner in the Bellevue area. They felt the horses were in danger because of severe malnutrition and neglect. An Idaho State Department of Agriculture inspector called out to look at the horses agreed, giving each of the animals a poor "body condition" score in February. In April, the inspector found the horses' condition had deteriorated even further.

Finally, in May, the horses showed slight improvement, Femling said. Because of that, no charges were filed against the horse owner.

That decision was upsetting to Lohmann and other local horse enthusiasts. Since then, they've been working with local authorities trying to come up with a way to change local horse neglect laws. They've organized as a nonprofit organization called Silent Voices Equine Rescue.

Lohmann said they hope to convince county officials to "tighten" local rules governing how and when local authorities may step in to remove abused or neglected horses. The private organization was scheduled to meet Tuesday evening.

Another goal of the group is to help find pasture for rescued horses. Lohmann said they already have an offer from a woman in Mackay who owns 150 acres.

"We have a lot of people who want to step in and help," she said.

Jason Kauffman:

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