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Seven blind horses make Hastings their new home

Seven blind stallions were transported to This Old Horse earlier this month. (Submitted photo by T Thomas Photography)1 / 3
This mare has a white patch in the shape of a star. (Star Gazette photo by Michelle Wirth)2 / 3
A total of nine horses were transported from South Dakota to This Old Horse in Hastings. (Submitted photo by T Thomas Photography)3 / 3

This Old Horse just got a little bigger. The nonprofit organization that provides a sanctuary for retired, rescued and recovering horses just brought seven rare blind mustangs into its care.

“I think they deserve a life of love and compassion that they’re going to get from the people at This Old Horse,” said Toni Thomas, This Old Horse’s photographer.

Thomas was on hand to capture images of the horses. She traveled to Lantry, S.D., where the horses were located before being transported to Wishbone Ranch in Hastings by local horseman Jim Simons. The trip was about 900 miles round trip.

This Old Horse took the horses in after finding out that their habitat in South Dakota was no longer large enough for the number of horses on the land.

“They just populated to the point that they can’t keep them all right now,” said Pete Swentik, program director for This Old Horse.

The horses arrived at Wishbone Ranch Nov. 3. Swentik said when the horses first arrived off the trailer, they stuck together in a group before they got comfortable with their surroundings.

“It took a few hours for them to unweave,” Swentik said. “They were just glued together, bumping, that’s how they told where they were and they would just move in a circle and gradually move around the pen.”

The horses are believed to be part of the Gila Band or descendants of the Spanish horses brought to the continent in the 1500s.

Swentik said they are not sure why the horses are blind, but there could be several reasons. Krishona Martinson, an equine extension specialist and program leader at the University of Minnesota, said there could be three possible scenarios: the horses were exposed to environmental toxin, the horses had an untreated eye infection, or there was trauma to the eye.

Martinson said that, within the next 30 days, a clinic with seven University of Minnesota students will be held in which they will do a thorough eye exam, some blood tests and a castration of the blind horses. The horses will allow the students to get excellent experience, Martinson said.

“I think the biggest benefit I see is that the veterinarian students will be exposed to these animals,” Martinson said.

Martinson has done some work with horses at This Old Horse prior to the arrival of the new mustangs. She said the horses are in good hands at Wishbone Ranch.

“I think [This Old Horse’s] mission is to really help horses at risk and these seven stallions being blind and being mustangs were probably some of the higher risk stallions,” Martinson said, “so they are definitely seeing their mission through.”

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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