CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - When Elizabeth Steed started the Livestock and Equine Awareness and Rescue Network (L.E.A.R.N.), she knew it was going to require a tremendous effort.
She started the group to help unwanted animals with no place to go, but with some animals, it's just a lot to handle.
The number of unwanted horses, for example, is rising in South Carolina. With more than a thousand unwanted horses in the state right now, groups like Steed's L.E.A.R.N. are doing everything they can to help these horses.
"The cheapest part of having a horse is buying it, then it has to have its hooves done every four to six weeks, has to have vet visits two times a year for vaccinations and the feed bill," Steed said.
Many people bite off more than they can chew, and others can't afford their horses now due to the economy.
"They're being turned over to auction and being turned loose in forests to fend for themselves," Steed said.
Unwanted horses used to be sold to processing plants where the meat was then used, but those plants have closed in the U.S. The next option is across the borders, which presents a long and uncomfortable journey for the horses.
"I know there's two sides of every story, but now if this horse were bought by someone who couldn't keep him and sold, they'd be shipped to Canada or Mexico. That's a long ride on a trailer with no food or water, and they lose, the horses lose either way," Steed said.
If the horses are rescued, it costs a lot to rehabilitate them and just keep them fed.
"In May, Colleton County contacted Charleston County and asked for help with 47 horses from one farm. We were going to take 20. We ended up with 33 in our care," Steed said.
Thirteen of those horses had special needs, including one named Shaker. When Shaker was rescued, he was 200 pounds underweight with a ruptured eye and parasites. It took months to get him back to a normal weight and parasite free. This past Monday, veterinarians at the Edisto Equine Clinic removed what was left of his eye.
"We're going to try to combat infection. The more open it is, the more susceptible it is for infection," Steed said.
Shaker was also gelded. He's rideable and ready to be adopted. Meanwhile, they'll take care of Shaker, and all the others as long as they can.
"We can be their voice. We can tell people this is not acceptable, we can educate, and we need to get to these children," Steed said.
Steed says that's what it will take to make unwanted horses a thing of the past.
Right now there are 10 horses available for adoption from L.E.A.R.N.
For more information, call Elizabeth Steed at (843) 991-4879 or e-mail: email@example.com.