A horse with his ribs showing through his skin and sores on his back clopped down a Damascus road Wednesday night. Vern and Lora Hilt first saw the emaciated horse and remembered the truck and trailer they heard pull over on Southeast Tillstrom Road around 11 p.m.
The couple caught the horse with the help of some neighbors and kept him in their barn while they filed a report with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. The sheriff's office doesn't take in abandoned horses, though, so eventually the Hilts connected with Gresham-based Sound Equine Options -- a nonprofit that tries to prevent horse abandonment and abuse.
Sound Equine Options picked up Uncle Sam -- as he is now named in honor of the Independence Day weekend -- and is rehabilitating him in hopes someone will want to adopt him.
Uncle Sam is an older horse with several wounds and sores, and clearly lacked a good meal for awhile. Kim Mosiman of Sound Equine said he will likely need a home with another horse to keep Uncle Sam company, and might not be up for riding again.
Mosiman said Uncle Sam is the third abandoned horse Sound Equine has taken in in the past year, one of the highest numbers since the nonprofit started in 2009. The nonprofit also works with law enforcement agencies in several counties to haul, house and rehabilitate seized horses.
Clackamas County is the largest equine county in the state and the 10th largest in the country. While horse abandonment might be more common in more rural counties, Mosiman said it's increasing in the semi-rural Portland area.
Leaving a horse is a Class B misdemeanor, and leaves the property owners of the place the horse ends up liable for its care -- an expensive burden.
"Foreclosures, job loss, medical illness, death and divorce are common reasons why people suddenly find themselves financially or physically unable to care for their horses," Mosiman said. "They are often dumped in rural areas or left to fend for themselves. Property owners are often unequipped financially or physically to take care of the horses found on their property."
Mosiman estimated the organization will spend about $2,000 to make Uncle Sam healthy again and trained to be adopted, and has provided services to about 1,000 horses since its founding.
Sound Equine focuses on keeping horses from being dumped through programs that make sure horse owners have hay and feed and pay for emergency veterinary care. The organization also helps "rehome" horses, which essentially means finding a new home for a horse without transferring it to a shelter first.
-- Molly Harbarger