Rescued equines receiving TLC from local horse lovers

Tragedy brings out Southeastern Wisconsin horse community's true colors.

Two-dozen starving horses, removed last week from a Kenosha County barn, are showing signs of recovery, thanks to a host of local horse lovers.

Ribby Pony- Save Bernie and Friends photo
After years of complaints and several police visits, local authorities took some 24 emaciated equines from Hidden Lake Stables, in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, with the help of Robert Melby’s Clawz and Pawz. They also discovered at least five dead horses in stalls amid their barely surviving counterparts.

It is not yet clear what legal actions may be taken, regarding Hidden Lake Stables.

Apparently, the surviving horses were found standing in muck-filled stalls, without sufficient food or water.

Having seen the rescued horses, now at Stonehedge Farm Equestrian Center, of Union Grove, Wisconsin, I have to share how proud I am of our local horse community for stepping in during this season of tremendous need. 

First, highest commendations go to Clawz and Pawz and to Klaus and Erika Dierks, Stonehedge Farm owners.

Grey Gelding- Save Bernie and Friends photo
Ever since the horses arrived at Stonehedge, Clawz and Pawz and the Dierks family have provided feed, shavings, and daily care for them. Donations have helped, of course, but the rescuers and hosts have clearly contributed considerably on the equines’ behalf.

The two-dozen Hidden Lake horses are now housed in the auxiliary barn, apart from Stonehedge’s boarder stables. By adding a freestanding makeshift stall or two, and doubling up the smallest ponies and miniature horses, the Stonehedge crew was able to fit the entire herd in the 17-stall building.

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This is not the first time the Dierks family has taken in emergency rescue horses. Last year, they cared for several equines that had been removed from an abandoned horse farm in Paris, Wisconsin. They housed and fed the horses until they were placed for adoption.

Pinto Pony- Save Bernie and Friends photo
The Hidden Lake horses have been through a decidedly traumatic time.

Tragically, many did not make it -- including the five equines the authorities found dead last week. Apparently, others preceded them in death - perhaps over a long period.

But the remaining horses are looking brighter and more alert, even if they seem somewhat surprised each time they receive something to eat.

Plenty of local horseback riders remembered some of the horses from earlier, much better, days. Photographs have surfaced on Facebook, showing these mounts, looking healthy and spit-shined in horse shows in previous years.

Personally, I may know one of these horses, although his identity is yet to be confirmed.

The Arab gelding (see photo - at right), who scarcely resembles his old self, may have belonged to a friend.  Even looking closely at him today, I cannot tell whether this is the horse I knew. His current condition makes him a mere shadow of what he once was.
Grey Arab Gelding - Save Bernie and Friends photo

But I remember riding my friend's sweet and athletic horse, many years ago. She sold her horse to a family, who eventually passed the horse along to the owner of Hidden Lake Stables. Dental records will likely indicate whether he is one of the Hidden Lake survivors.

If this is not my friend's horse, we shudder to think what may have become of him. 

Horse-loving volunteers are coming out of the woodwork to help.

Just this morning, I pulled into the drive with a fellow equestrian friend to see the rescued equines. A truck was dropping off a fresh load of hay, with folks jumping in to help unload the bales.

Inside the barn, a small army of equestrians were on-hand, brushing the weather-beaten and much-neglected horses. I watched a young teen gently curry a black-and-white pony’s face, as if to brush out the deep ruts, where a too-small halter had become embedded over too many months, or more.

White Percheron- Save Bernie and Friends photo
Another horse helper led a chestnut horse from a stall and offered a slice of apple to the shy animal. She led the too-thin horse to a pile of hay, just outside the stall of a large white Percheron (pictured - at left) with protruding hip bones, and tossed an extra flake to the draft.

Still another held out a hand to an eight-year-old still-green Clydesdale with a matted coat.

The steady stream of volunteers are a tribute to horsemanship in our area.

In the past few days, various local horse clubs and 4-H groups have stopped by to help with the now-recovering horses. Many of the horses have severe rain rot, embedded mud and crud in their coats, and sores from long-term lack of attention.

A local farrier stopped at Stonehedge to trim dozens of hooves without charge on her day off, and Bristol Veterinary Service dewormed the entire group and performed Coggins tests.

More help is needed.

Clawz and Pawz is accepting donations (for feed and supplies) on behalf of the rescued horses. A fund may be created to cover the costs of gelding the three (or possibly four) yet-intact males before they may be placed for adoption. (At least one of the females may be in-foal, having been reportedly turned out together with the ungelded males at Hidden Lake.)

Clawz and Pawz
1700 Main Street
Union Grove, Wisconsin 53182

A Facebook page, titled Save Bernie and Friends, highlights the rescued horses with photos and updates for those who are interested in assisting with the cause.

Will the rescued horses be available for adoption?

More than a few horse lovers have inquired about this possibility. Likely, according to Klaus Dierks, the horses may become eligible for adoption through Clawz and Pawz. Legal ramifications with the Hidden Lake owner are yet to be seen, but foster and adoption options for qualified homes are anticipated with hope.

Rescue Horses
 Save Bernie and Friends shared photos
– fair use


  1. I think it's too easy for people to keep horses.

    In Japan, apparently it costs a fortune to keep a dog, and they put you through a rigamarow to get one; with result that pets are cherished.

    Better to legislate sooner rather than later.

  2. I'm glad the organization was able to save the horses but sad that they were put into this abusive situation to begin with.



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