Drought Takes Toll On Jones Horse Rescue Ranch

Thursday, January 26th 2012, 10:46 pm
By: News 9

Horses battered and abandoned--it's happening more than ever across Oklahoma.

In fact, Blaze's Tribute Equine Rescue in Jones rescues as many horses as it can, but can't take them all.

For the first time, the rescue group isn't sure how it will continue to help because of mounting hay prices.

Blaze's has saved hundreds of abused and neglected horses from bad owners and, more than likely, death.

Some of the horses the group rescued Thursday look healthy and fit, but Oklahoma Humane Society and rescuers say it's because more people are just abandoning horses in the metro.

Two of the horses they took back to the rescue barn were strays, left to wander and fend for themselves.

The others are abuse or neglect cases either seized or being investigated by local law enforcement and animal health experts.

There are a couple of real concerns Blaze's says they've never seen. The rescue ranch has more than 100 horses and has been at capacity since the drought problems started. The rescue ranch doesn't know where it's next supply of hay will come from and how it will be able to pay.

"We're kind of at a point where we have to find it and now it's [hay prices] even higher than it was when we first started dealing with this drought situation," said Natalee Cross.

Cross has seen the worst cases of abuse and neglect when it comes to horses. Her passion takes her to places where horses are near death, starved and abused.

After 10 years, Cross says the worst abuse cases remain Blaze's top priority, but since the drought she's been getting owners begging her to take their horses because they can't afford to feed them.

"We do get a lot of calls of people wanting to surrender their horses due to the drought. We can't take them all," Cross said.

Before she can take more horses, Cross said she first she needs to find foster or forever homes for the horses she's nursed back to health. She says many people are scared to take on a horse with the economy and the rising cost of hay.

But whenever she finds a good home for even one, she's back at it, working with law enforcement and animal control to save more.

Animal control is taking in horses on a weekly basis...abandoned...left to fend for themselves...

"They're out running loose," Cross said. "Intake numbers are extremely high, whereas it wasn't bad before that."

Feeding the horses they do have is costing Blaze's almost $3,000 a week. Cross said if things don't improve soon, times could be pretty tough and it may force them to dig more deeply into their own pockets to keep the animals fed.

"We will do whatever it takes for them," Cross says.

Meanwhile, the family is praying for rain and for permanent homes for these horses.

Follow Jamie Oberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jamieoberg

Follow Jamie Oberg's Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/jamielynnoberg