The recent rainfall is proving problematic for the Horse Protection Association of Florida and the horses that live at its farm.
After an unusually stormy start to the Florida summer, the horse farm in Micanopy is more swamp than farm. The staff are seeking temporary foster homes for some of the horses until the pastures can dry up.
Morgan Silver, executive director of the association, has found temporary homes for eight of the 68 horses. She needs to find homes for at least 25 to 30 more during the summer rainy season.
The horses need dry pastures because standing and laying in the water can cause serious health issues.
“The horses legs will swell up,” Silver said. “They get what’s called scratches, which is fungus, on their heels and, some of them, going all the way up their legs.”
“It’s horribly detrimental to them. In the long run, the horses will get abscesses in their feet.”
The staff closed one of the five pastures at the 186-acre farm in efforts to protect the animals from the worst of the water, but the back pastures are also saturated. Silver says the flooding hasn’t been this bad in years.
“When you’re seeing the pastures, they might look dry, but when you walk in it, it’s not,” she said. “It’s like a wet sponge and you have about two or three inches of standing water. They can’t escape.”
Sharon Byrne, the farm manager, said the blistering and fungus isn’t the only worry.
“We can’t mow the grass with all this water, which brings mosquitoes that bite them. We worry about water moccasins too. We’ve had those bite our horses before, which can be very bad.”
Finding foster homes has been challenging for Silver. She said it’s important that the farms are close to Micanopy, and that those wanting to foster have experience with horses.
Erin Hampton, a foster of two horses in Newberry, heard the story and called Silver right away.
“She was so grateful when I called,” Hampton said. “I’ve never fostered, but I used to train horses before college so I’ve got horse experience under my belt. It’s really good to have some around again.”
In the meantime, the farm staff are treating infected horses, putting protective wrapping on their hooves and keeping them in the driest parts of the farm.
Silver said she will continue to reach out to potential foster homes and other dry farms. She hopes the water will start to recede by October.
“We can lock them in a small space, but that’s not healthy for them either,” she said. “Horses need to move and graze to be healthy.”