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Foundation gives mistreated horses second lease on life

Published On: Apr 22 2013 12:00:22 AM CDT

Some of the neediest animals in the state are now receiving safe and happy homes thanks to a Wisconsin horse rescue program.

And some of them have been rehabilitated enough to enjoy stepping out over the weekend.

Starved, neglected, blind, or a combination of the three, some of the four-legged beauties competing at the weekend's Midwest Horse Show have tragic backstories.

But there was nothing tragic about the show’s obstacle course, which operated under simple rules: Beat a cowboy through it and win $100.

The catch? The course was open to adopted or rescued horses only.

Horses like Woody, who was nearly starved to death before Jennifer Markes took him in.

"I wanted to showcase that adoption is not about broken-down horses, or horses that are troubled or in need of a ton of training," said Markes.

Mackenzie Voeltner, who attended the show with her horse Raiden, agreed.

But perhaps the biggest comeback story belongs to McCleod Nielsen and her horse, Princess Layla.

"This is her first really big show," confessed Nielsen. "She used to be a race horse, but after going blind, we haven't done anything like this."

Training a horse that can't see has been no easy feat for Nielsen.

"She can't see, so we can't use the normal techniques that a lot of people can," admitted Nielsen.

Princess Layla and the other horses were rescued through the Midwest Horse Welfare Foundation.

In the past thirteen years, MHWF director Scott Bayerl has adopted more than a thousand horses.

"Over the years, people have seen a lot of horses end up in bad situations, and because of that, they've gotten wiser to the fact that there's people out there willing to stop that from happening," said Bayerl.

And after a few words of encouragement, Nielsen’s eyes led Princess Layla’s hooves through the obstacle course.

What is one short trot for the thoroughbred is a big leap for furthering the cause of helping other horses find safe and loving saddles.

"You can look at it as, 'Oh, my God, this is a terrible situation,' and be heartbroken about it, or you can suck it up, deal with it, and turn it into a positive thing," said Bayerl.

The Midwest Horse Welfare Foundation is based out of Pittsville, Wisconsin.

The group is trying to build an indoor arena to house and train donated horses during the winter.

To learn more about the group, go here.

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