Owner says her horses were not mistreated

A horse eats hay at an undisclosed location Friday after being removed from a property in rural Oakland on allegations of neglect. Brandi Hagen/Austin Daily Herald

A horse eats hay at an undisclosed location Friday after being removed from a property in rural Oakland on allegations of neglect. Brandi Hagen/Austin Daily Herald

Austin resident decries charges of negligence

An Austin woman accused of mistreating horses said she is shocked by the charges.

Theresa Lynn Halsey, 59, formerly of Oakland, was charged in Freeborn County District Court in January for allegedly depriving three horses and a miniature horse of food and shelter.

“I hope that my name can be cleared and the truth be told,” Halsey said.

A Freeborn County Sheriff’s office deputy and a representative from the Freeborn County Humane Society seized three of the horses from her former address, 23939 885th Ave., in rural Oakland in January after the sheriff’s office received a report of neglect. The fourth horse died the night before.

Court documents allege the horse that died was emaciated, with hips and shoulders protruding.

The report alleges there was hay and a small bag of protein mix with a pail of weight gain mix at the property, but there were no oats, corn or barley. The report also alleges the open water tank for the horses was covered in algae and the ground was covered in feces.

Halsey said she and her husband, Charles, had owned the horse that died for about seven years, and each winter it would lose weight and then regain weight in the summer.

“Unfortunately this year he went down faster than we had seen before,” she said.

Her husband had been working for several weeks to try and help the horse gain weight.

Halsey said she and her husband did not know the horse’s age or history when they bought it, and they think it was older than they thought.

The day the horse died, she said, it fell on the ground with his front legs on one side of a post and its back legs on the other side of the post. The horse was unable to stand up because it was so weak, and while trying to stand it rubbed its body against the post, creating a wound.

Halsey said the struggle of not being able to get up combined with the horse’s weight and age contributed to its death.

“I think this year being as hard as it was weather wise, he was not able to keep up the strength to survive,” she said.

She noted it is not uncommon for horses to get thinner during the winter, as they do not have access to grass to eat, and this year it has been particularly difficult to sustain the horses during the winter because of the drought and lower-quality hay.

She said she does not think the other horses — a miniature horse, a quarter horse and a standardbred mix — were in any way emaciated, as the court documents allege.

“Sure they probably could have had better feed, better hay, better everything, but they were being fed,” Halsey said.

The horses had fresh water running into their tank as well, she said, and noted her husband mostly took care of the animals. She said it has been traumatic for her and her children to see the horses taken from them and said she has yet to receive anything in the mail stating her charges.

Halsey and her family have owned horses since 2006 and said in the past they volunteered at a rescue agency for horses in Wisconsin, where they returned malnourished horses to health.

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