FAIRFIELD COUNTY — Patches, a days-old foal recovered by Fairfield County Animal Control, has found greener pastures at Big Oaks Rescue Farm in Greenwood after losing his mother and undergoing emergency surgery.
Dr. Robbie Chappell, veterinarian for Fairfield County Adoption Center, said Patches, who was just two days old when he was found, was caught in barbed wire searching for his mother, who had jumped over a damaged fence in search of food.
Chappell said the horses’ malnourished condition seemed to be caused by the number of horses slightly eclipsing the amount of food available. Patches’ mother, Patience, happened to be the smallest and least able to find food.
Animal Control Officer David Brown said although the fence had been damaged leaving only a low strand of barbed wire, Patches was unable to clear the obstacle. At this point, a report of the tangled horse was called in to animal control.
“What happened is the little colt got caught in barbed wire,” Brown said.
The wire cut the foal deeply, with its edge acting as a saw, cutting deeper and deeper into the young horse’s leg as he struggled. Brown said the laceration was deep enough to reveal bone.
“I thought that little colt was going to have to be put down,” Brown said.
However, Chappell was present to perform emergency surgery in the back of a trailer. Chappell said he is not normally an equine practitioner, and the surgery was performed under less than ideal conditions.
“Even though he was young, he was about twice the size of a cat or dog I’d have to work on,” Chappell said.
Although Patches later required further surgery at Big Oaks Rescue Farm, Brown spoke highly of Chappell’s work.
“What Doc did with that horse is miraculous,” Brown said.
Janice Emerson, adoptions coordinator for Fairfield County Animal Adoption Center, said Chappell consistently does excellent work with the center’s occupants.
When recovered, Patience was also in bad shape. “You could count every backbone in that horse’s back,” Chappell said.
The mare and the foal were temporarily kept at Fairfield County Animal Adoption Center, while seeking more suitable accommodations.
The Hoof and Paw Benevolent Society put the adoption center in contact with Big Oaks Rescue Farm, a non-profit sanctuary that specializes in helping animals that have been abused, neglected or rescued from euthanasia.
Given the severity of the wound and the impromptu nature of surgery, Chappell said he was apprehensive about Patches’ chances of recovery.
Joe Mann, founder of the non-profit in Greenwood, said he thinks Patches will recover.
“I think he’s going to be OK,” said Mann. “We do this everyday. We see what we see, we see what these animals have to go through.”
Shortly after arriving at Big Oaks, Patches’ mother’s health worsened. Patience was 7 and died from a combination of maladies, including starvation and worms.
“The mare didn’t make it,” Mann said. “We did everything humanly possible.”
Mann said after receiving additional surgery, it appears the newly orphaned Patches will make a full recovery.
“He’s up, and I think he’ll be just fine,” Mann said.
Mann and Chappell said horse neglect is surprisingly common. Mann attributed it to the relaxed animal protection laws in South Carolina.
“People think we have dog and cat population problems, but we have a horse problem,” Chappell said.
Mann said if there were no charges for robbing banks, that would be a common crime too. He used the case of Patches and his late mother as an example.
“If anyone gets charged with this, I’d be surprised,” Mann said.
Brown confirmed charges were not filed against Patches’ owner, who he noted had other healthy horses and had willingly turned over the two malnourished animals.
Mann said Big Oaks Rescue Farms takes in horses from the entirety of the state and encouraged anyone seeking information to visit bigoaksrescuefarm.org or the Big Oaks Rescue Farm Facebook page.
“We’d appreciate any help we get,” Mann said. “We’ve got over 300 animals.”
Fairfield County Adoption Center can be contacted at 803-815-0805, and Fairfield County Animal Control can be contacted at 803-635-9944.