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Horses' health at risk after Tropical Storm Debby floods their habitat

Horses' health at risk after Tropical Storm Debby floods their habitat

By Fox 4 News Staff. CREATED Jun 25, 2012

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. – People in Punta Gorda pushing through flooded streets.  But as long as they stayed in their cars they managed to stay dry.  A few miles away at a horse ranch, staying dry isn't an option.

"The rains started coming and pretty soon our little pond we had over here had taken over the whole entire pasture." Dawn Schmertmann said.

Dawn Schmertmann runs Riding Star Ranch, a non-profit which provides equine therapy to at-risk children and military vets.

"We also do a rescue.  But part of what we do is rescuing horses.  Some of the horses here are surrenders who could no longer keep them." Dawn said.

Since the flooding, these fields have turned into ponds, putting all 18 horses at serious risk.

"It makes their feet really sore.  And it rots the bottom of the hoof.  So it poses a threat to making the horses lame and they can't walk on it right. It's very serious." Dawn said.

The flooding also damages gear, cancelling any opportunity for revenue and making life out here just miserable.

"It's really hard to feed the horses as well because there is so much water, you can't put the hay bales in the field.  It's just so wet.  But the others have to either bring the horses into the front yard or feed them by hand." Dawn said.

The owners are now pleading to the public.  They’re hoping someone can help give their horse temporary shelter or donate enough money so she can put them in a stable environment.

"Right now, immediately we need a place to put the horses that is dry and at least give the land some time to drain." Dawn said.

Dawn says she has a trailer to transport the horses.  She just needs to borrow another dry field or a stable.  If you can help, contact our news desk: