When a neglected Shetland pony arrived at a sanctuary in Belgium, he could barely walk off the trailer.
That's because his hooves hadn't been trimmed in an estimated 10 years – typically, horses' hooves are supposed to be trimmed every few weeks. His hooves had grown so long that they curled around one and half circles, or 540 degrees.
But no one – except his owner – could see just how bad the pony's hooves had gotten, because he was kept hidden from public view, far from the road, in a makeshift shelter.
When the owner decided to hand the neglected animals over to authorities, the animal welfare unit in Wallonia alerted rescuers at Animaux en Péril, a local sanctuary. Rescuers came to bring the poor pony, along with a malnourished horse from the same owner, to safety.
When they arrived, rescuers couldn't believe their eyes.
They found the pony and horse standing on manure that had accumulated nearly 2 feet high. The animals were also so emaciated, they risked death.
“[The] pony and horse have a body index (condition of being overweight) of one in five, the last stage before death by undernutrition,” the sanctuary wrote. “It is cachexia, or extreme leanness, that causes muscle wasting, the body literally self-consuming.”
The pony weighs just about 154 pounds, “the weight of a big dog.” Normally, Shetland ponies weigh about 450 pounds.
It's believed the animals were locked up in their makeshift shelter, nonstop, for three months at least.
The pony and horse, now named Poly and Everest, were helped onto trailers and driven to the sanctuary, where rescuers rushed to get them cleaned up.
Poly needed his hooves trimmed immediately. Even so, he may never be able to walk normally again because of permanent damage to his joints.
“In 24 years of existence, our refuge has never hosted an equine with hooves so long,” the sanctuary wrote.
Poly and Everest were shampooed and sheared to get the lice and filth off of their irritated skin. Rescuers realized that the animals must have been suffering pain and neglect for years.
“It is impossible to imagine the distress of the last few years, the omnipresent suffering, the hunger that gnaws and disintegrates, the torture of itching, the confinement in the impenetrable air,” the sanctuary wrote. “Under torture time is infinite.”
After just five days at the sanctuary, it became obvious the neglected animals were feeling more like themselves. Rescuers even wrapped Poly and Everest in comfortable blankets.
“Poly and Everest are better already!” the sanctuary wrote last week. “[Poly] already feels much lighter … just as his companion in misfortune [does].”
It's expected that their owner could face fines and jail time for making them live in such terrible conditions. The local prosecutor has two months to decide whether to prosecute the case.
In the meantime, Poly and Everest just have to focus on getting even better.
Check out the video below to see how his rescuers helped transform him into a whole new pony!