Six weeks after being rescued from the brink of starvation at a Central Point ranch, a 16-year-old chestnut stallion has managed to put a considerable amount of weight back on his gaunt frame.

Six weeks after being rescued from the brink of starvation at a Central Point ranch, a 16-year-old chestnut stallion has managed to put a considerable amount of weight back on his gaunt frame.

Still too thin to be considered healthy, Bedar continues to improve physically and psychologically under the watchful eye of Linda Davis-Jones, executive director of the Equamore Foundation.

"We've managed to get his feet trimmed so he gets to go around in the arena," Davis-Jones said.

Davis-Jones is the owner of Eden Farm and the founder of Equamore, a nonprofit rescue organization in Ashland that provides care and placement for horses who are in desperate need.

Bedar was one of four abused and neglected horses rescued when authorities arrived Aug. 15 in Central Point to investigate a complaint of animal starvation, said Colleen Macuk, program director for Jackson County Animal Care and Control Center.

The small herd, owned by Debbie Tabor, was in such deplorable condition that one already had died when shelter officers were called by Jackson County sheriff's deputies to proceed with a criminal investigation, Macuk said.

The four Central Point horses' matted manes, rotting coats and skeletal bodies told a tale of long-term neglect, she said.

The horses were kept "in makeshift pens" on property Tabor does not own, Macuk said, adding Tabor signed all the horses over to animal control when they were seized.

On Sept. 24, Tabor pleaded not guilty to five counts of first- and second-degree animal negligence in Jackson County Circuit Court. A pretrial is scheduled for Oct. 27, court records show.

Tabor did not return phone calls from the Mail Tribune.

Volunteers from the Equamore Foundation responded to animal control's request to collect, house and care for the two surviving stallions and the two mares.

The weak, ill and half-wild horses were herded into trailers with the aid of panels and taken to the Ashland farm, where they will continue to be assessed by veterinarians and cared for by volunteers. Three of them could be handled. But one skinny stallion couldn't even be touched, Davis-Jones said.

"Horses have no choices. They are 100 percent dependant upon us for food, exercise, everything. They have no alternative," she said.

Davis-Jones enlisted the help of veterinarians, farriers and volunteers to help rid the horses of their parasites, trim their deformed and overgrown hoofs, and file their broken, rotted or sharp-edged teeth, she said.

Sliding open another stall door, Davis-Jones shows Fin, a young chestnut stallion, a bucket of feed, carrots and worming medicine. Fin sniffs carefully, but remains at arm's length until Davis-Jones places the bucket on the ground. Three-year-old Fin was in the worst shape of all the surviving horses, and the most wild. But while trust remains an issue, the young horse has managed to regain most of the weight he lost, she said.

"He's doing better. He knows that everybody is going to feed him. His nose will touch my hand sometimes," Davis-Jones said.

As soon as the stallions are healthy enough to endure anesthesia, they will be gelded, Davis said.

One of the two mares rescued that weekend has been placed in a permanent home, said Davis-Jones. The mare was not emaciated, but she had foundered badly at some point, Davis-Jones said.

Founder (equine laminitis) is a disease affecting the foot that can cause lameness and sometimes even death.

The final surviving horse is Star, a 3-year-old mare. Lipping the bucket of treats and medicine, Star's brown eyes look bright, and her formerly dull coat is once again shiny. But rings of malnutrition circle her feet, testimony to months or years the filly suffered the effects of neglect and poor husbandry.

"We managed to get a halter on her and she had her first day out on the arena today. She has a beautiful trot. She just floats," said Davis-Jones.

As financial resources dwindle for both horse owners and rescue organizations, the numbers of animal abuse cases likely will continue to rise, Macuk said.

The Equamore Foundation is caring for 32 rescued horses. Television and newspaper coverage of this recent rescue netted Equamore about $4,000 in donations as readers responded to the stories of the four suffering horses, Davis-Jones said.

"One woman gave me her whole paycheck," said Davis-Jones.

But as more horses continue to need the sanctuary of the foundation, costs for feed and care continue to rise and donations continue to slide, she said.

"We really need all the financial support we can get. People need to understand horses are a lifetime commitment," Davis-Jones said.

To donate to Equamore, call 482-5550 or visit equamore.org.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.