Two chubby miniature horses – one named Peanut Butter, the other Jelly – trot around a fenced-in arena on a sunny morning in Colfax. Two white horses watch them cautiously from the safety of the paddock.
One of the white horses, Aurora, finds her courage and chases after Peanut Butter. The other, Traveler, stays in the shadows. His ribs are visible; a patch of hair on his nose has been rubbed off by a halter, leaving raw skin.
The four horses are in temporary quarantine. Discovered on an empty farm just north of Bruce, the four had been abandoned by their former owners. This morning, they find themselves in a paddock on a sloping hill, surrounded by fenced-in land where dozens of other horses are grazing.
Peanut Butter, Jelly, Traveler and Aurora are the most recent newcomers to Pony Tales Refuge and Rehab, the Chippewa area’s only equine shelter.
Cindy Prince runs the refuge. Originally from Downsville, she almost attended law school in California, until a cancer scare made her decide to settle down in Tilden with her husband, a Bloomer native.
Pony Tales has been a nonprofit since 2014. “We’ve rehomed at least 60 horses since then,” Prince said. “We’ve taken in plenty more.”
The shelter is home to 30 to 40 horses at a time. Prince takes in horses of all stripes – neglect and abuse cases, ponies, abandoned or lost pets, even wild mustangs – but ultimately, serves the Midwest area.
“We rehab them…get them back to health, then adopt them out,” she said.
Rehabbing a horse can be anything from teaching it to trust humans to teaching it manners, Prince said.
That’s where Bryanna Larson, Prince’s second-in-command, comes in. A longtime Pony Tales volunteer, Larson helps train, feed, care for and socialize the horses.
Larson slowly approaches Traveler, the shyest personality of the four, and he nuzzles her shoulder as Peanut Butter and Jelly chase each other’s tails around them.
Watching the two miniature horses play, Prince explains that Pony Tales takes in horses throughout the year, but sees an influx in the summer and fall, when people decide they can’t keep a horse warm and fed during the freezing winter months.
The shelter also teams up with the Kentucky Humane Society to take in orphaned foals. In the racing industry, mares are occasionally needed to nurse foals, but those mares won’t produce milk without having a foal of their own. Those unneeded foals often are transported to Pony Tales to be raised in Prince’s stable.
Other than Larson and her volunteer team, the equine community also helps out. Once a year, the shelter holds a Trainer’s Challenge: area riders take a shelter horse for six months, train it and return it to the shelter for adoption.
Pony Tales has a few residents that may live out their days in the shelter’s stables. “Echo” has a chronic case of heaves, an equine lung disease. “She couldn’t go to anyone except the perfect home, so she’ll probably stay here,” Larson said.
The adoption fee for a Pony Tales horse is just $600, though Prince cautions their horses have various levels of training. “You’re probably not going to come and get a perfectly-trained horse. Our horses come from all different backgrounds,” she said.
The Pony Tales horses are taken from negative situations, Larson said, and the work is hard, but rewarding. “When we start spending time with (the horses) and take the time to get to know them, you start to realize they are trained. They just needed a little time.”
To donate to Pony Tales or to fill out a volunteer application, visit www.ponytaleswi.org.
Jackie Rubitski and Bill Siddons got a closeup view Saturday of what will be Erickson Park, near the Glen Loch Dam, in Chippewa Falls and came away impressed.
“I think it’s going to be great,” Rubitski said after joining a volunteer effort to rid the future park area of invasive plant species, including buckthorn and honeysuckle.
Rubitski and Siddons took part in an annual effort by Leinenkugel’s Brewery and its parent company, MillerCoors, to improve part of a waterway in Chippewa County. It’s part of the Great Water Month project.
Saturday’s effort was more work than Matt Leinenkugel expected. The company’s safety environmental and project specialist said the work was worth it, clearing the view of people going to what will be the new park.
“This part area is just going to be beautiful,” Leinenkugel predicted.
Dick Hebert, director of the Chippewa Falls Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, hopes that will be the reaction of the public when Erickson Park is completed in 2018.
The estimated construction cost of the project is $1.9 million. The city has received $977.766 in federal grants for the project, and received $536,250 in pledges for private donations.
“We are right now out soliciting (for more donations). We’re at about $400,000 that we have to raise,” Hebert said.
The new park will include a fishing pier that can be used by people with disabilities, a new access road, and a new observation area overlooking the Glen Loch Dam. A walking bridge behind Irvine Park will connect to Erickson Park. A bike trail north of the Chippewa Valley Family YMCA would link to the park’s trails near Ashley Lane.
Also, plans call for handicap-access to a boat, kayak, canoe or stand-up paddle launch. The parking lot with be down and overflow parking would be created.
Hebert said the schedule calls for bids for the park to be taken in February and work starting in the Spring of 2018.
To donate for the new park, call the city’s Parks, Recreation and Forestry office at (715) 723-0051.