Neglected horses doing well after spending 10 months in custody

COLUMBIA -- Ten months after being seized from a Midlands family because investigators say they were neglected, 43 horses are doing well, equine veterinarian Michael Privett said.

"I'm pleased with the way they all look," he said.

While it has cost the Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Columbia at least $85,000 so far to care for the horses seized from the Trexler family and four offspring, it has been worth it, spokeswoman Kelly Graham said.

"It is our responsibility to do this," Graham said. "This is why we exist. It has really brought animal cruelty into the limelight this year. To see where the horses have come from and to see how well they are doing now is very gratifying."

Despite noticeable improvement in the horses' conditions, they remain in a state of limbo, Privett said.

Because they are evidence, the animals cannot be ridden, bred or altered in any way while charges are pending against the family, Privett said.

Twenty horses have been placed in foster homes and 27 remain on Privett's 15-acre Hopkins farm, he said.

Ultimately, the fate of the horses will be up to a judge.

Hazelene Trexler, 71, and sons, Terry, 45, and James, 48, who is a former assistant state agriculture commissioner, face felony and misdemeanor animal abuse counts.

Investigators seized 45 horses owned by the family on properties near Hopkins and Eastover in late February and early March.

Some were unacceptably underweight, investigators said.

Others were found knee-deep in their own feces.

And some attempted to eat their stalls out of boredom, Privett said.

"There were some in this group that had halters grown into their heads," Privett said of seized horses in Humane Society custody being kept at his farm.

Two seized horses died, including one that had to be euthanized in March because of colic, investigators said.

Efforts to reach the Trexlers on Friday were not successful.

Hans Pauling, a lawyer who represents Hazelene Trexler, had no comment. Attorneys for Terry Trexler and James Trexler could not be reached for comment Friday.

It took about 90 days from the horses' seizure for all of them to return to acceptable body weights, Privett said.