Rescued horses bring holiday cheer
A Second Chance Equine Rescue in Larsen saves and rehabilitates slaughter-bound horses. Six rescue horses were involved in a Christmas caroling event in Fox Crossing.
FOX CROSSING - It's not every day you see a horse dressed as the Grinch. Or one trying to impersonate Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Yet that's what came walking down the streets of Fox Crossing early Saturday afternoon. The horses — 12 in all — paraded through the neighborhood west of Spring Road Elementary School while their riders sang Christmas carols for anyone who would listen.
Erliss Helling came out of her home to hear the carolers on horseback.
"It's been exciting watching them," Helling told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin. "It kind of makes everything sort of festive."
Joan Schneider was walking her dog when she met the horseback riders singing songs like "Frosty the Snowman" and "Winter Wonderland."
"I was totally surprised," she said. "It was wonderful."
Organizers had two goals for Saturday's event: to spread holiday cheer and to raise awareness and money for A Second Chance Equine Rescue in Larsen.
Six of the 12 horses involved in the parade were slaughter-bound horses that were saved, rehabilitated and placed in a new home.
Tina Opinker, founder of A Second Chance Equine Rescue, said she has rescued 42 horses in the past two years. Most were in kill pens destined for slaughter in Canada, Mexico or overseas.
"They're ex-show horses, trail horses," Opinker said. "They come from all walks of life. What it boils down to is an over-breeding problem within the United States; 150,000 horses get shipped to slaughter every year."
About 75 percent of the horses in kill pens are not old or unhealthy, Opinker said. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with them, other than we don't have enough private homes to place them," she said.
Town of Neenah resident Tracey Koslowski rode a rescue horse named Sage, who was dressed as the Grinch.
Sage is a confident horse that can be a little grumpy, but she didn't seem to mind wearing green.
"She was pretty good about it," Koslowski said. "She's been a really good sport about all of the weird stuff that we do."
Nathan Wickersheim of Menasha rode Dusty, another rescue horse. Wickersheim was dressed as an elf and packed a pouch with Skittles to toss to children along the caroling route.
"If I had peppermint, then it would be for the horse," he said. "She likes peppermint."
The group gathered for a similar event last year in Larsen, but this year it was more organized. Participants met twice earlier in the week to practice singing, and the music was broadcast with a portable speaker.
A poop team followed the group to clean up any presents left by the horses.
Julie Perkins, who rode a rescue horse named Onyx, said she would like the event to grow as more horses are saved.
"When I lived in Iowa, we used to Christmas carol all the time by horseback," she said. "Next year I'm hoping to get the streets closed and have over 50 horses."