Spring is in the air, and with it, many new beginnings! Did anyone ever think this pandemic and countrywide lockdown would be among life’s newborn offerings?
For us here at Wilbur Hot Springs, staff has stayed onboard and continued to work through the pandemic. Although the operation is closed to the public, and has been since March 21, there are plenty of projects that needed attention, landscaping that required assistance, and wild ponies that needed care.
During many of our forays into the preserve for hiking, we have witnessed the blooms of over 16 wildflower species, and have seen many rafters of turkey, coyote, deer, feral pigs, fox, birds, snakes, and just about anything that cares to roam across our 1,800 acres. There was one species that stood out, and that was the wild ponies.
Two of the ponies began to behave erratically, often seen laying on their side for hours at a time, and when they would get up to walk, obviously showed stress in their legs. We had a veterinarian from Middletown Animal Hospital come out, and they were diagnosed with laminitis, a painful result of having too much sugar in their diet. For several weeks now, we have learned the types of grass we have on the preserve, which ones contain the most sugars, how to rid the sugars from the diets, how to place a halter on the ponies, how to rope the ponies, and more importantly, what not to feed the ponies – which leads us to our biggest concern: DO NOT FEED THE PONIES!
You read that correctly. We must take the initiative and request that nobody feed the ponies any scraps, fruit, hay, treats, etc., or it could kill them. We have to take extreme measures now to monitor their food and process the grasses they eat by washing the hay through soaking, then leaving it out to dry for one week before it can be fed to the ponies. It is meticulous, but must be handled in this way to save their lives. A farrier came along with the equine veterinarian and trimmed their hooves, and they are already responding better, looking better, and walking with less pain in their legs.
Many changes are upon us here at Wilbur Hot Springs, and in the coming weeks, our volunteers are moving in along with contractors to create a better Wilbur Experience for all of you who have been away so long. Our plan is to re-open July 1st, and when you arrive, you will immediately notice some awesome amenities to further your experience, and hopefully, you can hike out to the preserve and check on Spirit, Brownie, Baby Girl, Wilbur, and Sweetums – our newly named ponies who eagerly await your return. Until then, stay safe!