Musician Willie Nelson Adopts Rescued S.C. Horses

Two allegedly maltreated horses removed from a Berkeley County, S.C., property earlier this month will soon be heading to a new home at singer Willie Nelson's Texas ranch.

According to documents provided by the Berkeley County Attorney's Office, in February Berkeley County Animal Control Department personnel responded to a complaint about alleged undernourished and injured horses residing on a property in Summerville. Two of the allegedly maltreated animals--a 12-year-old Thoroughbred mare and a 3-year-old Medicine Hat Paint Stallion--were removed from the property by animal control authorities and placed in the care of the Livestock and Equine Awareness and Rescue Network (LEARN), said LEARN Founder Elizabeth Steed. Steed said that at the time of their removal the stallion had a body condition score of 0.5 on the Henneke Body Condition scale. The animal also had severe chemicals burns on his body, possibly from a mixture of kerosene and spent motor oil that might have been applied in an effort to treat rain rot, she said.

Following an investigation, the Department charged the horses' owner, Dwight McCloud, with multiple counts of failing to provide appropriate care for the animals. McCloud was unavailable for comment.

The horses' caught Willie Nelson's attention when a Charleston, S.C., television news reporter sent the singer a copy of a her taped interview with Steed.

"During the interview I told the reporter that these horses should be the face of what's happening with animal cruelty, and that I hoped someone famous like Willie Nelson would adopt them," Steed told

On March 26 Steed received an email from Nelson's daughter explaining that the singer, who owns Paint horses, would adopt both the Medicine Hat Paint (named Whisper) and the Thoroughbred mare (named Traveler) and bring them both to his Texas ranch. In her email Nelson's daughter also said the singer would tell the horses' story when he testifies before Congress about horse slaughter and animal cruelty and neglect issues, Steed said.

Despite mentioning Nelson during the interview, the singer's response was a surprise, Steed said.

"It's amazing and it's wonderful," she said.

Steed said that since their removal both horses are steadily improving under rehabilitative care.

"Traveler has gained about 30 pounds and Whisper has gained about 25 pounds just in the past three weeks," she said. "Also, about 95% of the burned area on Whisper's body has hair growing on it."

Both horses will be ready to travel to Texas in May, Steed said.

Meanwhile, Berkeley County Animal Control personnel continue to monitor the condition of a Welsh-type pony mare and a Thoroughbred stallion that remain on McCloud's property.

McCloud is slated to appear in court on the charges on April 5, Steed said.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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