JOHNSTON — They were painful to look at.

One horse was emaciated, his skin stretched tightly over his protruding ribs, scarred and marked from bites and abuse. The other found it difficult to move, a sharp object in one of his front hooves making it challenging to walk, exhibiting a classic case of neglect.

When Hannah's Hooves and Hope for Chaps' Sarah and Ricky Spears received a phone call about two horses that appeared to be suffering from malnourishment, they jumped in their car, and much to their dismay, made an unpleasant discovery, one that found the horses living in dire and untoward circumstances.

“They were in a wooded area and covered with mud,” said Sarah Spears. “Lightning, the Arabian, was extremely malnourished, and we couldn't load Buttons, the Palomino, onto the trailer. He had a sharp object stuck in one of his front feet. He's missing most of his frog (an area in the horse's hoof that acts as a shock absorber, and also plays in important role in the circulatory system of the horse). The first thing we did when they arrived at our facility was have their hooves trimmed.”

Lightning is about 7-years-old, and Buttons is nearly a quarter of a century old, said Sarah.

The two horses possess friendly demeanors, and are extremely appreciative of the care they're now receiving. Buttons was suffering from thrush, a bacterial infection affecting the frog of his injured foot.

“We can't walk away when we see an animal being abused,” said Sarah. “Our hearts are in it.”

The Spears have 14 head at their rescue facility, and possess the space and time to help the horses recover before being relocated to hopefully what will be their forever homes. However, funding is a problem, and much of what they do for the horses comes out of their own pockets.

“We've had some donations and a little bit of hay coming in,” said Sarah. “I love watching the transformation of the horses who've been brought into the rescue, getting them to the point where they are healthy again, and then actually finding families to adopt them.”

The families are screened and vetted, and if they find themselves in a situation where they're no longer able to care for the horse, they have to bring it back to Hannah's Hooves and Hope for Chaps, so they can find the horse another suitable home, said Sarah.

For more information visit their Facebook page at or call 803-480-5468.

Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004. Among the awards Baugh has won include the 2003 Raleigh Burroughs Award as the turf writer making the most impact on the Florida Thoroughbred Industry. Baugh is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, worked for North America's leading Thoroughbred breeder Adena Springs in Ocala, Fla. And interned at Thoroughbred Racing Communications in New York, N.Y.