A herd of about 40 Arabian horses, with the chiseled heads and high tail carriages characteristic of one of the world's oldest equine breeds, will be free to good homes starting next week.
In the largest rescue the New Jersey-based Arabian Rescue Mission has taken on, the horses will be transported today by trailer from the muddy hillside of their West Virginia farm to a new, temporary home at the Westmoreland County Fairgrounds to await adoption.
Terry Figueroa, the group's founder, said the animals' owner died in December. Since 2008 a local man had volunteered to help feed the horses -- which are the offspring of an old and rare line of Davenport Arabians -- on the Dallas, W.Va., farm, near the border with Washington County.
"It was above and beyond what would have been expected from anybody who didn't own the horses," Ms. Figueroa said.
The owner's family contacted the rescue group last month about finding a new home for the horses.
Ms. Figueroa traveled to the farm that week and found the animals in various stages of health. Some had infections from gelding operations; others were underweight.
A few of the horses have died, probably due to infection. But overall, Ms. Figueroa said, the herd is in good health, and a veterinarian has cleared them of all infectious diseases.
Some of the younger horses have never been handled before. Volunteers walk through the herd daily to acquaint the animals with people and prepare them for the 90-minute journey to Greensburg.
"We're hoping to move them very quietly and peacefully," Ms. Figueroa said. "They are still going to be traumatized because a lot of the horses were born there."
Once the horses are settled, their 40-stall barn at the fairgrounds will open Tuesday to the public. Interested parties can meet the horses and apply to adopt them for a $25 application fee.
Veterinarians from Allegheny Equine in Murrysville will donate their services Monday to give the animals check-ups and vaccines.
Ms. Figueroa said the Westmoreland Fairgrounds was the fourth facility the rescue group called after another fairgrounds rescinded its offer to house the horses.
"We always do that for large farm animals that need rescue," said Michelle Long, fairgrounds secretary. "During the week of the fair we have animals here, so we have the facilities and the capabilities. For us, it just makes sense."
Ms. Figueroa has already received applications for six horses and she anticipates that the animals will go fast, due to the nature of their breed.
"Arabians are the most social and beautiful of the horses," she said. "They have big eyes, they are very intelligent and very willing."
Second Chance Equine Association and the Westmoreland Horsemen's Association have donated food and bedding.
Ms. Figueroa said additional feed, bedding, hay and donations for medications and vaccinations will help defray the estimated $15,000 cost of the rescue.
Those interested in starting the application process early can download a form at arabianrescue.org and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org or bring it with them to the fairgrounds next week.
Donations in kind can be dropped off at the fairgrounds. Monetary gifts can be made on the website via a PayPal account.