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Stoughton horse therapy barn hurt by rising hay prices

MADISON (WKOW) — The weather may be nice now, but a harsh winter and wet spring have sent hay prices through the roof.

The most recent Hay Report from the UW Extension says demand is high but supplies are tight.

For more than thirty years, Three Gaits in Stoughton has been providing therapy to children with disabilities, with the help of horses.

“The connection with the horses, with our staff, brings a joy to their life,” Katherine Brewer, the President of Three Gaits Board of Directors, said.

For the children to be happy, the horses need to be too and for them to be happy, they need to be well fed.

At the start of the season, when the farm went to their normal provider, he said they had no hay.

“We’ve struggled to find good quality, meaning non-moldy, non-dusty, hay that we can feed to our program horses or our therapy horses,” Dana Wagner, the Farm and Equine Caretaker, said.

A glance inside their barn may show a lot of hay, but it’s only enough to feed the horses for up to three weeks, depending on the time of year.

The entire pile costs nearly $5000, more than double what it cost last year.

“We had increased our budget by about $5,000 to $20,000 this year for hay,” Brewer said. “As of June we had already spent $18,000 towards hay costs.”

For now, Three Gaits has enough hay in storage to feed the horses for a few months.

That surplus will quickly start disappearing heading into the fall and winter.

Spending more on hay will mean less money put to other things, like providing financial support for students who can’t afford the services but it could go even further if they can’t feed the horses.

“If we can’t do that, then it could mean a potential decrease in the amount of horses we have available,” Wagner said.

For staff, they just want to keep helping the kids who come in for as long as possible.

Three Gaits has started a GoFundMe page to raise enough money to buy hay for the rest of the year and part of next year.

Courtney Terlecki

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