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Mauston riding stable says tainted hay to blame for 14 horse deaths

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MAUSTON (WKOW) -- The last few months at Red Ridge Ranch in Mauston have been filled with heartbreak and tragedy.

"Today we lost another one, so today is 14," said owner Cindy Peterson Kanarowski. "I'm lucky if I lose three or four all year... We lost three a week going into Christmas."

This Fall, Peterson Kanarowski noticed a number of her horses looking thin and acting strange.

Then, they started dying -- and she had no idea why.

"I brought the horses, a lot of them, into the barn to be pampered and babied," she said. "I fed them even more of the nice hay that I had bought out West."

A bad hay yield last year for Peterson Kanarowski due to poor Wisconsin weather conditions meant they had to buy hay from somewhere else -- an online auction house in South Dakota.

She thought nothing of the hay, until she says a vet saw a hole in one of the horse's stomachs.

"At that point, he said, 'Where'd you get your hay?'" Peterson Kanarowski said.

She says they sent a sample to UW, which found blister beetles -- small bugs that are toxic to horses.

She says the auction house owner got angry when she called him.

"He was not helpful at all and blamed me for this, saying I bought hay at other locations -- which I haven't," she said.

27 News also spoke to the owner of the auction house, who did not want to comment.

Peterson Kanarowski fed about a third of the hay she bought to the horses before she knew what was wrong. Now, they're stuck with a whole barn full of it, and they don't know what to do.

"We were not planning financially to be buying hay this time of year," she said. "So the money is not there to be buying hay."

Couple that with vet bills, and she says she's out $50,000 -- which she's hopeful a GoFundMe can help recover.

"It's been super hard," she said. "Super hard."

She says two of her horses who ate the hay are still very sick, though they're holding out hope the animals will recover.

Blister beetles are found in alfalfa hay and can cause blisters throughout the insides of the horses.

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