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Man pleads guilty in horse neglect case

WORTHINGTON -- Almost four months after having two horses removed from his custody due to alleged neglect and cruelty, Larry Leo Ruesch, 69, of Worthington, pleaded guilty on Tuesday in Nobles County District Court to one count of overworking or mistreating animals: neglect -- substantial bodily harm, a charge that was amended to a gross misdemeanor, and one misdemeanor count of equine hoof care.

In late July, a paint mare and miniature mare were removed from Ruesch's custody after a passer-by noticed their debilitated condition and contacted the Nobles County Sheriff's Department. At that time, Ruesch agreed to let the horses be moved into the care of the complainant, Cindy Langendorfer.

Both animals were severely underweight, had open or infected wounds and had hooves that were so neglected they could barely walk. The paint mare was unable to stand.

Several days later the paint mare died, unable to recover from her health problems.

In mid-September, Ruesch was charged with two counts of neglect, two counts of cruelty and two counts of equine hoof care.

As a condition of the plea agreement, one neglect and two cruelty charges were dropped, along with the remaining hoof care charge.

Originally put into the custody of Langendorfer with Ruesch's agreement, the animals were later officially seized by the sheriff's department. Ruesch had 10 days to request a hearing regarding the impoundment, but did not do so. Eventually Sheriff Kent Wilkening turned custody of the remaining miniature mare over to Langendorfer, who plans to nurse the mare back to health and eventually adopt the horse out to a family.

Though the plea agreement was for a fine of up to $1,500, restitution and up to two years probation, Judge Jeffrey L. Flynn ordered Ruesch to serve one year of unsupervised probation, pay $79 in court fees and pay restitution to the sheriff's department in the amount of $1,794.