MYAKKA CITY -- They have been referred to as "The Forgotten 17," but on Saturday they were anything but forgotten.
Seven-year-old Sierra Yeomaris hopes they are never forgotten again.
"It's bad that they were forgotten," Sierra said. "But I think it's good they got saved."
The 17 horses were seized by law enforcement last month as part of an investigation into charges of animal cruelty and fraud at Napier's Log Cabin Horse and Animal Sanctuary in East Manatee.
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Since the seizure, the horses have been kept on property belonging to Whispering Ranches Feed at 4922 Verna Bethany Road in Myakka City. Already in a little less than a month there, they have gained at least 75 pounds each after arriving at least 300 pounds under weight.
Sierra picked out her favorite horse, the black and white one, she said. It reminded her of her stuffed pony.
With five horses at home, Sierra understood the importance of feeding and caring for them.
"She has to go home and do her barn chores too," mother Roxanne Harmer said.
A few hundred people came out to support "The Forgotten 17" at the fundraiser held at Whispering Ranches Saturday.
There was food, games, silent auctions and most im
portantly the horses themselves.
Containers were set up along the fence: 17 with individual pictures of the horses and one with a group photo. Those who attended were able to donate to support the horse of their choice.
Raffle tickets were also sold for an opportunity to name one of the horses.
All proceeds from the event will go to feed and care for the horses.
The event was put on in partnership with Sixteen Hands Horse Sanctuary, a nonprofit lifetime sanctuary for unwanted, abused and neglected horses and burros.
Founder Robin Cain was unable to take them in but still wanted to help.
"My role in it is to take the donations and pay for the expenses."
Cain was thrilled with the turnout on Saturday.
"It's been phenomenal," Cain said. "People have stepped in to help in anyway they could."
Beth Shuttleworth, owner of Whispering Ranches Feed, was also happy with the support of the community to help care for the horses.
"It takes about two and a half hours twice a day to feed all of them," Shuttleworth said. "It costs $170 a day."
When the horses were seized in early February, after having provided hay for them at the scene, Whispering Ranches also agreed to care for the horses on the property while they remain in the custody of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
Jocelyn Freed also wanted to make sure the horses would never be forgotten again. She took coins out of her pocket, some of her own savings, and began to drop them one by one in the containers for the individual horses.
"Her mom is very interested in helping and is very involved," grandmother Diane Meckler said. "Jocelyn has been helping animals since she was a very little girl."
Cheryl Kendrick drove all the way from Dover in northeastern Hillsborough County just so she could donate to help support the horses.
"We saw it on Bay News 9," Kendrick said. "We love horses. I admire them for doing this."
Other local animal rescue groups also came out to help raise money for the horses.
Nate's Honor Animal Rescue in Lakewood Ranch took in 82 of the dogs and cats from Napier and was also represented at the event.
"We are here in support of the forgotten horses," said Karen Slomba, Nate's Honor Animal Rescue associate director. "Everything we raise here today we are donating back to the horses."
At their Smooch-a-pooch booth, people could kiss a puppy for a donation.
Pat O'Connor was one of many who came checkbook in hand.
"I understand there is a chance they could get these horses back," O'Connor said. "I would think that would be absolutely awful."
Although no charges have been filed against owners Alan and Sheree Napier, the sheriff's office is seeking permanent custody of the animals seized as it continues its investigation. The couple is going to court March 12 to fight for custody.
"They don't deserve animals," O'Connor said. "They had a chance and they did not step up and do what they were supposed to do."
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.