Authorities Seize 74 Horses from Maryland Farm

Animal control authorities said Sunday (Dec. 3) they have seized an estimated 74 horses and a 35-acre farm in Sharpsburg, Md., where poor care led to death, illness and malnourishment. Windrinker Farm owner Barbara P. Reinken, 61, denied mistreating the horses but conceded she had more than she could handle.

"The only thing I had wrong, I had too many horses, that's all,"  Reinken, a 61-year-old registered nurse, told The Associated Press.

Employees with the Washington County Humane Society try to calm a horse Sunday after it became entangled in a section of portable fencing while being separated from other horses on a farm near Sharpsburg, Md.

Reinken, who lives on the property, said her lifetime dream of owning a horse farm started crumbling after an accident in the late 1990s incapacitated her for 18 months.

"Things went downhill after that," Reinken said. "It just got out of hand."

Reinken hasn't been charged but authorities are treating the property as a crime scene, said Paul Miller, executive director of the Humane Society of Washington County. Miller, who also serves as a county animal control officer, said the sheriff's office would determine whether charges are warranted after completing an investigation.

On Sunday, volunteers and veterinarians were trying to round up the horses and treat those in need of medical care. Ten horses requiring immediate attention had been removed from the farm by Sunday afternoon, and more removals were possible, Miller said.

Reinken said she has a degree in animal husbandry and that she kept the horses fed and groomed.

Miller disagreed. "I think that, certainly, there were some needs for these horses that weren't being met," he told reporters at the scene.

He said  Reinken had told him there were 74 horses on the property.

Authorities arrived Saturday afternoon to investigate calls about a dead horse visible from the two-lane country road that runs by the farm, set amid rolling hills near the Antietam National Battlefield. Miller said another horse died Saturday after being taken to Day's End Farm, a horse rescue operation in Howard County.

The mostly skeletal remains of five other horses were found on the property, Miller said.

Miller said investigators had found little feed on the farm except pasture, and that volunteers had brought in bales of hay for the horses.

Maryland has no laws regulating the number of horses per acre. Pastures may need two or more acres to produce enough forage to feed one horse during the summer grazing months, according to the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension.

During the winter, horses need twice as much energy to keep warm, Miller said.

Neighbors told the AP that dozens of horses at a time would sometimes get loose, walk in the road and browse in people's yards, fields and orchards. Bonnie Holmes said she had called the Humane Society last month when as many as 30 horses got out.

"I'm so happy to see they're being taken out of here," Holmes said.--David Dishneau, Associated Press

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