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‘The spirit of a horse’: Local rescues provide rehabilitation, adoption for rescued equines

Nailah Gibson, an intern from New York City, leads Orlando, a gelding, to the farrier at Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Woodbine Jan. 21. Days End is currently closed to the public due to the pandemic, but still in need of donations and support.
Nailah Gibson, an intern from New York City, leads Orlando, a gelding, to the farrier at Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Woodbine Jan. 21. Days End is currently closed to the public due to the pandemic, but still in need of donations and support. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Days End Farm Horse Rescue executive director Erin Clemm Ochoa said horses, by nature, are trusting animals.

The Woodbine-based nonprofit organization, among other local horse rescues, works closely with animal control and law enforcement agencies in Maryland to ensure the care and treatment of horses that have been seized due to neglect or cruelty charges.

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“A predator-prey relationship is really what we have here,” Ochoa said. “The fact that they’re coming out of these situations where they haven’t been treated well by humans and to be able to trust us is something I’m always so surprised about and admire so much about the spirit of a horse.”

Ochoa has been affiliated with Days End for more than 15 years and said 99.5% of the organization’s horses comes in through animal control agencies. Most of the county’s facilities have sheltering for cats, dogs, and other small animals, but not enough shelter for equines.

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Days End has been in business since 1989 to aid in those large animal cases where rescues are necessary.

Dream, right, and other rescue mares gather at Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Woodbine Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Days End is currently closed to the public due to the pandemic, but still in need of donations and support.
Dream, right, and other rescue mares gather at Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Woodbine Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Days End is currently closed to the public due to the pandemic, but still in need of donations and support. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Maryland Horse Rescue is a nonprofit horse rescue and rehabilitation facility similar to Days End, but specializes in the care of blind and elderly horses. Located in Mount Airy, this organization does not sell horses, but strives to re-home the animals once they have been rescued and rehabilitated.

“We don’t take horses in based on their usability,” Maryland Horse Rescue executive director Melanie Biemiller said. “If they have a need and we have room, we take them. Our biggest intake factor is really from owner surrenders, people that either no longer want their horses or can no longer take care of them for a variety of reasons.”

Horses graze in a pasture at Maryland Horse Rescue in Westminster on Saturday, March 28.
Horses graze in a pasture at Maryland Horse Rescue in Westminster on Saturday, March 28. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Most of the county’s facilities have sheltering for cats, dogs, and other small animals, but not enough to house equines. Days End shelters about 80 horses on average at any given time, but brings in about 150 throughout the year from adoptions going out to new horses coming in.

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“If we’re getting them, a lot of effort has already happened at the county level to support the owners through education and resources,” Clemm Ochoa said. “Ultimately, that last line of intervention for these animals is having to take them off of the owner’s property, which is kind of the last resort.”

Days End Developmental Director Caroline Robertson said via email that the organization took in 48 horses in 2020, an abnormally low year due to law enforcement agencies putting a pause on animal cruelty cases during the coronavirus pandemic.

In December, Days End rescued 17 horses from a Carroll County case facilitated through the Carroll County Humane Society, one of the organization’s largest influxes of rescues.

“We were really happy that, despite COVID going on and with limited hands-on ability, that we were able to shift and still do our mission to support the counties when they knew these horses must be removed for their health and the ultimate outcome of their life,” Ochoa said.

The rescued horses have been examined by veterinarians and are all under quarantine. They will each be placed on a critical care plan provided by Days End which includes introducing them to feed again, addressing dental and skin issues, and additional factors depending on each horse.

Ochoa said the rehabilitation process takes about three to four months depending on the severity of the horse’s age and condition.

“They still have a ways to go,” Ochoa said. “But, they are doing well and we’re optimistic about the bulk of their overall ability to rehabilitate and move on from Days End.”

The pandemic has been one of the most difficult things Days End has had to navigate as an organization, Ochoa said. They scaled back on a significant amount of public programs, staff, and volunteers that have all helped keep the rescue going.

The organization has moved some of its classes and programs to a hybrid model with a virtual classroom platform and some hands-on learning experiences on-site. Tours of the facility were also scaled back due to the pandemic and Ochoa said they have been seeking out ways to remain connected to the public.

They developed a YouTube video series called “Life on the Farm” which takes a look at what’s going on at Days End and the series includes videos of horses being trained, trail riding, and other aspects of the rehabilitation process.

“Knowing that there’s always going to be more horses out there that need help is stressful,” Ochoa said. “It’s also what I think drives a lot of people in the rescue community to continue to do more to choose education and do everything they do because whether it’s stepping up in the manner of just making a phone call or stepping out to support these community projects like Days End is vital.”

Tucker was an old, blind, neglected horse when he was taken in by Maryland Horse Rescue.
Tucker was an old, blind, neglected horse when he was taken in by Maryland Horse Rescue. (Courtesy photo)

Maryland Horse Rescue took in 11 horses in 2020 and relied heavily on its volunteers to aid in the rehabilitation of these animals. Biemiller said being on-site helped many of the facility’s volunteers escape stress brought on by the pandemic.

People who want a horse but are unable to own one can sponsor a rescue through Maryland Horse Rescue’s sponsorship program and there are four levels of sponsorship to choose from.

“It’s very beneficial to the horses to have that special person because our horses see upwards of anywhere from five to 10 of our volunteers a day,” Biemiller said. “Our volunteers get hands and eyes on the horses every day, but it’s not the same as it is for somebody to come out there to love on them and care for them.”

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