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Sykesville woman faces dozens of animal cruelty charges for depriving horses food and medical care, documents say

The entrance to Misty Manor Horse Farm in Marriottsville is pictured Monday, Nov. 1. 2021.
The entrance to Misty Manor Horse Farm in Marriottsville is pictured Monday, Nov. 1. 2021. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)

A Sykesville woman is facing multiple charges of torturing horses and depriving them of food and veterinary care at the Marriottsville riding stable she owned, according to court documents.

Nichole Catherine Reinke of Sykesville was charged with 64 counts in connection to the mistreatment of 19 horses at Misty Manor Riding Stable, according to documents from Carroll County Circuit Court.

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Each torture charge is a felony, punishable by up to three years in jail, and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Charging documents allege that 11 of the 19 horses were intentionally tortured.

Reinke also is charged with depriving nearly all the horses of necessary sustenance, and failing to provide a sufficient quantity of nutritious food and necessary veterinary care, according to court documents. Each charge is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum jail term of 90 days, and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

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An arrest warrant for Nichole Reinke was issued Oct. 12. Electronic court records show Reinke was released after posting bail. Her next court appearance is Dec. 22.

Melissa Hockensmith with the state attorney’s office and Kirk Seaman, who represents Reinke, declined to comment on the case. Karen Baker, director of the Carroll County Humane Society, said neither she nor the society’s Animal Control division can comment on an active case.

Misty Manor Horse Farm in Marriottsville is pictured Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021.
Misty Manor Horse Farm in Marriottsville is pictured Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. (Dylan Slagle)

Misty Manor did not return a request for comment. It’s not known if the business is still operating. Its website has been taken down, however, its Facebook page last showed advertisements for horseback riding on Oct. 24.

Misty Manor Farm has existed for about 20 years and sits on 64 acres in southeast Carroll County. In a statement of probable cause used to obtain a search warrant, G. Michael Keiner, the senior animal control officer at Carroll’s Humane Society, who signed the statement, said Reinke and her wife, Gina Piellusch, helped Reinke’s mother, Judith Anne Reinke, with the farm. Judith owned the farm until it was transferred to her daughter in 2016. The document stated that Judith died in January.

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The farm offers trail rides and riding lessons and sells horses.

“Although Judith Reinke would tell people that she would rescue horses and was therefore a ‘rescue,’ this investigation did not reveal that to be accurate,” Keiner said in the statement.

Keiner said he and other officers have responded to Misty Manor “numerous times” in the last 19 years to investigate cruelty and neglect allegations, according to the statement. When an investigation determined care was needed for a sick or injured horse, Keiner said the Reinkes would call a veterinarian.

He said he also told Reinke and her mother to document the horses’ medical histories.

“No documentation could ever be produced to Animal Control when requested,” Keiner stated in the documents.

A before and after picture of Jace, a horse that animal control say had no body fat when owned by Misty Manor Farm in Marriottsville and when rescued and adopted by Katrina Tischer-Brown of Sykesville.
A before and after picture of Jace, a horse that animal control say had no body fat when owned by Misty Manor Farm in Marriottsville and when rescued and adopted by Katrina Tischer-Brown of Sykesville. (Katrina Tischer-Brown)

In 2020, Keiner stated, Animal Control responded to Misty Manor several times. At that time, the number of horses on the farm ranged from 75 to 128, he wrote in documents. The fields at the farm were in poor condition, he added, with broken boards, bad fencing, wire and other hazardous debris throughout the property. The terrain was rocky and uneven, there were lots of weeds with hardly any natural grass to graze on and the hay bales gave the horses mouth sores and ulcers from the foxtails found inside, according to Keiner.

He stated that when Animal Control checked on the welfare of several horses in October 2020, the officer told Judith some horses need to be treated by a veterinarian within 72 hours. When an officer returned to the farm the following month, Judith told the officer one of the horses was euthanized by the farm’s veterinarian.

Keiner said there were 120 horses on the property in November 2020 and Judith was directed to reduce the number and provide proper shelter.

“Judi made the statement that she would just shoot 50 of the horses because they are hers and she can do it,” Keiner said in the report.

Keiner stated 19 horses were seized by the county after Keiner and doctors from Windsor Veterinarian Services came for another visit Dec. 8 and Dec. 9. Judith Reinke signed them over to the county. He added that the Humane Society told Reinke to address the various medical issues of the remaining horses.

Misty Manor Horse Farm in Marriottsville is pictured Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021.
Misty Manor Horse Farm in Marriottsville is pictured Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Keiner said that Reinke had her veterinarian euthanize four horses “due to their poor condition” after the Dec. 9 seizure. They were buried on the property.

“The horses that were buried were composted in the back of the farm and were not properly composted exposing body parts of several equines,” Keiner stated.

Keiner’s statement also noted that the 19 horses that were seized by the county suffered from various conditions, including mouth sores, flared hoofs, matted and dirty coats, worn teeth, scars, starvation and blindness. Of the 19, Keiner stated Reinke’s veterinarian had only seen or treated six.

Reviving the rescues

Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Woodbine, a nonprofit that assists law enforcement with rescues, was given 17 of the 19 horses seized from Misty Manor. DeEtte Hillman, the equine program director, said she’s seen horses in similar condition in other cases the nonprofit has worked on in Maryland, but that doesn’t mean the importance of this case should be downplayed.

She said the horses were in critical condition facing starvation, emaciation and living with chronic pain. They needed 24/7 care. She added staff were “reintroducing nutrients to a body that is currently consuming itself.” The first three months of care for the horses cost $54,600, which is covered by the nonprofit’s donations and grants, she said later.

Hillman said a body condition score is used to assess the body fat on a horse. It ranges from a 1, which indicates there is no visible body fat, to a 9, which means the horse is morbidly obese. An ideal score, she said, is between a 4 and 6. In Maryland, law enforcement can impound a horse with a score of 3 and below, she added. The horses from Misty Manor, she said, were between 1 and 3.

The director said they do what they can to help the horses heal.

“However, in this case, there are horses that are beyond that help,” Hillman said. “We did lose some horses in the initial days and week.”

The happy ending, Hillman said, is that the rest of the horses made full recoveries and seven have been adopted.

One of the new owners is Katrina Tischer-Brown of Sykesville. She took home Jace, a horse she named when she worked at Misty Manor.

Tischer-Brown said she started working at Misty Manor around 2000 when she was 21. The 42-year-old said when the owners would receive horses, they were fat, but they would “starve them down” over time. When Tischer-Brown tried to feed them, she said, she would get in trouble. She left the job in 2018.

She described working at Misty Manor as like being in a bad relationship.

“You see it, but you don’t really see it until you’re out,” Tischer-Brown said.

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The Animal Control report stated Jace was blind when he was at Misty Manor. Despite the blindness, Tischer-Brown said the horse is happy, thriving and fat. He had a hard time adjusting to his new home, but now he’s more spirited. She credited Days End for his rehabilitation.

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“If it was not for them, he wouldn’t be here,” she said. “He’d be dead.”

She also credited Donna Lyn Stipe, a 20-year-old who spoke up about the conditions at Misty Manor.

Stipe, who lives in Virginia Beach, said she has visited Misty Manor since she was about 5 years old. She would go there four to six times a year when visiting her grandparents, who live in Sykesville.

“I never realized how bad things were there until I was older,” she said.

Stipe added that she reported Misty Manor to Animal Control for four to five years. She said she would visit the farm to collect photo and video evidence of the cruelty. Now, she says she wishes she had done something sooner and feels guilty for not doing more. However, she did say she’s happy something is being done.

“There’s no valid reason for anybody to do what they did,” she added. “If it were up to me, they would never be able to touch horses again.”

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