Over the past five years, Kathy and Allan Schwartz have nursed more than 100 abused and neglected horses back to health.
The Schwartzes have put about $50,000 of their own money into the operation of their Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Mount Airy.
But the money has nearly run out, and the Schwartzes have put the 10-acre farm up for sale to pay off debts.
They want to continue their horse rescue operation and are looking for at least 30 acres of land to rent under a long-term lease.
"I have no doubt that somebody is going to come forward with some land, hopefully at a minimal cost," Mrs. Schwartz said.
The Schwartzes have taken in horses from Carroll, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George's and Baltimore counties. Most of the animals come to them near death, suffering from starvation, disease and deplorable living conditions.
At Days End Farm, the horses receive veterinary care and are placed on a diet and exercise program. Once rehabilitated, many of the horses are adopted by new owners who demonstrate a willingness to accept responsibility for the animals' care. About 60 horses have found new homes through the Schwartzes' adoption program.
Animal control agencies say that Days End Farm does good work.
"They've made themselves very available to animal control agencies that need equine rescue," said Nicky Ratliff, director of the Carroll County Humane Society.
"If I had a place to offer them, I'd do it in a heartbeat," Ms. Ratliff said. "And I can't say that about every horse rescue group."
In addition to their 10-acre farm, the Schwartzes also lease 7 acres nearby. They'd like to find a place large enough to have the horse rescue operation on one site.
The Schwartzes ran into financial trouble in April when they were forced to close their appliance store in Washington, D.C., after a drop in business.
With no income, they weren't able to make the $2,000 monthly mortgage payments on their farm.
Mrs. Schwartz said the money they make from the sale of the farm will go toward paying off debts related to starting the horse rescue operation.
More than 200 volunteers donate time to Days End; the organization supports itself mainly through donations.
Mrs. Schwartz said she and her husband are determined to keep Days End going somehow. "The horses are really special and the need is overwhelming," she said.
The Schwartzes rescued their first horse in 1989 from the facility where they boarded their own horse. "The woman who owned the horse told us to take it home," Mrs. Schwartz said. "Basically, she had a new man in her life and had other things to do."
The horse, suffering from starvation, dehydration and sores covering his body, would be lucky to last a week, a veterinarian told the Schwartzes.
But after about two weeks on a special diet the horse, named Toby, seemed to be regaining strength.
After a year and a half under the Schwartzes' care, Toby was able to carry riders.
While taking care of Toby, the Schwartzes realized that they wanted to do the same for other mistreated horses. That was the beginning of Days End Farm Horse Rescue.
Initially, the Schwartzes took in horses referred by friends and neighbors. As its reputation grew, the farm began working with area animal control agencies to identify mistreated horses.
Mrs. Schwartz said she receives so many calls for help that she has to turn some away. "But we've never turned away a life-or-death situation," she said. "We cashed in IRAs and insurance, whatever it took when there was a need."
Mrs. Schwartz said most cases of horse abuse and neglect arise when owners try to cut costs, or when they aren't prepared for the responsibilities of caring for a horse.
In addition to their horse rescue program, the Schwartzes operate an adoption program that places rehabilitated horses with carefully screened owners. Some of these horses have gone on to compete in area horse shows. Adoption fees range from $200 to $800.
Through the Days End foster care program, people who can't afford to adopt a horse may help with a particular horse's care on a regular basis and, if possible, ride the horse.
Fees range from $50 to $350 a month, depending on the horse's health and the amount of riding time included.
Days End also has "farm days" and riding programs at no charge for disabled children.
For more information about Days End Farm Horse Rescue, call (301) 831-7095.