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Horse owner says she could get no help

December 06, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

SHARPSBURG - The woman at the center of a days-long investigation into allegations of animal neglect at a Sharpsburg horse farm admits she was in a bind, but she says she could not find anyone to help.

No charges had been filed in the investigation at the farm, where officials have said they found thin and injured horses, Humane Society of Washington County spokeswoman Katherine Cooker said Tuesday afternoon.

Barb Reinken, who said she has not been able to stay at her farm since officials seized it Saturday, blamed worms for making some of her horses thin. She said problems at Windrinker Farm seemed to snowball after she broke her leg in 1997.

A stallion impregnated nine mares at the farm after fencing broke, Reinken said. She said she seriously hurt her shoulder trying to make repairs, and she underwent surgery in June.

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"It's just nobody will help. See, nobody wants to help when you need it," said Reinken, 61, who lives by herself.

Paul Miller, executive director of the Humane Society of Washington County, said workers found one dead horse lying in a field, three horses buried in a hole and the skeletal remains of five carcasses on the farm.

State tax records show the property at 4040 Mills Road covers a little more than 32 acres.

Reinken said she was trying to get rid of some of her horses, but nobody would take them.

The property has been for sale for about two years, she said.

"You could hardly meet me without hearing me say, "Don't you want a horse?'" Reinken said.

Ann Corcoran, president of The Ranger Foundation Inc., a 300-acre farm that provides a home to 15 retired police, military and therapeutic-riding horses, said one horse typically needs about two acres of grazing pasture.

"Normally, a horse would need about two acres of grass to maintain," Corcoran said.

Reinken disputed allegations that her horses were underfed. Though Cooker, the humane society's manager of development and community relations, has said there was nothing for the horses at the farm, Reinken said she probably overfed some of her animals.

"They weren't acting sick. They were eating normally, acting normally, no lethargy at all - except for the two foals," Reinken said.

Two baby horses were among the handful of horses Reinken said were having trouble maintaining weight. One filly that seemed to be getting better died Saturday, Reinken said.

Reinken said she has a degree in animal husbandry, and she learned horses that appeared a little thin are healthier than horses that are overweight. She said she is a registered nurse, but she refused to say where she works.

Reinken said she was preparing to begin a new regimen of deworming at the farm.

Tests of one horse's stool samples revealed, "It was a lot of this one particular worm," Reinken said.

Marvin Gower, who sells feed at William Gower & Son in Williamsport, said the Windrinker Farm horses probably had more than enough grain, but the feed Reinken bought was the least nutritious.

"It was very marginal. You know, it was very marginal," Gower said.

Gower said the store made three deliveries of maintenance feed to Windrinker Farm since September. That kind of feed is not adequate for pregnant horses, he said.

"Especially this time of year, you need the hay. I mean, the grain's nice, but you really need the hay," Gower said.

Efforts to reach a Middletown, Md., man who Reinken said attempted to deliver supplies to the farm were unsuccessful Tuesday. A representative of Valley Equine Associates, a Ranson, W.Va., veterinarians' office Reinken said she used, declined comment.

Since Sept. 7, Reinken said, veterinarians visited her farm at least seven times. They treated a horse with an injured leg, performed one castration and began looking into what was making some of the horses thin, she said.

On Nov. 9, one mare needed emergency medical attention when she delivered dead the foal she was carrying, Reinken said.

Bills for the care of a horse's health, feet and teeth, and food can run $1,000 a year, Corcoran estimated.

People who want to get rid of their horses have few options, Corcoran said. With few shelters, unwanted horses end up going to the butcher's market, she said.

"There's no place for horses to go," Corcoran said.

Miller said the humane society shipped some of the horses in poorest health at Windrinker Farm to Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Howard County, Md.

One horse died in transport, Miller said.

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