ROHRERSVILLE — They have been likened to “skeletons walking around,” so emaciated that their rib cages are showing and the tops of their backs are sunken.
Many of the 13 horses brought to Days End Farm Horse Rescue from a farm in Queen Anne’s County, Md., are suffering from heavy infestations of parasites such as lice and worms, said Brooke Vrany, assistant director of the horse rescue group. They were in such an advanced state of emaciation that normal deposits of fat around their eyes were gone, she said.
When they were found, the horses were living on their last reserves of fat surrounding their organs and marrow from their bones, said Vrany, adding that the animals probably only would have survived another month if they had not been rescued.
“It’s kind of the last stage of starvation. They’re very weak and anemic,” said Erin Ochoa, director of Days End Farm Horse Rescue, whose satellite location along Park Hall Road near Rohrersville has become a refuge for the animals.
The 13 were among about 146 horses taken from the farm, Vrany said. She said the owner of the horses had been a successful breeder but something happened that led to the neglect of the animals.
Queen Anne’s County officials involved in the case could not be reached for comment.
The horses are Polish Arabians, which are a popular breed among equestrians, Vrany said. Top-level breeds of Polish Arabians can sell for up to $30,000 apiece, Vrany said.
The horses were taken from the farm in April and were turned over to Days End Farm Rescue for rehabilitation, according to Vrany and Ochoa.
Besides the 13 taken to the Park Hall Road farm, about 60 were taken to a farm in New Market, Md., and about 25 were taken to a farm in Ijamsville, Md., Ochoa said. The rest are at other farms scattered across the state, she said.
Vrany said the Humane Society of the United States is helping to care for the horses by providing shelter and finances.
One recent sunny afternoon at the Park Hall Road farm, workers were grooming the horses, removing dirt and old skin sloughing off their coats that was caused by neglect, Vrany said.
The rib cage of one of the horses was showing, and its hips were bony. It walked slowly as workers tended to it.
Many of the horses had worm infestations, which are acquired from grazing in fields, Vrany said. It’s a common problem in horses but the ones from Queen Anne’s County were not being treated for it, Vrany said.
Because their bodily systems have been compromised, workers have to be careful about the amount of medicine administered to the horses because too much medication can cause serious complications, Vrany said.
To feed the horses, workers have to mix a special formula that easy to digest, Ochoa said.
“It’s almost like feeding babies,” she said.
Despite the horses’ conditions, Ochoa said she believes they will survive.
Ochoa said it will take three to six months for the horses to return to a normal weight.
Days End Farm Horse Rescue will keep all the animals until the case involving the owner of the horses is resolved, Ochoa said.