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A Visit to Days End Farm Horse Rescue

October 13, 2010

In early September, Hidden Meadows Equine Rescue in Martinsburg, WV had over 50 horses seized by the the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department. The horses had little to eat and had no water. Eight were euthanized within the first few days due to their failing health.

Days End Farm Horse Rescue a 501(c)(3), volunteer-based, animal welfare organization in Woodbine, Maryland took the most critical horses into their care. On my way out to Kentucky to photograph the World Equestrian Games, I visited Days End and met both the horses in their care and the volunteers who care for them.

My first impression of Days End was how organized the rescue is. On the phone and in person, every volunteer was courteous, knowledgeable, and businesslike. The barn was tidy and orderly, with clearly marked signs, color-coded buckets, carefully latched gates, swept barn aisles, and a special section of the barn designated to the West Virginia horses. A day sheet hung from each stall door, marked with notations from every visit to the stall: “Filled hay.” “One manure pile.” “Cleaned stall.” “Filled water. Drank half a bucket.”

Day Sheet

All of the horses at Days End from Hidden Meadows are Thoroughbreds (all are off the track as far as I know), and the condition of some of them is extremely critical. When I was visiting the farm, Zodiac was the horse who needed the most care. He was placed in a sling when he had problems standing, and he needs bandages changed, vital signs monitored, and some activity in his stall to keep his circulation moving. Zodiac’s entire digestive tract is riddled with ulcers, and he requires medication for them. His eyes have ulcers, which also need care. When I read about him, I expected him to be completely lethargic and disinterested in his surroundings, but this was not the case; he was alert and would perk up just a bit whenever someone entered his stall. Through his runny eyes, he examined visitors. When I visited with him, he nibbled hay and eventually dozed off when things were quiet.

Zodiac at Days End Farm Horse Rescue

Zodiac

The level of starvation of these horses is extreme, and the rescue has to take great precautions when re-introducing food to them. Stone dust and dirt were found in the horses’ digestive tracts. The digestive system of a horse is quite delicate when it is thrown off, and horses are prone to colic, founder, and choke, just to name a few risks. The horses in the care of Days End are fed very frequently in small amounts. The process of renourishment is a tricky one, and horses can suffer something similar to refeeding syndrome in humans. When the horses are in their stalls between meals, they have to wear muzzles to keep from eating their stall bedding. Nibble Nets have been placed in their stalls so they can eat a small amount of food on a frequent basis.

Casanova

When I walked in the barn, I immediately noticed the mattress in one of the stalls. I commented that it is probably appreciated for a little shut-eye after a long night watch, and one of the volunteers remarked that they had no time for sleep for the first few days that the horses were in their care. I met the veterinarian who is caring for the horses, some local Animal Control officers, as well as some of the primary caregivers. They all knew their jobs very well and knew every lump and bump on the horses’ bodies.

Working around the Clock

Some of the horses are bouncing back more quickly than others due to their age and overall health. One filly named Buttercup is about 3 years old, and I could already see her filling out since her last photos that were taken two weeks earlier. Although her hips jutted out and her spine clearly protruded from her back, there was a sparkle in her eye and a spring in her step. Days End turns out the horses whenever possible, and when they put Buttercup outside with her paddock buddies Aaron and Felicity, she did a little playing before she settled down to munch on her hay.

Buttercup

Buttercup and Aaron

Buttercup

Before I left, Days End President Kathleen Schwartz-Howe took time out of her day to meet up with me and we got to talk about the rescue. She explained how things are run and a little bit about the history. I get the feeling that she could fill a book with everything that she’s seen, both good and bad. I thanked her for all she is doing for these horses.

Readers, here’s a little more information about how to learn more and to help Days End:

Notes From the Barn (blog with updates about the horses)
Days End wins ASPCA Henry Bergh Award
A little info about the history of the rescue
How to tour the facilities
Financial/donation data
How to help
Wish list
Facebook page
Euthanasia policy

Just one day later, I was at the World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park, photographing the greatest equine athletes on earth as they competed at an elite level of their respective sports. Six hours east, seven mighty Thoroughbreds fought their own daily battle for their lives and they never left my mind once while I was in Lexington.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. Sharon permalink
    October 13, 2010 2:07 am

    As always Sarah, you bring beautiful life to all the horses. Bless you and Days End for giving these horses their lives back

  2. Joanna permalink
    October 13, 2010 4:31 am

    Once again Sarah, you have captured these horses and this effort in such a beautiful way. Thank you for bringing this story to us. Thank you to Days End and all the tireless efforts of the volunteers.

  3. October 13, 2010 7:02 am

    Sarah, thank you ever so much for all you do for these horses. Your beautful photographs bring such life to each and every one. Can’t wait for you to do a book !!!

  4. ellie miller permalink
    October 13, 2010 9:14 am

    Thanks Sarah. Thanks Days End. My heart is so full, that words seem to fail me.

  5. Laurel Fox permalink
    October 13, 2010 11:06 am

    Sarah ~ thank you so much for following up on these horses, giving up your valuable time and giving us an inside look at Days End. I only wish the WV officials would have allowed you to go down to the Martinsburg, WV “rescue site” where the other 46 horses were taken and photograph them. I know you tried! Your photos would have told their tales of woe as well.

  6. October 13, 2010 2:10 pm

    The bitter irony of the horse world… two ends of the spectrum… the unwanted and starving to the very valuable elite athletes of the world.

    I’m glad to hear that Days End is doing such a stellar job. I always think of them as the best in the area… it makes me feel great that you were able to document it. So often we hear about bad things happening at rescues.

  7. Mick permalink
    October 13, 2010 4:02 pm

    so much bad and so much good, thanks for the record and care

  8. Pam permalink
    October 13, 2010 4:03 pm

    Great photos & article Sarah!
    While you were at the World Equestrian Games did you happen to see a spunky POA pony named Inky?
    Inky is a Days End Farm rescue and was adopted from there back in 2007.
    She is a perfect example of what rescue horses are capable of if given a chance.

  9. Gail permalink
    October 13, 2010 4:07 pm

    Beautifully done. I use to live in Maryland and have visited Days End when they would have something special taking place. I do admire them and I hope to adopt a horse from their facilty if possible even though I live in NC. Maybe one of these beautifully rescued thoroughbred.

  10. October 13, 2010 5:24 pm

    Sarah, Your article and pictures brought tears to my eyes. Ten years ago when I was seriously considering organizing my own horse rescue, Days End Farm was the rescue that I looked to as an example. They were good then and they are better now. They set the bar high but their level of professionalism has carried through and made their rescue successful. Thank you for sharing your pictures and impressions of the horses! It just breaks my heart that someone who was supposed to be saving them caused them so much harm.

  11. Susan permalink
    October 13, 2010 5:59 pm

    Hi Sarah,
    I am a volunteer at Days End. Every day that I go, my heart breaks for them as I watch them fight to live and get better. You have captured their beauty and their struggle at the same time. Kathy Howe and the staff are the absolute best. If anyone can heal them….it’s Days End. Thank you so much for the wonderful pictures. I hope you will come back to take more pictures of them when their struggle is over.

  12. October 13, 2010 7:47 pm

    oh my.

    oh. my.

    This made me cry. I had to go read the blog and the updates. How the volunteers and the rescue employees manage to keep such a bouyant attitude with what they face every day is probably beyond what I could do. One word comes to mind, it encompasses the entire rescue….the vets and their staff, the rescue employees and volunteers, and the people who donate money or supplies.

    Heros….heros all.

  13. Laurie Wagner permalink
    October 13, 2010 8:07 pm

    My son Jimmy and I have been volunteers at Days End for ten years now and I can tell you that Zodiac, Yogi and the rest are full of life and will survivie. Zodiac is a wonderful young man and full of energy and life and Ms. Yogi has a fight in front of her as well but she is stubborn and will survive. You can see it in their eyes!

  14. October 13, 2010 11:04 pm

    Thank you for documenting the story of these guys! As an active Days End volunteer and two-time adopter I appreciate the exposure this piece brings. Echoing Pam’s comment it would be cool if you got to see Inky at WEG…that little pony came from the same impoundment as one of my girls. Pam had fostered Inky. There really is no telling where a rescue horse can take you.

  15. Lynn Riner permalink
    October 14, 2010 10:22 am

    Thanks for sharing your photos. FYI: The rescue was actually in MartinsBURG, WV.

  16. Cheryl Durst permalink
    October 14, 2010 12:38 pm

    Thank you for taking time to photograph the “miracles” currently under intensive care at Days End Farm. As we all realize, the type of situation that took place that brought the horses to Days End Farm should never ever happen. While the horses were being held in Berkeley County, after they were rescued from Hidden Meadows, I gave a bit of my time to help out and the first hour that I was there, I sobbed over the horror that I saw. Even though I am an articulate, intelligent person who majored in psychology while in college, I still cannot fathom anyone looking out their door and windows each day and being okay with seeing those horses in their depleted and starving condition. Thank you again for allowing all of us to see the improvement taking place with these lovely innocent equines.

  17. Debb Wehmueller permalink
    October 17, 2010 7:42 am

    Thank you Sarah!

  18. October 18, 2010 11:07 am

    Heart breaking. I am speechless….

  19. December 13, 2010 10:34 am

    Incredible entry. Amazing photos. I love the behind the scenes look.

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