- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 3, 2006

SHARPSBURG, Md. — Animal control authorities said yesterday that they had seized an estimated 74 horses and a 35-acre farm where poor care led to illness, malnourishment and death.

Windrinker Farm owner Barbara P. Reinken, 61, denied mistreating the horses, but said she had more than she could handle.

“The only thing I had wrong, I had too many horses, that’s all,” Miss Reinken, 61, a registered nurse, told the Associated Press.

Miss Reinken, who lives on the property, said her lifetime dream of owning a horse farm started crumbling after an accident in the late 1990s incapacitated her for 18 months.

“Things went downhill after that,” she said. “It just got out of hand.”

Miss Reinken hasn’t been charged, but authorities are treating the property as a crime scene, said Paul Miller, executive director of the Humane Society of Washington County. Mr. Miller, who also serves as a county animal control officer, said the sheriff’s office would investigate and determine whether charges are warranted.

Yesterday, volunteers and veterinarians were trying to round up the horses and treat those in need of medical care. Ten horses requiring immediate attention had been removed from the farm by the afternoon, and more removals were possible, Mr. Miller said.

Miss Reinken said she has a degree in animal husbandry and that she kept the horses fed and groomed.

Mr. Miller disagreed. “I think that, certainly, there were some needs for these horses that weren’t being met,” he told reporters at the scene.

He said Miss Reinken told him that 74 horses were on the property.

Authorities arrived Saturday afternoon to investigate calls about a dead horse visible from the two-lane country road that runs adjacent to the farm, set amid rolling hills near the Antietam National Battlefield. Mr. Miller said another horse died Saturday after being taken to a horse-rescue operation in Howard County.

The mostly skeletal remains of five other horses were found on the property, Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Miller said investigators found little feed on the farm except pasture and that volunteers brought in bales of hay.

Maryland has no laws regulating the number of horses per acre. Pastures may need two or more acres to produce enough forage to feed one horse during the summer grazing months, according to the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension.

During the winter, horses need twice as much energy to keep warm.

Neighbors said that dozens of horses at a time sometimes would get loose, walk in the road and browse in people’s yards, fields and orchards. Bonnie Holmes said she called the Humane Society last month when as many as 30 horses got out.

“I’m so happy to see they’re being taken out of here,” Miss Holmes said.

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