By Kim-Vi Sweetman
Elm Staff Writer
This summer, Days End Farm Horse Rescue, The Humane Society of the U.S., and several other animal welfare groups took part in a 140-horse impound. This was one of the largest impounds that DEFHR has ever taken part in. Where did all these horses come from, you ask? All one hundred forty came from our very own Queen Anne’s County, right here on the Eastern Shore in Maryland.
The farm under fire is known as Canterbury Farms, owned and operated by Marsha Parkinson. Parkinson not only neglected her animals, but did not have the proper licensing for her equine facility where she had also been breeding her horses. Canterbury Farms – located on 202 acres – was once the largest breeder of pure Polish Arabians on the Eastern Shore and maybe on the whole East Coast.
For a little perspective: a top notch purebred could sell for around $30,000. The website – and good luck finding it through Google, there’s a lot of angry articles related to the subject – proclaimed a top notch facility. Well, there was a very different story to be told when Queen Anne’s County Animal Services paid Parkinson a visit. Out of the total one hundred forty horses found on the property, very few had a body condition score acceptable for equines. None had received proper care under the “Minimum Standards of Care” set for equines in Maryland. Many had overgrown feet and teeth, and were infected with parasites. Six horses had to be euthanized on site. Thus, in late April, Animal Services officers acted with animal welfare organizations to remove the horses from the property and into caring facilities.
For the reader’s knowledge, here is a breakdown of a body condition score – for horses – and the “Minimum Standards of Care” for equines in Maryland. A body condition score is essentially what it sounds like: an evaluation of the body and its condition. By evaluating eight parts of the horse – withers, hips, and ribs to name a few – a total score is put together and averaged. On a healthy horse, you won’t see their ribs or hips protruding from their bodies. Vice versa, you won’t look at a healthy horse and see nothing but a ball on legs. The body condition score runs from a 1 to a 9. One is essentially skin stretched over bones. By contrast, a nine is a ball of fat. Ideally, a healthy horse is right around a five.
The “Minimum Standards of Care” set for Maryland requires very basic things that any living being requires: space, water, food, air, and shelter. Water, shelter, and food are self-explanatory on this list. Space and air we might not think about so much; but what would you do if you couldn’t breathe fresh air every day? What if you were confined to your dorm room and had no space to move around in?
Local rescues include DEFHR, Lost and Found Horse Rescue, and Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue (no, these horses are not drafts, but there are so many that even a draft-specific rescue has taken a few). By DEFHR’s estimates alone, it will take $1 million to care for the horses for six months. Thanks to expert care, the horses are getting back on the right track, but they’re not out of the woods yet. Hopefully one day all of them will be adopted into the loving homes they deserve.