Canterbury Farms near Maryland’s Eastern Shore is the nation’s largest breeder of Polish Arabian stallions, a place where horses “feel at home,” according to its Web site, and where a walk among the paddocks “will leave you with the feeling that you are visiting puppies in horse clothing.”
But when investigators from Queen Anne’s County arrived two weeks ago, the scene was hardly so genteel: Many of the farm’s 146 pure breeds were emaciated, including more than a dozen that each were 300 pounds underweight, officials said. Their hooves were overgrown and infected, and some of the animals had parasites.
Six horses were euthanized and seven more seized by the county; the farm’s owner was ordered to improve the care of the remaining animals, said David MacGlashan, director of the Queen Anne’s animal services department.
On Friday afternoon, however, county officials, with the help of animal rights activists, returned to the farm and seized the remaining horses in one of the state’s largest horse-impound operations.
The horses were scheduled to be taken by the Days End Farm Horse Rescue group and the Humane Society of the United States to paddocks in Hagerstown and other foster farms, where they will be fed and given veterinary care, MacGlashan said.
“We’ve been monitoring these horses over the last six months, and our assessment is that they really just took a turn for the worse,” he said. “They looked bad, and it really mushroomed and went downhill really fast.”
Polish Arabians are a popular breed among equestrians, and top-level pure breeds can sell for up to $30,000 apiece, according to Days End Farm.
MacGlashan said the Canterbury Farms owner, whom he did not identify, was a longtime breeder who had fallen on hard times and could not continue to care for the animals. Food alone could cost up to $10,000 a month for that many horses, MacGlashan estimated. Polish Arabians can weigh up to 1,200 pounds.
County land records list Marsha H. Parkinson, 66, as owner of Canterbury Farms, located on a 202-acre plot, including an 80-acre pasture, on Melfield Lane in Centreville, Md. Parkinson did not return a telephone message left at her home Friday afternoon.
Real estate Web sites show that Parkinson purchased Canterbury Farms in 2001 for about $1.5 million and placed the property back on the market in January 2008 for $6.2 million. The property was not sold, and the price was reduced to $4.2 million by 2010. It is currently delisted.
MacGlashan said the farm’s owner voluntarily turned over the 13 horses two weeks ago. The owner has 10 days to contest the county’s action in court. The state’s attorney’s office is considering bringing criminal charges against the owner for neglect, MacGlashan said.
“This is just someone who has got a really big operation and, when things went downhill, did not have people to help or resources to fall back on,” he said.
Marci D’Alessio, a board member for the nonprofit Days End Farm, said the seven horses removed from Canterbury Farms two weeks ago were so emaciated that rescue workers could “see their spine and rib cage.” The animals are being fed five to six small meals a day as they are nursed back to full strength.
The rescue center estimates it will cost $1 million to care for the malnourished horses for six months, and it is seeking donations to pay the bills and volunteers to help with the rehabilitation, D’Alessio said.
Donors can send contributions to Days End Farm Horse Rescue, ATTN: Arabian Rescue, P.O. Box 309, Lisbon, MD 21765 or through the Web site at www.defhr.org.