Young trainers, farms come to aid of animals saved from ‘absolutely inhumane’ conditions
PRINCESS ANNE, Md. — There are many great stories about survival against the odds. Sometimes it is people who persevere through unimaginable misfortune and hardship and triumph despite overwhelming challenges. Their stories fill us with awe and respect.
At other times, it is animals that suffer setbacks and a few dedicated people step forward to nurse them back to health and nurture them to a strong future. These people also inspire admiration.
This is a story of the second type. It is about people near and far who went to extraordinary lengths to give horses a shot at a normal life.
In March 2018, more than 100 horses were rescued from terrible neglect on a Quantico, Md., farm. The sheriff who led the seizure said the starving, feral animals were held in “absolutely inhumane” conditions. More than two dozen horses were found dead at the site.
Few of the survivors had ever felt a soothing touch or taken a carrot from a friendly hand. Many were close to death and all had suffered severe neglect.
Following their liberation, many animal rescue organizations and dozens of individual volunteers nursed the animals back to health. They trained the wild horses so they could be successfully adopted. Those individuals were as close as Princess Anne and Mechanicsville, Md., and as distant as Morgantown, Ky.
Cindy Sharpley, founder of Last Chance Animal Rescue in Waldorf, Md., said her organization initially accepted 29 of the rescued horses including 19 stallions; that number increased to 35 when pregnant mares had their foals. Ultimately, transfers from other farms increased LCAR’s herd to 44.
Sharpley noted that LCAR had not been a horse rescue organization.
“We don’t do horses. We do dogs and cats. But we had just purchased a farm [El Dorado Farm, Mechanicsville, Md.] to train dogs for veterans. It was a big farm, but we didn’t have anything. A whole lot of people pitched in. Freedom Hill Horse Rescue [of Owings, Md.] was a godsend.”
Sharpley called “almost every horse rescue in the United States and there was one group that helped me. Everybody else just blew me off.”
The Maryland Fund for Horses, which Sharply described as “a small but very effective group of women” stepped up. MFFH raised money to geld the 19 Wicomico stallions.
In 2018 and 2019, LCAR, MFFH and Nutrena Horse Feed joined forces to host Appy Fest, so named because many of the rescued Quantico horses were Appaloosas. The event was part horse show, part competition and part adoption event.
“It was a trainer’s challenge,” explained Sharpley. “They take these horses and just work miracles with them.”
The grand champion of the first Appy Fest was Christian Embry, now 14 years old, of Morgantown, Ky.
“He took the whole thing, even over the professional adult trainers,” recalled his mother Sarah, proudly.
When the Embrys returned to Kentucky, they took four more Quantico horses with them. “The boys really had their hands full,” Sarah said.
Within three months, in addition to teaching the horses the basics of being handled and ridden, the boys taught two of the horses to pull a carriage. All four competed in Appy Fest 2019 when Christian’s brother D. J., 13, took champion the first day and reserve champion the next.
“It opened up a whole new opportunity for both my boys as trainers,” Sarah said.
Six more rescued Quantico horses accompanied the boys home in 2019. “Both boys are very serious advocates for rescue horses and they wanted these horses to have a chance for a better future,” said Sarah. Both have been rehabilitating horses since they were 8 and 9 years old.
The brothers earned Sharpley’s praise. “They’re amazing,” she said admiringly, “They really know how to treat their horses.”
D.J. and Christian are the subject of a GoFundMe drive (https://www.gofundme.com/f/yc9bxn-deserving-kids) initiated by Stephanie DuBrel of Princess Anne, Md., who witnessed their training abilities at Appy Fest.
She noted the outstanding job the boys have done with the Quantico horses “at their own expense and responsibility. I would like to give back to these two fine children,” she said.
DuBrel, whose father bred and raced standardbreds, was present during the Quantico farm seizure and initially cared for 14 of the rescued horses. She took two for training “that very quickly became three,” she said when pregnant mare Raine gave birth to Prince.
Prince is getting used to humans through the work of DuBrel’s niece, Amanda Blackford, 17, who “single handedly” rounded up some of the horses during the seizure in Quantico; She said Blackford hopes to become a veterinarian. She also was the first girl to play football – as wide receiver and safety – for Washington High School in Princess Anne where she is a junior.
Prince is a magnificent year-old colt with strong Appaloosa markings. In Blackford’s hands, he is alert, well-fed and gentle. Prince has never known the neglect and hunger suffered by his dam and her companions at the Quantico farm.