Dozens of horses on road to recovery after suffering from neglect

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Dozens of horses have a new lease on life, just four months after police say they were found suffering from neglect and deprived of proper sustenance in Washington County.

13 Investigates went to visit the horses at their new home to get a first-hand look at their road to recovery.

After all the horses were seized, one had to be put down. Sixteen were adopted and living at a new facility. The other 14 are staying at a farm in Fort Ann.

The horses are making great strides and many of them are ready for the next step.

“Everything’s good. We went from a horrible situation to a really good situation,” said Lauren Schmitz, who owns the Fort Ann farm.

When the horses were first seized from a property in Washington County, you could see their bones, bruises, and the scars they will live with forever.

The 31 horses were taken away from the original owner, Wendy Murphy. She was charged with 31 counts of overdriving, torturing and injuring animals.

“I did it for the horses,” Schmitz said.

While Schmitz helps care for the horses, Ed Holland owns them and works for animal control.

Holland said he was there the day the horses were seized from that property in Washington County.

“Most of the time, I’d wish I just come in, and they’ll all be better, but it’s not that,” he said. However, he can’t talk about the specifics of the case.

Both Holland and Schmitz have been documenting the horses’ recovery process since they were first dropped off in September.

“They came here when there was grass. They looked at it like, ‘Oh my, God we get to live here?!’ They were so happy!” Schmitz said.

Bringing these horses back to good health takes a lot of work, and some of them still need more time to heal.

Schmitz said they’ve spent roughly $30,000 on food and vet bills.

“Thirty-one horses to feed are extraordinarily expensive,” she said. “Not to mention their feet, wormers and grain because they were so starved to death. You can’t just feed them hay. They have to get high protein, alfalfa pellets, they have to have high-fat grain that’s of good quality.”

However, Wendy Murphy said she got the animals in bad shape.

Murphy previously told 13 Investigates the horses came from kill farms; nearly starved to death. Murphy said she was slowly bringing them back to health.

“I think it’s important that it seems these horses are continuing their path to recovery, that Wendy Murphy started when she first received the horses,” Tucker Stanclift said, Murphy’s lawyer.

Murphy is fighting her battle in court. Stanclift said she is being indicted. He said, from Murphy’s perspective, she’s being robbed.

“The government swooping in here, taking these horses from here and Ed Holland is government-sanctioned robbery in her mind.”

Schmitz and Holland said many of these horses are ready to be adopted. You will need to be vetted.

If you’re interested in adopting them, contact Ed Holland at (518) 879-0825.

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Morgan O’Brien, an ambulatory veterinarian with Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Saratoga Springs, is the doctor for those 31 horses once they went to a new home in Fort Ann.

She says the horses were underweight. There were a lot of skin and hoof infections from standing in deep mud and manure, and many wounds from fighting over food in small enclosures.

O’Brien was at the farm every other day for several hours, treating the horses to get them on the right track.

At that stage, the horses have a delicate digestive system. O’Brien said it’s a slow process to feed them and build them back up.

“You can tell they’re just kind of like down. Their whole personality. You look in their eyes, and it’s kind of like sad,” she said. “It takes three to four months, at least, just to get them up to a healthy weight again.”

When O’Brien visits, which is not as often, she says the horses have completely changed. The horses have a new and positive attitude.

13 Investigates also spoke to a veterinarian that has no connection to this case. John Kimmel said the horses were in a state of malnutrition, after looking at photos of what they used to look like. Once he saw their current state, Kimmel agreed they were in much better conditions.

“Those horses have been taken care of and given food and shelter and some form of care. They look to be in a much better nutritional state. Their weight looked better. One of the most obvious signs of malnutrition is the appearance of the spine and the back and the appearance of the ribs,” Kimmel said. “In the newest pictures, those horses look like they’ve put on a lot of weight. Their ribs and their backbones are not showing.”