WOODBINE, Md. — Take a drive out to western Howard County and you'll see farm land stretch for miles into the horizon.
Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Woodbine is nestled among these farms, with dozens of horses grazing in the fields or hanging out in the barns.
All of the horses have a story and many of them are heartbreaking, like the story of a small herd of miniature horses that came to the farm two months ago. They had a number of health issues including parasites, hoof and dental neglect and malnourishment, said De Ette Hillman, the equine programs director at the farm. One of mini's, Arlo, could barely stand.
The team at Days End Farm worked around the clock to get Arlo and the other mini's back up to good health.
"They've all progressed through that more scary, dangerous side of reintroducing food, so now they're all up to their maximum levels," said Hillman. "Now it's just their bodies doing what they need to do to get back into condition."
This is just one example of the rehabilitation work being done at Days End Farm and just a few of the abused and neglected horses that are treated every year.
Each year the farm takes in about 160 horses, said Caroline Robertson Herman, the development director at Days End Farm. This year marks their 30th anniversary in helping to rescue and rehabilitate equines.
"When a horse comes to Days End Farm, it's quite a dire situation," she said. "They come in essentially as living evidence in a court case."
Days End Farm teams up with law enforcement and animal control groups from around the state to take in horses that are part of abuse cases. It's a service they offer for free.
"So not only are we needing to understand what we need to do to help the horse heal, but we also need to document the conditions to continue on the support of the criminal case," said Hillman.
Horses come to the farm with a variety of critical health problems. Some of the worst cases have been horses with hooves so long they curl upward into what's called a "slipper hoof." Others are so weak they need a lift just to stand to get into a stall.
But no matter how bad of shape a horse is in, the staff at Days End Farm gives each one a fighting chance to survive.
"They're so good at what they do that when the horses come in the state that they do, you just know that there is such a high chance that they're going to make it and look amazing," said Herman.
The courts will eventually sign ownership over to Days End Farm, allowing them to do what's necessary to adopt out the horse. Herman says the farm has a 94% rehabilitation rate and a 96% adoption rate.
And they couldn't do what they do without an army of volunteers.
"This is where it's at for horse rescue. These people are the absolute top," said Patricia Ceppos, who has volunteered at the farm for two years.
Ceppos said one of the hardest parts of the work is also the most motivating.
"They come in and look like walking skeletons, some of them need assistance to get to the stall," she said. "You immediately look at it and you're horrified, and you're like 'Ok, we have work to do.'"
When they're not saving horses, the staff is educating the public about animal abuse and welfare. They host workshops for people of all ages and employ a miniature horse named Vinni the Mini, who came in as a neglect case in 2018, to make special trips outside the farm to places like schools and nursing homes.
The staff and volunteers believe the more they can educate people about animal welfare, the fewer cases of abuse they will see.
"We want to work ourselves out of a job, we want to prevent this from having to happen," said Hillman. "That keeps us focus, keeps us passionate and keeps us working harder to broaden our impact and help more horses."
Days End Farm is hosting a fall festival on September 27 and 28 to celebrate its 30th anniversary and raise money for its rescue and rehabilitation efforts. For details about the festival, click here.