It was 30 years ago when Kathleen Howe first noticed Toby at a Maryland farm.
The malnourished horse was suffering from blatant neglect, having been seemingly abandoned by its owner. Not one to stand by and watch a horse suffer, Howe took action to adopt Toby, and she began to rehabilitate the horse in her 10-acre backyard.
Thanks to her care, Toby underwent a complete wellness transformation – and word got out about how Howe had saved the horse’s life.
Before long, calls began coming in for Howe to take in more and more horses, because, as Howe quickly learned, Toby was not a unique case. Throughout Maryland, hundreds of horses each year are seized by authorities in cases of extreme neglect or abuse – a statistic that has sadly not seen a drastic decrease since the fateful day that Howe met Toby 30 years ago.
Since that day, however, things have changed for the better for many of those horses, thanks to the rescue and rehabilitation services provided by the organization that Howe founded, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in December 2019: Days End Farm Horse Rescue.
To date, the 501(c)(3) non-profit rescue, based in Woodbine, Maryland, has saved more than 2,300 horses, all brought to the rescue as a result of court cases of abuse or neglect.
But improving equine health and wellness in Maryland and beyond is not DEFHR’s only mission. Days End – so named by Howe because the farm was her favorite place to be at each day’s end – is bringing together its neighbors from all walks of life in Carroll, Howard, and Frederick counties for the greater well-being of the area community as a whole, be it human or equine.
As Lauren Arianna Raskin, a ninth-grade volunteer at DEFHR wise beyond her years, wrote, “Perhaps the reason DEFHR is such an impressive place is that it unifies people, regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, or socioeconomic status.”
It’s something that Raskin has seen first-hand as one of the more than 1,100 volunteers who give a total of over 55,000 hours of service to DEFHR each year and as one of the several thousand participants in DEFHR’s educational and community outreach programs and offerings.
“DEFHR without the community would be like a school without students,” said DEFHR’s Outreach Director, Nicky Wetzelberger. “Because our community is so diverse and comes with such a wide variety of interests and talents, DEFHR can provide a wealth of opportunities.”
Among those opportunities are a renowned internship program, school field trips, Girl and Boy Scout troop visits, homeschool classes, corporate trainings, large animal rescue training, horse care clinics and education, and much more.
DEFHR hopes that through these programs, they can give back to the community and bring others together, all while continuing the outreach and education necessary to reach more horses and eliminate equine abuse and neglect in Maryland.
“We are a reflection of our community,” said Wetzelberger. “Every year we are increasing the number of people educated and creating new programs to reach even more people. Through our growth and inclusion of new programs like homeschool classes, summer camps, scout days, volunteer trainings, and new internships, we have been able to reach more people. With that, we also keep our core values and roots in what we do best and what we are passionate about helping more horses.”
And for many at DEFHR, including head trainer Sara Strauss, the hope is that, in helping horses, the area community will also find something that benefits themselves.
“It sounds cheesy, but it’s about the horses and the mission and getting to be a part of something that is beyond yourself,” said Strauss. “You want everyone to be able to experience that.” DEFHR.ORG