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Woodsboro horse lover reaches out
 to neglected

Jeremy Hauck
The Gazette

Lauren Otto has rescued several horses including her quarter horse Kiffy who lives at Dunindidit Farm in Woodsboro.
(photo by Bill Ryan⁄The Gazette)


(2/15) Lauren Otto, 47, of Woodsboro hasn’t taken a vacation for about eight years.

She and her husband, Al, 50, spend their evenings in the stable ‘‘mucking" – cleaning up after and taking care of their six horses. And by the time they get into the house, at about 8:30 p.m., Otto said she is beat.

That’s life at Dunindidit Farm.

Otto did find time recently to organize an emergency food drive for dozens of severely neglected horses in that the Humane Society of Washington County discovered in December.

‘‘I wanted to do something to help," said Otto, who works in marketing. She and two women from Baltimore County lead a ‘‘hay caravan" to deliver 400 bales to the starved horses whose digestive systems were too weak to handle grain food.

The humane society discovered the horses on a 35-acre farm near Sharpsburg in December after receiving a call from someone who saw a dead horse, according to Katherine Cooker, manager of development and community relations with the Humane Society of Washington County.

The horses’ owner was scheduled to appear in court on 72 charges of abuse or neglect of an animal and four charges of aggravated cruelty to animals on Feb. 22, but that hearing has been postponed, according to Cooker.

In the meantime, Otto said, the humane society is running out of hay to feed the horses. So Otto and the two Baltimore County women she met through ‘‘equestrian community" e-mail lists are setting aside hundreds of dollars and many hours of work to ship 400 bales of hay to the animals.

‘‘The humane society is calling us ‘hay angels,’" Otto said.

This comes at a time when a bale is twice as expensive as it was in the late summer, she said, and everyone seems to be running low.

‘‘Hay is at a premium," she said. ‘‘It just wasn’t a great hay season."

Aside from posting fliers at local feed stores asking for hay donations, Otto has also been looking for barn space in Frederick County, because some of the Sharpsburg horses are pregnant, she said.

‘‘At some point, we’re going to need people to open up their barns and maybe volunteer to take a mare in," Otto said.

The Ottos’ own horses – four American Quarter Horses and two giant, Percheron draft horses – roam the corral on the Ottos’ windswept property just southeast of Woodsboro.

Only one of the horses, Talking Some Ship, gets to wear a coat in the cold, though.

‘‘He’s very spoiled," Otto says. The 6-year-old Quarter Horse, nicknamed Kiffy, is the one she takes to shows. ‘‘He is such a pig," she says, shoving the horse aside to throw a flake of hay into a trough hanging in the corner.

Kiffy ignores the food and looks out through the window of his stall, as Otto, on a day when temperatures are well below freezing, uses a blow dryer to thaw out the water well in the stable.

Outside, the other five horses mingle near the fence. ‘‘Horses are very social," Otto says.

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