Abandoned horses rescued from Nelson Co. boarding farm; owner missing
Tuesday, September 13th 2016, 6:43 pm EDT
MT. WASHINGTON, KY (WAVE) - He snorts loudly. Often. Mugs for the camera. The perfect thoroughbred to train as a barrel racer and as a companion to her prime mount, Bozo.
But Meaghan Metzmeier hadn't counted on worms, or that the 9-year-old she renamed Chance would be so malnourished that his ribs showed.
"His niece was calling and pretty much begging me to take him," Metzmeier told WAVE 3 News on Tuesday.
Metzmeier, and fellow competitor Christy DeWitt Summitt, first encountered Chance and 15-year-old thoroughbred Winston among fourteen mares, stallions and foals boarded in stables off of Nelsonville Road near Boston the Wednesday before Labor Day. Their owner, Donnie Hairns Bentley Jr., was nowhere to be found.
"Each mare sat there and drank four buckets of water," Metzmeier said.
"Their stalls were built up, like two feet high of mud and manure," Summitt said. "They were almost hitting their heads on the (barn) ceilings."
She believes that's to blame for the abscess to Winston's left front hoof; its bandage was held in place with duct tape. He's kept mostly to himself among the eight horses and ponies Summitt is rehabilitating at Little Haven, her farm in Bloomfield.
"(Winston) took two hours to load, because everybody out there was scaring the crap out of him," Summitt said.
Racing as Western Kind, Winston earned $101,947 in a two-year racing career with six wins, Summitt told us. Standing at 17 hands, he's about 400 pounds below racing weight.
She'd been told he was aggressive, bucking his riders and chasing other mounts on the track. "He acts like he's been hit, but clearly he's not been taken care of either."
Summitt and Metzmeier know less of what to make of Donnie Bentley.
"He used to take good care of his horses," Summitt said. "They had racehorses and everything's gone downhill, so I'd say he needs some help."
"He should be put in jail and shouldn't own animals," Metzmeier added.
Bentley's run-ins with the law go back twenty years, according to the Bullitt County Circuit Court. They include a State Police arrest in 2014 for driving under the influence with an open container of alcohol, a guilty plea in 2008 to receiving stolen property and theft, and a conviction for public intoxication in 2007.
"He'd been here more than a year and hadn't paid any rent," said James Girdley, owner of the farm where Bentley had boarded Chance, Winston and at least ten more thoroughbreds or saddlebreds. WAVE 3 News found only a mare and her foal there Tuesday. Girdley said both belonged to his brother.
"(Bentley) was supposed to take care of them. He didn't," Girdley explained. "That's another reason he's gone."
Where Bentley is now isn't clear. Girdley, Metzmeier and Summitt all say Bentley left no forwarding address or cell phone number.
Prior to Tuesday, nobody had reported concerns about Bentley's horses to the Kentucky Equine Health & Welfare Council, a Division of the Department of Agriculture created in 2010 to promote research and the development Certified Rescue & Retirement Centers for former racers and horses rescued from suspected abuse and neglect.
"We very much want to know about this," state veterinarian Dr. Bradley Keough told WAVE 3 News last week. "We'd like some answers too."
Mercer Co. Sheriff investigating possible animal neglect case at thoroughbred farm
Thu 9:46 PM, Jun 02, 2016
MERCER COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - The Mercer County Sheriff says his office is investigating a possible case of animal cruelty. He says some thoroughbreds recently brought to a farm may have been neglected.Sheriff Ernie Kelty says either he or one of his deputies has gone out to the farm on Martin Lane to check on the horses every day since they found about them earlier this week.
"Animals can't take care of themselves," Sheriff Kelty said. "They have to be taken care of. That's why we have to make sure it gets done."
Kelty says the horses are being taken care of now that they are at the farm on Martin Lane. Investigators are trying to figure out where they were before that, and why someone there was not taking care of them.
"There are horses out there that we took photographs of that I'm not going to say are in immediate danger, but I'm not an expert," Kelty said. "But there's horses out there definitely in need of care."
Kelty says 40 horses are on the property, although some are not involved in the investigation, he said. He was unable to provide a number that might be involved.He says they believe the thoroughbred horses have been at the farm for two to three weeks, and the man who is leasing the farm has hired two people to take care of the horses there.
Sheriff Kelty said the man leasing the farm is cooperating with the investigation. WKYT has chosen not to release the man's name because he has not been charged.
Sheriff Kelty said he is working with a state agriculture official about the possible neglect of the horses. He met with that official on Thursday afternoon.
He says the state is getting involved partly because of the sheer number of horses, and partly because where the horses came from may end up being outside Mercer County, and therefore outside his office's jurisdiction.
Regardless of who leads the investigation, Sheriff Kelty said the important thing is that the horses are now being taken care of, and he says investigators will get to the bottom of all this.
"This definitely is serious to us," he said. "We've let everybody that's involved know that this is very serious to us and that we're going to do anything and everything we can to gather all the facts and make sure those horses are taken care of."
Kelty said the investigation is ongoing as they try to track down who was responsible for taking care of the horses.
One neighbor told WKYT's Garrett Wymer that this was the first he had heard of the investigation, but that he saw a couple trucks with trailers pull into the farm a couple of weeks ago. But, he added, that is not out of the ordinary around there.