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."