Equine rescue group gives area horses another chance

By Lynn R. Parks

Judge Marquista may be the great-granddaughter of Secretariat, one of the world's greatest Thoroughbred racehorses. But her life has been anything but easy.

The 11-year-old mare, nicknamed Marki, used to run races; her lifetime winnings were in the six figures. But something happened so that the Thoroughbred was no longer worth anything to those who owned her. She was sent to a slaughterhouse in New Holland, Pa.

There, she was purchased by a horse rescue organization that works with Changing Fates Equine Rescue. She came to Changing Fates' farm near Laurel to live.

Eventually, she was adopted out to a family with two other horses. When Changing Fates founder and president, Karen Speake, made one of her regular visits to the adoptees' home, everything was fine. But when she made a subsequent visit, she found that the family had moved, leaving behind Marki and her two pen mates.

"We figure that the horses went two months without food," Speake said. "When we found Marki, she was emaciated." A picture of the horse on the Changing Fates website bears that out: every one of Marki's ribs shows and her backbone and pelvic bone make sharp juts along her back.

Today, Marki is back at Changing Fates. She has gained weight and on a cool late-fall evening was happy to stop eating her hay, at least for a short time, to greet Speake and Changing Fates volunteers Rebecca West and Robin Weinkam.

"She would be dead if it weren't for us," said West, volunteer coordinator. "In fact, all of our horses would be dead without us. We believe that it's an ethical choice to save animals."

Speake, of Laurel, started Changing Fates in 2005. "There was a great need for something like this," she said. "People were stopping by my farm all the time, asking me to take their horses. I couldn't take them all."

The organization, with an annual budget of about $46,000, leases an 8-acre farm on West Elliott's Dam Road east of Laurel. There, it keeps eight horses in neatly-fenced paddocks, two horses per paddock. Sharing Marki's space are Sandy, a 9-year-old mare, and, at least when he hasn't climbed through the fence to get to greener grasses, Clark, a goat with just one horn and a propensity to stand on his front knees rather than on his feet. About 20 other horses that Changing Fates has rescued are kept in foster care. In its history, the organization has taken in about 100 horses.

Soon, Changing Fates will be moving: With the help of a $135,000 grant from the Longwood Foundation and a $15,000 donation from a private individual, the organization has purchased 32 acres on Chipman's Pond Road, once part of Lowes Campground. Settlement is expected in about a week and then volunteers will start preparing the farm to be a home for horses. Speake expects that Changing Fates will be able to accommodate 25 horses, including Marki, at the new farm.

If necessary, the organization will still put horses in foster care.

West said that Changing Fates' goal is to find a home for each horse that it takes in. As a condition of adopting a horse, the family agrees to quarterly visits by Speake, who makes sure that the horse is getting proper treatment. The adoptive family also agrees never to sell the animal and, if they need to get rid of the horse, to return it to Changing Fates.

"Adopting one of our horses is a lifetime commitment," Speake said.

In return, Changing Fates will provide all of the shots that the adopted horse needs. In addition, volunteers will help out with any problems that the new owner might encounter. "We are always on call," Speake said. "If there's a problem, we will help get them through it."

Maria Glenn, who lives near Delmar, became acquainted with Changing Fates a couple of years ago, when she started volunteering there three mornings a week. She knew that one day, she would adopt a horse and was preparing her 15-acre farm for that eventuality.

And then, Trigger and Ashes became new residents at Changing Fates. Miniature horses that had been together since Ashes was 2-years-old and Trigger was just a foal, they were irresistible, Glenn said.

"They came into the rescue and I just fell in love with them," she said.

Glenn adopted the two horses in August 2011. Changing Fates kept them at the Elliotts Dam Road farm for about six weeks while Glenn put up fences and shelters that Trigger and Ashes would need.

"Now, they are my family," Glenn said. "When I go outside and walk toward their field, they immediately start talking to me. They will be here throughout their lives."

West said that organizers with Changing Fates work hard to match horses with good adoptive families. "We always want to do what's in the best interest of the horse," she said.

West, who also teaches special education at Phillis Wheatley Middle School in Bridgeville, part of the Woodbridge School District, said that helping the rescued horses at Changing Fates is a wonderful experience.

"If you work with them, you can tell how forgiving they are, once they know that what you are doing is in the best interest of the horse," she said. "Taking care of them is a lot of work, but then again it's not really work if you love horses."

For your information Details about Changing Fates Equine Rescue can be found on its website, www.changingfates.rescuegroups.org. Also on the website is an application to be a volunteer for the group. To arrange to make a donation of feed, equipment or money, call founder and board president Karen Speake, 344-2002.

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