A little horse benefits from owner's very big heart

Pausing with pets

October 02, 1991|By Ellen Hawks | Ellen Hawks,Evening Sun Staff

THE HELP AND concern that Judy Reinke gives people and animals would exhaust most.

The 41-year-old Carroll County woman saves horses from slaughter, finds them a home or gives them one herself. With her miniature horse, she visits and brings gifts to as many as 3,000 residents in nine nursing homes. And on bitter winter nights, she and friends set up a soup kitchen in a truck on the streets of Baltimore or Washington and hand out soup, goodies and clothing.

For eight years Reinke and her horse, Ralph, visited nursing homes. That is until Ralph died Sept. 2. He was ''somewhere between the age of 30 and 35. I'll never know because he was more than 20 when I got him in 1974,'' she says. Now she is grooming another miniature horse named Ralfett, who is as gentle and easy to manage as Ralph was, she says.

Reinke's visits to nursing homes began in 1983, when her friend Bea Reynolds, director of nursing at Cherrywood Manor Extended Care Center in Reisterstown, planned a Preakness picnic for the residents and asked Reinke to bring Ralph.

''A miniature horse dressed as a jockey makes a big hit at a nursing home Preakness picnic,'' says Reynolds, who visits other nursing homes with Reinke.

At the picnic, Reinke noticed residents who were looking out of the windows but were not well enough to join the others outside. ''So, I just walked inside with Ralph, and we went up on the elevator and visited everyone. He went in each room and stood as he got a pat. He loved it. And, oh my, did they,'' Reinke says.

Ralph and Ralfett were throwaway horses. Their owners wanted to get rid of their stock, and Reinke had to take all or nothing. ''I found homes for those who would have gone to slaughter and I kept Ralph and Ralfett,'' says Reinke.

She and her husband, Steve Nefferdorf, a roofer, have two farms -- one in Carroll County, near Westminster, and one in Howard County -- on which they keep 136 horses, a crippled goat, three dogs and nine cats.

Both farms are called Misty Manor. The couple lives in Carroll County, while the horses are boarded in Howard County, where Reinke teaches riding. The couple has a 3-year-old son, Adam, and Reinke has a 19-year-old daughter, Niki, by her first marriage.

Reinke and Reynolds, with some help from Adam, are getting Ralfett accustomed to Ralph's old job and wardrobe, including a Santa Claus suit, an Easter outfit, a blue coat for Hanukkah with a menorah on each side, and the jockey suit Ralph wore for the Preakness picnic. Ralfett is also being introduced to new people and new situations, though he has yet to ride an elevator. ''She'll do just fine,'' Reinke says.

Reinke and friends are holding their annual Play Day fund-raiser for the homeless and nursing home residents on Oct. 12 from 11 a.m. to dark at the couple's Howard County farm, at 4994 Sheppard Lane off Route 108 West in Clarksville. Games, contests, food and riding competitions will be available. Riders

can bring their own horses and compete for $25 or they can rent a horse from Reinke and pay $50 to compete. Otherwise, admission is free. Donations of gifts will be very welcome.

''We would particularly like warm socks for the homeless and baby dolls for nursing home residents. On our first visit with gifts we had a few dolls and were very surprised at how many -- men and women -- came back with the gifts we had given them asking if they could exchange it for a doll,'' Reynolds says.

For information about Play Day, call Reinke at 781-4810 or 988-9035.

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