MOUNT AIRY — Every visitor to Day's End Farm Horse Rescue has to be introduced toToby.
"He's the one who started all this," says Kathy Schwartz about the rangy buckskin gelding.
Toby was Schwartz's first rescue project. Looking at his "before"pictures in the Day's End photo album, it's hard to recognize the 22-year-old quarter horse. Before he was rescued by Schwartz, his ribs were prominent, he had no muscle tone, his coat was dull and his eyeshad a vacant expression.
These days, he looks as if he's never missed a meal and his expression is one of curiosity.
"We use him inthe lesson program," Schwartz says. "He's wonderful with little kids, and he is a great trail horse."
Schwartz says she was surprised at how many horses are neglected, abused or just suffering under ignorant and misinformed owners.
"We basically see two different situations," she explains. "There are the people who really just don't know any better. They were told that ponies eat grass, so they think that is all the ponies need.
"Then there are the people who know better, but are just trying to cut costs to the minimum or below what it really takes to keep horses healthy."
Schwartz says people should know that every horse and pony has different needs and must be evaluated individually.
Part of the Day's End mission is to educate horse owners and potential owners, by providing classes on horse health and care.
Volunteers help with the classes and barn chores and "with everything else that has to be done around here," says Schwartz.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, volunteers Sarah Rollek and Ellie Barnes, both of Howard County, joined Schwartz and Day's End Executive Director Linda Tansill in rounding up and feeding the 35 horses and ponies at the farm.
"Everything is so humane here," says Barnes, a veteran horse owner who recently adopted Tank, an 8-month-old who came to Day's End when he was just a month old. "Each horse is treated as an individual and as a friend. Believe me, all the volunteers get far more than they give when they come here."
Rollek, a high schoolstudent, came to Day's End after reading about the rescue operation.She has been accepted to Virginia Tech to study animal science and hopes to become a vet.
"When I first came here, I knew I wanted to be a vet, but I thought I would specialize in farm animals such as cows and swine. But my experience here has made me interested in horses," she said.
When Schwartz got involved with animal rescue, she realized it would be a major commitment. Fortunately, she has had the support of her family: husband, Allan, daughters Dawn, 21, and Jennifer, 9, and sons A.J., 20, and Shawn, 10.
"Shawn and Jennifer are both big helps around the barn and both are becoming very good riders,"says Schwartz. "Dawn and A.J. keep everything in the house together so that I can devote my time to the horses and the barn."
Schwartz's husband, who owns A & A Appliance Co. in Washington, willingly takes all-night barn duty when a sick or injured horse needs care.
Schwartz said she hopes Day's End will be certified as a non-profit group. Riding and horse-care classes will begin at the farm April 1.
TWO HORSES ARE UP FOR ADOPTION
Day's End Farm Horse Rescue Inc. welcomes membership ($10 to $500) and donations.
The farm, which offers horses for adoption, regularly puts out a list of available horses. Here are two recent entries, printed verbatim:
* Timmy: He is a 17-year-old horse. Of what denomination we are unsure. He has an interesting personality and can read people like a book. Beginners on a trail ride do fine, but he will try the patience of anyone with any training. We are asking a donation of $150 for Timmy.
* Mercy: She is a Morgan/quarter horse cross pony with a very ornery disposition. She is well trained but can at times be very stubborn. She is an easy keeper, she maintains fine on grass in summerand hay in the winter. Grain makes her stupid. We are asking a donation of $300 for Mercy.