At the Day's End Farm Horse Rescue on a breezy spring day, a brown and white pony circled around and around an outdoor pen. The pony was a new arrival, a stray that had been brought to the farm because it didn't seem to have an owner.
At Day's End, the rescued horses are named in alphabetical order, starting with A at the beginning of the year. By March, it was time to give this pony a name starting with the letter N. Christine Ericksen, one of about 15 staff members, suggested the name Nemo, since the pony, like Nemo the fish in the movie Finding Nemo, had been separated from home.
Day's End, founded in 1989 by Kathy Schwartz-Howe, provides shelter and care to horses that have been neglected or mistreated. The operation, which typically cares for about 50 horses at a time, is getting ready to move from its 18-acre site in Woodbine to a 58-acre former cattle farm, less than a mile away.
Already, stalls and paddocks are being built at the new location. Office walls are being decorated with startling before-and-after pictures of horses, documenting their transformation from matted, emaciated creatures to animals that glow with health.
The official move will take place April 26, when a parade of horses, some in trailers and some walking, will move to their new home.
Meanwhile, Schwartz-Howe is working to raise money to establish and then run the more expensive property. A wine-tasting and silent auction are scheduled for tomorrow night at the Ten Oaks Ballroom in Clarksville. Tickets are $65 per person and can be purchased at the door.
Donations will also be accepted at the parade.
Schwartz-Howe said she started rescuing horses almost by accident, after seeing a thin horse at the stable where she and her son boarded horses of their own. The horse's owner didn't seem to care about the animal, Schwartz-Howe recalled, so "we would come up and take care of our horses and try to take care of that one, too."
Before long, she had convinced the owner to give her custody of the yellow-brown gelding with the dark mane and tail. She kept it on her 10-acre property and slowly nursed it back to health. "He was the nicest horse and just so willing to deal with whatever we were doing," she said.
She began helping other horses, and in December 1991, she set up a nonprofit organization, selling her home and moving to the 18-acre Woodbine property.
Money was so tight for Day's End Horse Farm Rescue Inc. that she didn't collect a salary until 1995, she said. When space was needed for administrative offices, she gave up her home and moved into a trailer on the property, she said. Over time, the budget grew from $50,000 to more than $600,000.
Schwartz-Howe also became deeply involved in the legal and logistic aspects of horse rescue. She is active with the Maryland Horse Council. She started MARES, the Maryland Association of Rescue Equine Societies, and she works to codify state laws about what constitutes abuse.
In January 2007, Day's End received national attention -- and an extra measure of work -- when it became the sanctuary for 74 severely neglected horses impounded by the Humane Society of Washington County.
Schwartz-Howe said the worst cases might stay at Day's End for nine months or so, but most of the horses are placed in less time than that.
She said most people who neglect horses simply don't realize how much work and expense these large animals require. Sometimes owners can't afford to feed their horses, she said. Most horses that come to Day's End are there because the abuse was reported to a humane society or animal control board.
In addition to rescuing horses, Day's End provides education in schools and to Scouts. There are tours of the farm and internship opportunities as well.
More than 500 youngsters like Caroline Eckstrom, 12, volunteer each year. Caroline, who lives in Gaithersburg, said she has been riding horses since she was 5, and volunteered so she can prove to her parents she can take care of a horse before she gets one of her own. She said she hopes to adopt one of the horses at Day's End.
As the enterprise continued to grow, Schwartz-Howe began looking for a larger plot of land. "We have been looking for a new property since 2004," she said. One requirement was that the new location be close to the old one, since "we didn't want to be too far from our base of support."
The 18-acre property was "always pretty full," said David Thomas, a horse trainer at Day's End who was digging holes for a fence on the new property recently. "It's a blessing that they're able to get a bigger place."
Day's End has an agreement to lease the 58-acre property for seven years, Schwartz-Howe said. After that, "we'll be buying it," she said. "There's no doubt in my mind."
To donate to Day's End Farm Horse Rescue, or to volunteer, visit www.defhr.org or call 301-854-5037 or 410-442-1564.