ELLSWORTH — All 18 horses seized from an Antrim County horse farm are seriously malnourished, and at least one mare is fighting for her life after chronic neglect, a leader of a horse rescue group said.
“None of them are in great shape,” said Jodi Louth, rescue coordinator with the Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition. “There is one mare who is not in good shape at all. She may or may not make it.
“It is very difficult for her to move around,” Louth said. “She’d been in a stall for a long time. There were three to four horses that had been stalled with no turnout.”
Antrim County sheriff's deputies on Thursday arrested the animals' owners,Timothy Eugene Allen, 56, and Tracey Lee Buzzell, 50, on charges of felony animal abandonment and cruelty. The horse breeders were housed at the Antrim County Detention Center Friday, awaiting arraignment.
Allen and Buzzell are breeders of Avalondale Egyptian Arabian horses at a small farm on Toad Lake Road in Ellsworth. Their website describes the operation as “able to create the tradition of breeding horses that meet the needs of the rider in a variety of disciplines.”
“Tim is the trainer and handler of the horses of Avalondales,” the website states. “His philosophy is patience and persistence. His goal is to have our sale horses ready for the next phase of their career.
“Tracy is owner/manager and bloodline specialist for the farm,” the website states. "My goal is to breed horses that are people friendly and meet the needs of the rider.”
The farm charges for stud fees with names like SA Shaikh Al Sakr and Jamil El Kebir. The farm also charges for on-farm leases, lessons and training.
Antrim Sheriff Daniel Bean said the investigation and arrests occurred without incident. The inquiry began after a woman who'd previously worked with the horses visited the farm and was alarmed at the animals' condition, prompting a call to authorities.
The sheriff said the horses range in age from 22 months to 22 years old.
"We have to do due diligence, whether it’s people or animals,” Bean said. “A few might not make it. They are not stabilized and they may have gone over that edge."
The horses are now housed at a farm in Frederic, Louth said, and will be treated by a veterinarian for the purpose of restoring long-term health. Louth said her group is seeing a huge increase in rescues this year because of a prolific hay shortage over the winter, combined with a dramatic spike in feed prices.
The shortage and price increase are attributable to last year’s extensive drought.
"It doesn’t happen overnight," Louth said of horse neglect. "Every single (rescue) we have been involved in, it involves breeders. People have got to be more responsible owners. If you cannot afford to feed the animals in your care, do not bring more animals into the world.”
Bean said horse owners who struggle with feeding their stock should ask for help either from animal control officials, authorities or a variety of horse rescue groups. Oftentimes a simple call can help stave off criminal charges.
“Instead of calling and saying, 'I need help,’ people get scared that they are going to get in trouble,” Bean said. “But we may be able to get people involved in rescue.”