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Letter of Complaint describes neglect at Clinton's Fair Play Farm

Published: 2/14/2010
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This letter was submitted recently to Norma Worley, Director of Animal Welfare in the state's Department of Agriculture:

On February 2, 2010 as a result of searching horses for sale on the internet, I viewed several horses of interest to me on a website called, “Horseville.com.” I telephoned Fair Play Farm, which was offering horses for sale and spoke with Mr. Brett Ingraham.
I told him that I was looking for an older, calm horse that I intended to use occasionally as a pleasure horse. I let him know I had owned horses previously and wanted a quiet gelding or mare. During our conversation Mr. Ingraham was very friendly and openly encoura ged me to visit them and view horses that might be suitable for me. He asked me a number of questions about my criteria for a horse. I responded and he assured me that he and his wife, Alexis, had at least one horse that would be right for me because they owned approximately 70 horses at Fair Play Farm and two other properties, one of which was located in Burnham, Maine. We discussed the fact that I was familiar with Standardbreds and had owned several over my lifetime. He indicated that there were many Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds at Fair Play and offered that he bought many race horses from Florida and brought them to Maine for re-sale.
He told me that many people didn’t understand that race horses were shut up in their stalls all the time and were jumping with joy to be outside here in Maine. He also said that some people had complained about his horses being outside, but that those people didn’t understand that the horses liked it.

After conversing pleasantly for a few minutes, we agreed that I would travel to Fair Play Farm on Wednesday, February 3, 2010 and arrive at approximately 1:00p.m. He offered directions. I told him that any horse I might purchase would be subject to check and approval by my vet. He readily agreed and I offered that my veterinarian was with Maine Equine Associates. He professed not to know the practice.

On Wednesday, February 3, 2010 I traveled with two friends to Fair Play Farm and arrived at the agreed upon time. The view from the road as we approached the property was dismal. I could see perhaps fifteen or twenty horses, some wearing filthy horse blankets milling around in a mucky enclosure with large patches of ice. The view from the road as we approached the property was dismal. I could see perhaps fifteen or twenty horses, some wearing filthy horse blankets milling around in a mucky enclosure with large patches of ice. The horses that were not blanketed were obviously thin, despite their winter coats. Nearly all of the horses that I could see at that time appeared caked with mud; later, on closer inspection that caked appearance turned out to be hair matted with rain rot. I drove past the property not believing this could be the farm for which I was looking. As I passed by the property, I could see another group of perhaps twelve to fifteen horses to my left in front of a run-in type shed roof that was attached to what was later revealed to be an indoor riding arena.
Some of those horses were also blanketed, some were thin and matted, and one was lying down. The one lying down appeared dead; it was not. Later during the visit, I saw the horse up and eating moldy hay from a round bale in the enclosure. I learned later that all the horses in the “run-in” shelter were stallions.
Mr. Ingraham offered that his five year old child went in among the studs all the time and that they were very quiet. In fact, they did seem to be extremely quiet, particularly for studs in a group. It appeared to me that they were listless and depressed. The stallion group appeared to have better body conditions, in general, than the first group of horses that I saw.

I turned around and drove up to the mailbox where a woman who turned out to be Mrs. Ingraham was getting the mail. I put the window down, introduced myself and it was clear that she was expecting me. She greeted us pleasantly and indicated that I could park down by a truck in front of one end of the barn. After leaving my truck and going into the barn, we met both Mr. and Mrs. Ingraham inside. We began talking about my interests in a horse and they began showing us two different mares that they thought might be suitable. The first was a Standardbred mare in the first stall on the left as one entered the barn. The mare was excited and treading around in the stall, shaking her head, and was in poor body condition. By way of explanation about the horse’s agitated state, Mrs. Ingraham said the mare was very “herd bound” and had been brought in to be shown to me. She said nothing about the body condition or matted coat of the horse. We agreed the mare might be to “forward” for me and went on to meet the second mare (first stall on right when entering the barn) I was shown. This was a small grade quarter horse type bay mare with a white blaze on her forehead. She was very quiet and calm by contrast to the first. Mrs. Ingraham brought the mare out into the center aisle and put her on the crossties.

I was shocked by the mare’s condition. She was emaciated, with ribs, backbone, hipbones and tail head all visible through her extensive mats of rainrotted coat.I was shocked by the mare’s condition. She was emaciated, with ribs, backbone, hipbones and tail head all visible through her extensive mats of rainrotted coat. Her eyes had a clotted discharge that appeared to be conjunctivitis of some sort. She had both fresh and scabbed-over wounds over each eyelid. When I examined her mouth, I was shocked to see that her front teeth were broken. Her mouth looked dirty and sore. Remarkably, her legs were in good condition and her feet were not overly long or chipped. Mr. Ingraham offered that she might have gotten the cuts over her eyes during trailer transport. No obvious medical treatment had been administered to the wounds.

After being told that she was a sixteen year old mare who had received good training somewhere along the way and that the Ingraham had purchased her one week ago with a group of five other animals, I asked some additional questions about whether the mare had been ridden by either of them. Mrs. Ingraham assured me that she had ridden the mare and that the mare was sound, well-mannered, and had good gaits. She told me that she thought the mare had the disposition I was seeking and encouraged me to see the horse move in the indoor arena. She took the mare off the crossties, offered me a lead line and invited me to lead the mare to the arena. I did. Once inside, I led the mare around and watched her move. My friends also led the mare, Mr. Ingraham led the mare and we all watched her and praised her appearance and behavior. Then Mrs. Ingraham offered to ride the horse for me to see. She fastened the lead line to each side of the halter and mounted the mare bareback. Mrs. Ingraham walked and trotted the mare around the arena. Then one of my friends rode the mare, and then I also gently mounted and briefly rode the mare. I did not want to ride the mare at all, but felt it was necessary to do so in order to maintain some semblance of appropriate interaction with the owners. I felt so sorry for the horse that it was painful to get on her. I didn’t want to tax her in any way. I was afraid that she might collapse with the added weight of a person on her back.

Eventually we returned the mare to the barn and I inquired about the mare’s asking price. I was invited to make an offer. I retreated to the truck with my friends and agreed to buy the mare just to get her out of the dreadful situation. We agreed that we should try to observe the condition of the rest of the animals and so after discussing the situation with my companions, I feigned interest in looking at some others and not buying the first horse I saw. Somewhat reluctantly Mrs. Ingraham showed us around to the back of the barn to look at a paint mare that I had seen on the internet. I asked specifically if she had any geldings that I could look at and she replied that she did not. She offered that a mare would make a better mount for me and discouraged my interest in the paint mare saying the horse was young, not as trained as the bay mare and was too much for me to handle.

As we walked behind the barn one of my friends looked into a small open shed that was attached to the barn. In there she was able to view a small foal that was emaciated, an Appaloosa foal who was just bones covered with fur, shut up alone, without food or water.In there she was able to view a small foal that was emaciated, an Appaloosa foal who was just bones covered with fur, shut up alone, without food or water. We walked over to the pasture that we had first seen when approaching the property and on the left, lying on the ice-covered ground was a filthy, skeletal, tiny foal wearing a dirty blanket. At first I thought the animal was dead, then I saw its head move and it began mouthing at some moldy hay lying on the ice. One of my friends asked about the baby and Mrs. Ingraham said it was fine and was just lying there because it had fallen down. My friend offered to help raise the animal and Mrs. Ingraham said that no, it was fine, and that she would use the tractor to get it onto its feet in a few minutes. One of my friends noticed the foal had an injury to its stifle; there was a dressing of some sort with pus visible above the dressing.

We went past the little horse and looked at the group of geldings and mares in the enclosure. As a group, they were thin, dirty, covered with rain rot, some with dirty blankets, and some without. One black horse wearing a dirty, dark green blanket had an injury or wound to its near hind leg and the leg was swollen to approximately double the ordinary size. I could not see any dressing on the leg. There was a round bale of moldy hay in the fenced-off area and some of the horses were eating from it. Some were just standing around looking very depressed. None showed any interest in us or each other. That was the only place in which I saw a tub with water. In the stalls that I went into or looked into in the barn, all the buckets were dirty and were either empty or filled with ice. There may have been water available in the stallion enclosure, but I wasn’t able to see it.

While I was talking with Mrs. Ingraham about the bay mare that I intended to buy, the little horse on the ground had lay completely down and given up. We again asked about helping the horse and Mr. Ingraham went over to it, grabbed its halter and pulled it into a position of sternal repose. My friends asked him if they could help raise it to its feet and he said, “No, we will use the tractor to get him up."My friends asked him if they could help raise it to its feet and he said, “No, we will use the tractor to get him up. But, the tractor takes about thirty minutes to start.” He made no effort to start the tractor then or at any other time while we were there.

I returned to the bay mare’s stall with Mrs. Ingraham and began discussing the cost of the horse. Eventually, my friends and Mr. Ingraham joined us. During the ensuing discussion, one of my friends asked if she could purchase the foal that was down on the ground. Mr. Ingraham said she could not, that the foal had been bred there and would be staying there. My friends and I got into my truck and discussed how to proceed with getting the mare a Coggins test and when to truck her to her new stable. We also discussed price to be paid and whether we should again try to purchase the downed foal.

We got out of the truck and settled on a price for the bay mare; my friend once again offered to buy the foal, reassuring Mrs. Ingraham that it would receive all necessary medical care, and Mrs. Ingraham refused saying that the foal was not for sale. She said he had been somewhere else, had just been returned to them, and her veterinarian was properly caring for the foal.

I agreed to have Scott Curtis, the Ingrahams’ veterinarian (according to them; I do not know nor have I spoken with Dr. Curtis), draw blood for a Coggins test on the bay mare and to return for her with transport on Friday. I gave my personal check in the amount of $100.00 as a deposit and signed a sales agreement. Mrs. Ingraham said she would give me a copy of the agreement on Friday, that her copier was not working properly. We thanked the Ingrahams, said goodbye to the bay mare, and left. We were at the Ingraham’s property for approximately ninety minutes.

During the time I was at Fair Play Farm, I saw no grain, no decent hay, the stalls that I looked or went into were dirty and deep in frozen horse manure, the footing in the indoor arena was littered with manure, and the outdoor enclosures were mucky, slippery, and also littered with manure. Except for the one outdoor tank that I saw with open water, every bucket I looked into was empty and dirty or full of ice. The overall body condition of the animals I could see was poor to completely unacceptable.During the time I was at Fair Play Farm, I saw no grain, no decent hay, the stalls that I looked or went into were dirty and deep in frozen horse manure, the footing in the indoor arena was littered with manure, and the outdoor enclosures were mucky, slippery, and also littered with manure. Except for the one outdoor tank that I saw with open water, every bucket I looked into was empty and dirty or full of ice. The overall body condition of the animals I could see was poor to completely unacceptable. The stallion group appeared to be in the best condition.

I intend to complete the transaction for the bay mare on Friday, February 5, 2010 between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. Assuming her Coggins is negative, she will be removed at that time.

View Reader Comments:

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2/14/2010 Donna H
Thank you for posting this complaint. I know the complainant took this further that day and am hopeful that heads will roll because of this persons accounting of what they witnessed first hand.
2/14/2010 Michelle
As a former Law Enforcement officer, I am having complete and total difficulty understanding how this extremely well detailed complaint has not been acted on by now.. A Law Enforcement officer could only dream of having such a detailed report to followup with and charge a suspect. A report as this one, would be an open and closed case in the hands of a real Law Enforcement Officer (including Animal Law Enforcement Officers). It is a complete and total shame that the agency involved and employee's have not acted in an immediate manner. This is how the lack of respect and trust begins with any and all Law Enforcement Agencies begins. This particular Animal Welfare Law Enforcement agency has give the entire Law Enforcement community a black eye.. Thanks Norma your a peach.....NOT.......
2/16/2010 joanne s.
i can not believe that these horses are left in this condition! i have several horse friends and we all struggle from time to time but none of our horses look like that!!!! i have animal control called on me for something as simple as i windows in my horses hobble and these horses are allowed to be in this condition... i wish i could afford to help out with these poor neglected guys
2/17/2010 Julie
This letter sounds totally credible and so detailed that it would be hard to make up all these descriptions. WHY is this not be acted upon immediately!!! IF these horses came to the farm in that condition, any worthy horse seller would not be trying to sell any horse in this condition until the horse was upon some road to recovery. There is no excuse for this...even if it was only one horse, let alone the large amounts of horses in such terrible conditions. I say shame on those trying to protect the people responsible for the neglect and abuse of these animals.
2/17/2010 HORSE LOVER
The story of this barn sounds like a nitemare!!!!!!!!! How can owners sleep at nite knowing what is happening to these colts. I'am sorry but there is no need of a baby laying on ice and them refusing to let someone help get him up on his feet. "oh boys lets go get the tractor" Lets pray tonite that one makes it though the nite
2/18/2010 susan miller
I have been trying to contact them as I have some missing/stolen thoroughbred mares - gone since 2002 - someone on nh equestrians told me that she sent her mare up there & it came back l50 lbs under weight - I found one of my other mares at a farm called nagabon acres in stetson maine - she was in a car dump - these mares were supposed to be boarded at a local rescue in nh (under a contract not signed by me - the guy never paid the board bill) - I tried to but it was refused - the horses that are missing are lemhi treasure - tatoo no R 25337, nile flirt Ll9677, chaseyoursecreatry N03060, flirtnwithreign - E41371- tatoos are on the upper lip - in ink and never come off - these people should be punished for what they do - law enforcement in nh is a joke as they do nothing to the people who did this to my horses - the local rescue turtle rock - also cut my stud & never paid me for him - they just sold him & my mares & pocketed the money - the woman on nh equestrians told me that the people who own fair play farm 'buy rescued mares' all the time - so hope that this was worth a shot - if anyone has seen them please contact me or the nh state police (milford nh barracks)
2/23/2010 Elaine
I saw a picture of the horse Meris picked up. It had terrible rain rot. How long did it take you to clean the rain rot?
2/23/2010 Chris
I live in NH also but have been following this story..It is totaly wrong!! I did make a call to the # posted but got voice of course. I offered to help with trailering as well.How do they sleep at night?
2/25/2010 Former stable boarder
I am so terrified to think that that poor little foal that was outside. Could possibly be my horses foal. If only there had been more description of the foal. Was it a bay and white colt? If so I fear the worst for my little baby. If the person who bought the mare reads this, please contact me at WolvenYoukai@hotmail.com And title it 'Down Colt' Thanks
12/26/2013 Thankful
OMG...I can't thank you enough for this post!! I was contacted by the mother of this couple and sent 2/3 of the money for my horse for sale. She said she lived too far to come see her and would just have her picked up. If you had not posted this article I wouldn't have found out the information by searching on their name. My poor loved, well cared for horse almost met this fate.

   
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