Outrage from owners who left horses in custody of woman

By Nicole Bell - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) – Outrage from some horse owners who left their pets in custody of a woman now charged with animal cruelty.

Karyn Hale is accused of starving eleven horses in her care. One of the animals died. We spoke with a woman who leased her pet to Hale.

Gaea Nickerson says her horses are lucky to be alive. She says when she got the animals back from Hale, after two months, they were gravely thin.

"They'd lost weight where I could notice ribs and bone points sticking out. I was horrified. They'd never missed a meal in their lives and I felt guilty for putting them in that situation," said Nickerson.

In a legal agreement, Hale, who owns crossroads farms in Hanover County, was leasing the animals.

"She told me she was starting up a riding school. It was in the beginning stages and she was trying to get horses for lessons," said Nickerson.

Hale now faces eleven counts of animal cruelty. She's accused of starving one horse to death. Ten others were emaciated.

The amount of grain and hay a horse needs to stay healthy can vary from 15 to 50 pounds daily depending on a number of factors including age and breed.

Experts say horses are more susceptible to losing weight in the winter, if the animals feed isn't adjusted, than any other time of year.

"It will happen faster in the winter when caloric needs are higher -- less in the summer when there is more grass available," said Dr. Eleanor Lenher,

A healthy horse can starve to death within months.

"They're expensive animals to feed. Horses are expensive and that's the biggest thing I don't think people realize," said Lenher.

As for Nickerson, "I'm glad I pulled mine out early. I don't think they would have made it any longer."

Hale's trial is scheduled for May 20th in Hanover County.

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