The couple, who have lived in the 1000 block of L Street for the past 10 years, had all their personal and business horses seized by the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office and other authorities Friday morning.
“I am in a state of shock, just beside myself and trying to hold it together,” Penny Gingerich told The Pueblo Chieftain Saturday. “This is just a mind-blowing thing.”
Fremont County Sheriff Detective Sgt. Megan Richards issued a press release late Friday that indicated her office is conducting an animal cruelty investigation that led to the seizure of the 63 horses, but she did not give specific allegations, only indicating that charges are pending.
The sheriff’s office received help from the Colorado Humane Society and the Denver Dumb Friends League in seizing the horses, according to the media release.
Gingerich, who works for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys’ Association Professional Rodeo Communications office, said it all started last Saturday when a neighbor who lives two blocks away accused her of “not feeding, not watering, starving, abusing and neglecting” the animals.
On Wednesday, Gingerich met with her veterinarian from Four Mile Vet Clinic, Richards and a horse rescue representative.
“The vet said some of the horses need to get their teeth done and be wormed and they will put weight back on. He said there were no grounds to take the horses and that he would do a report and get it to them early next week,” Gingerich said.
Authorities also spoke with feed store representatives, who indicated Gingerich buys hay and grain on a weekly basis, she said.
But early Friday, authorities showed up to confiscate the animals. Gingerich asked her veterinarian to intervene, but he was unable to get a return call from Fremont County Sheriff authorities, said Gingerich.
“The biggest complaint is about the old, skinny horses. There are probably about 10 or so that are old and retired horses who are just living out their days. They are not in pain,” she said.
“One horse who got into locoweed has mental health issues and is kinda skinny, but she is just living a life,” Gingerich said. “Some have cancer.
“The healthier horses I lease to youth camps and outfitters. Most are average, nothing special, but they are easy-going and gentle. Each horse has their own story.”
John Martino of Pueblo is the equine dentist who works on Gingerich’s horses.
“Some of the horses had major problems in the mouth, and you are not going to fix it – just make it better. If you change things too fast, it is not a good thing. It has to be done gradually,” Martino explained. “Those with age have missing teeth and have a harder time chewing food. None of them seemed weak or not able to be ridden by young people.
“Penny evaluates each horse and knows how to feed them, has them on a worming schedule and has them on a feeding program. She is very knowledgeable,” Martino said.
A neighbor who lives across the street, Debi Stevens, is a horse owner and dog advocate who runs the inmate dog training program for the Department of Corrections.
“I am the first one who would have called if she had not been taking care of them,” Stevens said. “These horses are just fine – none of them met the body condition standards to be confiscated.
“I have a 26-year-old horse, and I know no matter what you do, sometimes they are going to be a little skinny,” Stevens explained. “I am frightened by this confiscation of her horses – this is a nightmare.”
Although Gingerich has not yet been criminally charged, she has received a notice informing her she has 10 days to come up with $22,680 to cover 30 days of care for the horses or she would lose ownership.
“I don’t have $23,000 sitting around, and now I don’t have a business,” Gingerich said. “I took out a five-year business loan when I took over the (horse leasing) business three years ago.”
An email to Richards asking for comment was not returned Saturday. A phone call to Fremont County Sheriff Jim Beicker seeking comment also was not returned Saturday.
Editor's note: In a story in Sunday’s Chieftain about the confiscation of 63 horses belonging to Penrose resident Penny Gingerich, her place of employment was incorrectly identified. Gingerich works for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys’ Association Professional Rodeo Communications office, which is in the same building as the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame but a different department. A reporter made the error.
Some of the comments on the Sheriff's Facebook page:
As for the money, well....Fremont County taxpayers - YOU paid for the time and effort of law enforcement and the courts. YOU will continue to pay for the costs associated with prosecuting this case. Meanwhile, those horses have to eat and need care. And who pays for that? If not her - then it would again be you without the rescue(s). No one is going to Vegas on any care bond money - so everyone can dispense with the stupid rescue profiteering conspiracies. This lady is no hapless victim of law enforcement persecution. This whole thing is going to run in the red from start to finish. So your options are to either send the owner a sympathy note of support or a thank you note for burning your taxpayer money.
John Martino - This is absolutely ridiculous. I performed equine dentistry on a large number of these horses last fall. Yes many have quite a bit of age on them, many did not receive good care during their life. Some of the horses that I worked on had never had dental work performed on them. People that do not take care for their horses do not pay for dental care. Some of these horses were thin, but none were weak or sickly. It is not a perfect world. These animals were not being abused. This lady talked about her worming program and feeding program. Every time I came to work on horses this lady was feeding or taking care of her horses in some way. This lady gives horses a chance to have a quality life, and gives young people a chance to ride. Do the people criticizing this lady know what the alternative is?
Cindy Pieropan - It is tremendously difficult to get law enforcement authorities to seize horses in this state. So, when it happens there must be substantial evidence to convince a judge to provide the order.
Kyle Fisher - I'm pretty sure they wouldn't seize 63 horses lightly. I choose to give our local law enforcement the benefit of the doubt.
Gary White - Just because they came and took the horses does not mean it was right, I wish everyone would get the facts before casting judgement and saying good job
Siddie Mcwilliams - What they did to her horses was something that shouldn't have been done... she goes to my boyfriends feed store to get hay and she went down there 2 times in one day to get hay so there for I no she is taking great care of those horses... I will help her fight for them back... I will be with her through all this
Amanda Rossi - For all of those that believe that it is normal for an old horse to be a skinny horse - that isn't true. If weight can't be put on then a vet needs to evaluate for reasons why - and age is a fact but not a diagnosis. If the owner took on skinny horses - rescue types, etc. - then she should have documentation of some kind (vet confirmation, rescue confirmation, brand inspection with effective date of ownership, etc.) that those skinny horses were in the process of rehab.
I fostered a thin mare and if a concerned neighbor had called the sheriff thinking I was neglecting her - I was ready to prove that the mare was a rescue and currently being rehabbed. So, I'm not buying the idea that the owner was trying to help these previously neglected horses and is simply misunderstood or law enforcement wouldn't listen or consider any evidence she had to the contrary. Had she presented evidence to law enforcement that was the case - I doubt the horses would have been seized - and certainly not all 63 of them.
Jefanda Ward - Got time to harass folks but not enough time to root out corruption? What other murders have been covered up in Fremont county?
Cindy Pieropan - For all of the people saying how ridiculous this is and what a wonderful, caring horse owner Penny is, she took 8 skinny, sad horses, in advance of the seizure, to a sale barn in Ft. Collins that is well known for having the state's 3 largest kill buyers make most of the horse buys there.
She sent 8 of her allegedly precious, but emaciated, horses to a barn to be purchased for slaughter to make a few bucks. Please tell us again what a loving and responsible horse owner she is?
[A vet came out on January 18 to examine the herd. On January 20, the sheriff's office showed up to seize the animals. Gingerich must have known this was coming because:]
"Gingerich had removed nine horses from the property, eight of which were found at a sale barn in the Fort Collins area, according to the sheriff's office. The location of the 9th horse remains unknown. The sheriff's office didn't provide information about the horses, which have been taken to a secure holding facility."