Once rescued from a dire situation earlier in his life, help did not come fast enough to save an aged Saddlebred gelding named Matty a second time.
We take an in-depth look at multiple systems, tasked with helping horses, that failed Matty, and possibly other animals. The gelding was allegedly starved by purported horse rescuer Anne Shumate Williams, who is also known as Anne Goland. She operated the now-defunct 501(c)(3) organization Peaceable Farm, Inc.
It has been a year and Matty’s former owner says she’s still mourning his loss. “I’ll never forgive myself,” Carrie Reid says emotionally. “I can’t believe it happened to one of my horses”.
Working for the Amish, the 19-year-old American Saddlebred (ASB) needed groceries and an easier life for his aging body. Reid, of Calvert County, Maryland adopted Matty in October 2012 after Team American Saddlebreds (TAS) bailed him from an auction.
Once dull, Matty emerged like a shiny copper penny with dewy silver strands in his mane. Reid spent her time caring for him every day as his emaciated body became stronger. She did small groundwork exercises and bonded with the gelding while he grazed.
Matty became a valued member of Reid’s family. A kind soul, the rescued gelding patiently allowed children to practice their grooming skills although the children didn’t always display their best barn manners.
When Matty’s body was strong enough Reid’s friend started riding him. “He was the most fab horse I had put my hands on,” Reid says. She says it was obvious Matty, registered as Valhalla’s Headliner, was a riding horse prior to his time with the Amish.
Suddenly, due to Reid’s unexpected health issues, Matty’s ride was cut short. The mother of four children needed multiple spinal surgeries leaving her incapacitated and changes were made. The horses went from self-board to full-board. Eventually, Reid says she realized she couldn’t afford full board for three horses so she had to make the difficult decision. “My intention was to keep [Matty]”.
Reid contacted Team American Saddlebreds (TAS) in July 2013 regarding her uncertain life situation. TAS is a 501(c)(3) based out of Copake, N.Y., although it doesn’t have a home base for its horses. The rescue counts on foster homes scattered across multiple states including Kentucky and Connecticut.
It took time, but TAS arranged a foster home for Matty in Maryland. On December 30, 2013, a woman named Anne Goland arrived before her scheduled appointment to pick up the gelding.
In a text message later that day, now former TAS board member Jennifer Watts Hegg writes to Reid, “I will let you know how he does… and you are welcome to check on him too”!
Reid texted back, “Thank you. I spent most of the night crying. I did not want to give him up. He deserves to be cherished. Such a good boy [sic]”.
Hegg told Reid she hoped to put a trip together to visit Maryland and check on Matty.
By February, Hegg, acting on behalf of Team American Saddlebreds (TAS), told Reid that Goland fell in love with Matty and wanted to adopt him. TAS did not secure a foster agreement with Goland and failed to make the adoption final with a contract. Both are intended to protect the rescue horse.
In October 2015, the thick smell of death permeated the air when Virginia authorities served a search warrant at Goland’s Orange County horse farm. It was too late for the dead. Six horses, a donkey, and an unknown number of small animals littered the property along with trash.
The news of more than 100 animals in varying states of neglect rocked the equine community. The devastation was clear to those witnessing the horrific events unfolding. And no breed was immune from Goland’s alleged torture. Her horse menagerie included Thoroughbreds, Saddlebreds, Draft Horses, Quarter Horses, and Warmbloods.
While purportedly rescuing horses, Goland was also breeding Warmbloods.
Matty was among the Peaceable Farm walking dead. Allegedly locked up without food and water the gelding’s bones protruded prominently from his sides. Patches of his hide were missing from his perishing body.
An on-scene veterinarian euthanized Matty on the first day after authorities began their investigation at Goland’s property.
Reid says she had a gut feeling to look into the situation although she thought Matty was in Maryland.
“I started looking for [Matty] and found his picture on the Rate My Horse PRO article,” Reid says. “I want to thank you because I read that article and if I hadn’t seen the photo I’d be wondering where Matty is”.
The once shiny penny lost his glimmer, but still had one distinguishing feature that helped Reid identify his badly battered body. “I could see the silver in his mane,” she says.
Reid says she knew when she saw the photo he was dead. “He’d been starved once and the body can only take so much”.
The sheriff confirmed Reid’s worst fear. She says she doesn’t understand how Matty slipped through the cracks.
“My assumption was my horse would have to be in a safe place based on what I had to do as an adopter,” Reid says. She filled out an adoption contract and provided references from her veterinarian and farrier to Team American Saddlebreds (TAS).
Peaceable Farm Maryland
Matty was in Maryland until July 2015, according to records obtained from the Montgomery County Department of Police, Animal Services Division. On June 16, 2015, animal control documents indicate Matty appeared in “good weight upon inspection” by the agency.
At that time 10 horses resided in the barn. Matty was among 17 that lived outside.
The Montgomery County Police Department received a series of calls in 2015 from people concerned with the horses’ welfare, including two veterinarians. On January 23, the agency received the first report regarding the horses’ care due to frozen water and a lack of food.
Animals Services Division Officer Angel Ricketts rechecked the property for months. On May 29, she discovered the horses were standing in dirty stalls. Two of 12 stalled horses had a quarter inch of water in their buckets.
Officer Ricketts contacted Jeanette Wright, field services supervisor with the Montgomery County Police Department, regarding seizing the animals due to the lack of water. However, Wright instructed Officer Ricketts to fill the horses’ buckets instead.
Animal control issued Goland a notice reminding her that the horses must have water and clean stalls.
Officer Ricketts went to Goland’s property on July 27, but all of the animals were gone. That day was the deadline for Goland’s compliance on a second notice dated the week prior. A veterinarian was supposed to do a health check on the horses and provide a treatment plan to Officer Ricketts.
Officer Ricketts called Orange County authorities and left a voicemail, according to documents. She alerted them that Goland relocated her animals to their Virginia county.
Complaints to county authorities regarding Goland’s horse husbandry date back to 2011.
Ellie Truman, of Dickerson, is one individual that contacted animal control multiple times over the years seeking help for the horses. “Just because someone has money that doesn’t mean their animals are well cared for”.
Documents state animal services contacted Ross Peddicord, Executive Director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board, in August 2011. Peddicord confirmed Peaceable Farm, Inc. was not licensed as a stable or a horse rescue. He was given Goland’s contact information to start the licensing process.
Peddicord tells us he has no notes or documentation regarding Peaceable Farm although he does recall receiving a phone call from a concerned neighbor. Peddicord says in order to facilitate action from an inspector “a formal complaint” must be filed using this form from the group’s website.
The Maryland Horse Industry Board mandates that horse rescues are licensed and inspected, but some may notice flaws in the system. Goland’s Maryland based non-profit rescue, Peaceable Farm, Inc., operated for four-years while allegedly neglecting horses.
Peddicord says he only learned Peaceable Farm was registered as a 501(c)(3) horse rescue during a November 2015 meeting at Montgomery County Animal Control.
“We expect folks who have these operations to abide by state law …,” Peddicord says adding “we do everything we can to get the word out that these operations that meet the guidelines need to be licensed”.
Regulations state the Board may impose penalties against those who operate without a license, but Goland suffered no repercussions.
The state also licenses horseback riding lesson stables, boarding stables, and horse rental operations. The Board is not a law enforcement agency and cannot file charges in cases of animal cruelty.
Montgomery County’s animal services department is under new management, according to horse owner Truman. She says the agency’s action level has improved since last year. “Hopefully they can continue improving things”.
It was June 5, 2015, when Jennifer Watts Hegg texted Carrie Reid regarding Matty on behalf of Team American Saddlebreds (TAS). “… Anne is getting divorced and having to rehome her horses”.
Hegg told Reid the gelding would probably need to be rehomed.
It was July when Hegg followed-up to see if Reid had any potential leads, but the candidate pool was dry on both sides.
By August, Hegg says she noticed Goland changed her name on Facebook. She arranged a ride along with a horse transporter friend and they scheduled a stop at Goland’s Somerset horse property.
On August 12, Hegg says she found too many horses scattered across Goland’s farm, but the majority of the horses had hay and water.
A shiny red Saddlebred was the first to greet Hegg when she began exploring. “I thought [he] was Matty,” Hegg says. More Saddlebreds in varying body conditions ambled along in a dirt area near a hay pile.
Goland also kept horses in a barn. A dark bay perked up for Hegg’s photo despite looking like not much more than skin stretched over a horse skeleton.
Seeking guidance after a limited self-tour of the property Hegg texted Christine Hajek, the president of Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue, located in Maryland.
“Christine told me not to tell anyone, we will get them out,” Hegg discloses.
Text messages between the women show Hajek wanted Goland to give her the draft horses before they shared what they knew with anyone, including authorities. Once Hajek got the horses out she said she would file a report.
Hegg says she resigned from the Team American Saddlebreds (TAS) Board on July 30 due to organizational issues, but messaged four photos to principal officer Hilarie Thomas. Hegg told Thomas that Goland’s place “is creepy – I wish I could take them all now [sic]”. The conversation continued but was muddied with talk about a Saddlebred mare and foal.
Goland cooperated initially allowing Hajek to remove 10 horses from the property. Hegg was only able to save the Saddlebred mare and colt due to the limited space on her friend’s trailer.
Hegg didn’t realize an emaciated Matty was fading away among Goland’s collection of chestnut Saddlebreds.
65 Days Later
It was October 19, 2015, when the Orange County Sheriff’s office secured a warrant to enter Goland’s Peaceable Farm.
Reid says she trusted people she thought were her friends, “I am mad. I don’t understand, it seems so obvious that something was wrong before the summer”. She says she initially blamed Hegg for the gelding’s death more than Goland. “[Jenn] had the power to do something and she didn’t”.
Thomas, who runs Team American Saddlebreds (TAS), says if Hegg hadn’t withheld information Matty could have been saved. “Had I known, they would not have stayed there a minute longer”.
Hegg says she shared her knowledge with another TAS Board member, who recently left her post at the rescue as well.
Time and new found information have a way of healing old wounds for some. Reid says, “there were many hands in the pot that boiled over”. Reid adds she has forgiven Hegg.
“I woke up to the story and my heart sank…” Hegg says. She admits she wishes she would have taken a different path. “I wish we had been more diligent with the proper follow-through,” Hegg says. “I trusted Christine that we’d be able to help more horses”.
Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue’s Christine Hajek places the blame on “the system” for failing the horses.
Hajek says she emailed and called authorities multiple times regarding the allegations of neglect at Goland’s farm. She initially agreed to send the complaints she made electronically, but then changed her mind. Hajek sent the following message via email, “I think I will decline. Thanks, but I’m pretty tired of this case”.
There is no record of Hajek contacting authorities regarding Goland, according to Orange County Sheriff records dating from 2013 to late October 2015.
Authorities placed 13 Peaceable Farm horses with Hajek’s Maryland-based rescue. Of the original 10 horses that Goland allowed her to leave with two were euthanized.
Prosecutors charged Goland with 27 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. The charges represent Goland’s alleged abuse of 10 horses, 10 cats, 5 dogs, and 2 chickens. Her next court date is October 28.
The state also charged Goland with 13 counts of felony embezzlement related to the operation of Peaceable Farm, Inc. Her alleged financial crimes took place from October 2012 thru June 2015.
Reid says the experience taught her a valuable lesson. “I will never let another one of my horses leave my possession. I will put it down first”.
“Always follow-up,” Reid tells horse owners. “See it with your own eyes and make sure the information you’re getting is truthful”.
November 1, 2017
A Virginia judge sentenced Anne Shumate Williams to serve 9 months jail. After a two-day bench trial, she was convicted of multiple counts of animal cruelty on Wednesday, November 1. She appealed her conviction, which stays her sentence.
Shumate Williams who is also known as Anne Goland is scheduled to stand trial next month in the embezzlement case related to Peaceable Farm.
For additional details regarding both cases click here.