A Ridge woman who rented out her carriage horses for special events was convicted of five counts of animal cruelty, one for each horse that was found emaciated and neglected, officials said Wednesday.
Cynthia Schultes, 53, owner of Quiet Time Shires, was found guilty Tuesday by a Suffolk jury and said she plans to appeal because all the charges, from rotting food to neglect, are false.
"I'm very upset that I'm convicted," she said. "I love my animals and I would never hurt any one of them at all. For that to be said is very hurtful."
Five horses went to the nonprofit Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue on July 4, 2013, after an investigation by the Suffolk SPCA.
One of them, Dan, who was anemic, had an eye that oozed pus and blood for some time, and while his eye was removed in August 2013, he was euthanized two months ago after his eye cancer spread through his body, said Stacey Golub, the equine veterinarian who founded the horse rescue group.
"This is a huge victory for these horses and to honor the memory of the horse Dan, for whom help came too late," Golub said. "We know he will rest in peace knowing his herdmates will never suffer another day in their lives."
At Schultes' property, the horses had moldy food and blankets that hid their emaciated state, said Roy Gross, chief of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He said his agency tried to address the conditions with Schultes for more than a year before her arrest.
Photos of the horses at the time showed their hips, ribs and other bones protruding, but new ones posted at the horse nonprofit's Facebook page show some fattened up and getting "pedicures" on their hooves.
The four horses are in foster homes, Golub said: "They will stay in their current homes and live out their years and never again know suffering."
The horses each gained about 600 pounds in the six months after they were taken from Schultes, Golub said.
Schultes said she was working with a veterinarian and a nutritionist on her horses when she put them on a new brand of food and they lost weight. She eventually put them back on their previous food, but it takes time for draft horses to pack the pounds back on, she said.
"They were thin," Schultes said. "I was concerned and that's why I had a nutritionist there."
She said she bought her horses $500 blankets, which were breathable and had hoods on them, to protect them from small, biting insects that spread from the woods along her property. The SPCA said it was too hot for the horses to be wearing blankets.
Those insects caused Dan's eye problem, which cleared up on its own before flaring up again the year he was taken away, Schultes said.
She broke down over the phone Wednesday as she talked about Dan, saying she learned this week in court that he had been euthanized. He had been with her for about 10 years after a life working out west as a draft horse and hadn't been socialized with people, she said.
But "Danny Boy," as she called him, grew to trust her, she said, and she'd go out every morning to clean his eye.
In her will, Schultes said, she calls for her cremated animals to be buried with her because she sees them as her "children."
But now, she said, Dan has been "stolen" from her.
"I don't even know where he is," Schultes said, crying.
Schultes still owns four other horses, and at her Dec. 4 sentencing officials from the SPCA and the nonprofit want to ask the judge to bar her from ever owning horses. Gross said his investigators check on those horses occasionally and they appear to be in good condition.
"They don't take an abused child out of the home and leave the other children," Golub said. "It should be the same for animals."