Despite opposition, Barren County moves forward to sell horses at state park

BARREN COUNTY, Ky. (WBKO) – The horses residing at Barren River Lake State Park will soon be sold. This was decided in a Barren County Fiscal Court meeting on April 26, and the decision was not welcomed by many. A special called meeting was held Monday evening to further clarify the motion to sell these horses.

They were found abandoned and malnourished about three years ago. Their owner faced criminal charges related to their care and the horses became property of the county as they were considered evidence.

Because of the pandemic, the owner’s trial was pushed back more than a year. Magistrates say they were unaware the trial had already taken place, meanwhile the county still had ownership of the horses, which of course take money to be cared for.

Once the magistrates realized the fate of the horses was now at their mercy, they brought it up in a meeting and voted to sell the horses. This is a decision Judge Executive Micheal Hale does not agree with, and voted against.

The meeting on Monday was packed with citizens, mainly in favor of keeping the horses at the state park. Were hoping there was a chance the several elected officials would scrap the plans to sell the horses altogether. “What I would really like is for the horses to stay at the park,” Debra Crews, a Barren County resident who attended the meeting, said.

The magistrates, who some argue the horses are a liability, doubled down on their decision to open bids for the horses. It seemed they just needed to clarify when they would advertise the horses were up for sale, and when the bidding would open. The horses will be individually tagged, and pictures of them will be posted on the county’s website for auction.

Between talks the meeting got heated at times, people expressing they didn’t want the horses to just be sold to anyone. Judge Executive Micheal Hale made a motion to ensure that the previous owner of these horses, or a slaughter house would not be able to purchase them.

The audience burst out in applause at this, and the motion passed unanimously. “I want them to continue being loved no matter where they’re at but prefer to stay in the county,” Crews said. Judge Executive Hale said it has cost about $41,000 dollars for the county to care for these horses. $35,000 of that was paid for with CARES Act money, leaving the rest up to tax payers, about $6,200.

“We only feel it fair to sell the horses to recoup some of the taxpayers money,” Magistrate Tim Coomer, who represents District 4 said. Besides getting money back, magistrates said because of the condition of the horses, it wouldn’t be good for the business of the park, as people can’t ride some of the animals because of their poor health.

“They don’t want the horses, they want someone to run the stables and people ride,” Coomer said. All along, Judge Micheal Hale and his wife have advocated for the animals to stay at the state park. She even cares for one of the sicker horses at their home.

“I think for the community’s benefit, being at the state park would help,” Hale explained. “It’s definitely drove our tourism, with people not just from Barren County going there watching, we have people from other counties, we have people from other states.”

He’s confident the community could raise enough money to keep the horses there. “There’s so many people that want the happy ending story here versus the people that just don’t care,” he said. Meanwhile the magistrates say they will vet the people who bid on these horses, but there is no guarantee on where or who with they will end up at this point.

A board member of BRAWA was at Monday evening’s meeting, and offered to purchase and help rehome the horses. One magistrate said it wouldn’t be fair to only let one non-profit take over, when there are others that might want to use their resources too. Ultimately, they voted to start advertising the horses individually this Friday, and open bids May 19. Everyone but Judge Hale voted in favor of the amendment.

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