Owner of Friesian horse facility ordered to pay care costs for seized animals

Two horses rescued from Friesians of Majesty. (Courtesy Dorset Equine Society)

Two horses rescued from Friesians of Majesty. (Courtesy Dorset Equine Society) Courtesy Dorset Equine Society



Published: 04-23-2024 4:31 PM

A southern Vermont resident is on the hook for $38,600 that an animal rescue organization spent to care for numerous horses that the state seized from him last year.

At an April 18 hearing, Vermont Superior Court Judge John Treadwell ordered Robert Labrie to repay the Dorset Equine Rescue for the medical care and boarding costs of 11 horses.

They were among 13 horses the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department seized from Friesians of Majesty, Labrie’s horse breeding and training facility in Townshend, Vt., last July after receiving complaints of animal neglect.

The court had forfeited Labrie’s ownership of the horses — 10 Friesians and three thoroughbreds — in October. Two of the horses went to a foster family while 11 were relinquished to the Dorset Equine Rescue, said the organization’s president and founder, Jen Straub.

Straub said she is grateful the judge ordered Labrie to reimburse the nonprofit group what it paid to care for the horses while they were officially owned by Labrie. She said the equine rescue’s expenses included the horse’s feed, their bedding, grooming and some surgeries.

The restitution would also help with the continuing costs of their care, Straub said.

“Horses are extremely expensive,” she said in an interview. “We’re hopeful that he truly does pay us.”

Labrie, who has been representing himself in court, maintains that he didn’t do anything wrong. He contends that the state illegally seized the horses from him, and the animals’ medical bills stem from improper care once they were taken from him.

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“They don’t know how to care for Friesian horses,” Labrie told VtDigger. “I know more about Friesian horses than anybody else in this country.”

Court filings by Windham County State’s Attorney Tracy Kelly Shriver show that the restitution request consisted of nearly $29,000 in medical expenses and $9,600 in boarding costs for the horses.

Labrie, 71, also complained that Treadwell decided to push through with the hearing last Thursday despite his request for a postponement due to a medical issue.

The judge, in a written order, gave multiple reasons for denying Labrie’s request, including that he filed the motion too close to the hearing date and didn’t explain why proceeding with the hearing that day would prejudice him.

Labrie has a pending appeal with the Vermont Supreme Court, which he filed after the horses were forfeited from him last year.

Friesians of Majesty bills itself as the “largest full-service Friesian breeding and training facility in the United States.” A game warden who executed a search warrant at the facility last July told the court he’d found “many horses living in very poor conditions, such as paddocks with deep mud, dirty drinking water, and some with no shelter.” The property had over 100 horses, said Warden David Taddei, including some who were very thin and had a skin infection called “rain rot.”

Five of the 11 horses transferred to the Dorset Equine Rescue have now moved on to new families, Straub said. Another was euthanized because of a severe medical issue that, she said, might have been congenital but had not been addressed.

The equine rescue is looking for adoptive homes for the rest, except for one that Straub said was in the worst shape when the horses were seized from Labrie’s facility.

“She has a lot of injuries, old injuries ... We don’t know how they happened,” Straub said. “It’s best for her if she stays and lived out her days with us.”