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Judge finally gets some horse sense in Hoskins saga

The six-year nightmare is over.

As you read this, Beth Hoskins no longer owns a single horse.

It’s cause for the long-mistreated herd to stand on their hind legs and whinny. And reason for the rest of us to celebrate the overdue arrival of justice.

For going on two years, the spoiled rich kid – aided by family money, a band of misguided enablers and a perplexingly gullible judge – repeatedly defied authority and did as she pleased.

That’s over.

No, it turns out, you can’t ignore court orders to sell half the herd, reclaim animals you’ve been convicted of abusing and simply have your way – to heck with this bothersome thing called the law.

It was touch-and-go for a while, but Hoskins’ day of civil-court reckoning arrived. Long compliant to the point of complicity, State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Glownia finally brought down the gavel.

The happy consequence, I learned Friday, is Hoskins’ entire herd of 64 Morgan horses has been sold to responsible owners.

“We have commitments for all of the horses,” Lucinda Finley, a court-appointed receiver, told me. “We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished.”

It was a long time coming.

I don’t know if Glownia was shocked to his senses, or simply embarrassed by the public battering of his Gumby-like pliability. Whatever the case, he recently woke up and smelled the manure Hoskins has shoveled for nearly two years, since being ordered to sell 29 of the 64 horses she’d been convicted of abusing. After swallowing a feed bucket of excuses, Glownia did what he should have the first time Hoskins thumbed her nose: Placed two months ago a pair of true “horse people” in the saddle.

Finley and fellow attorney Theresa Prezioso are Columbia University grads with lengthy equestrian experience. First they sold the 29 horses Hoskins detoured – in a defiant “in your face” to Glownia – last December back to her Aurora farm, where SPCA officers six years ago found them unkempt and standing in manure. It gets better. To cover the cost of preparing the devalued animals for sale, the receivers – as instructed by the court – had to also sell the 35 horses Hoskins, by terms of the civil settlement, had unfortunately been allowed to keep. All were snapped up by a national network of Morgan horse owners outraged by the ongoing saga.

Happy day.

I don’t want to revel in Hoskins’ misfortune, particularly since animal hoarding is a psychological condition. But it’s nice to know that you can’t repeatedly snub your nose at the law and get away with it. If that’s how things worked, decent folks would be pulling the shades and hiding under the bed.

“When someone is just defiant, you have to force them to be accountable,” said Barbara Carr, the SPCA director. “It does seem like the universe is sort of set right now. It’s just terribly sad it took so long.”

The sale of all of Hoskins’ horses is a de facto going-away gift for Carr, who’s retiring this month.

“What’s most gratifying to me,” Carr said, “is the horses will be out of that situation.”

Prezioso and Finley – on a recent inspection of Hoskins’ farm – predictably found many animals in similar shape to when the SPCA raided the place six years ago: Standing in filthy stalls, ungroomed and underfed.

“None were well cared for,” Prezioso told me.

The horses’ condition was a grim reminder that, at heart, this was a simple case of animal hoarding. If Glownia and, before him, Aurora town judge Douglas Marky had grasped that, this wouldn’t have dragged on for six years.

Hoskins reportedly spent more than $1 million on a revolving door of lawyers, fines, and reimbursement to the SPCA for care of seized animals. For that money, each of her horses could have had an individual groomer, vet, farrier and valet. Instead, many of them suffered.

Here’s to happy endings – and a judge who finally got some horse sense.