The question remains unanswered whether it’s a home for homeless horses, or a shelter for horse-lovers needing animals to love.
Elizabeth Lorenzen stroked the manes of her buddies Saturday, walking about her stable at Peacefield Equine Sanctuary in northeastern Vigo County. A recent grant of $1,800 from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals helped buy hay this winter, and the rescue facility’s founder said the help was much needed.
“This winter they gave out emergency feed grants to horse rescues in economically depressed areas,” she explained, adding last summer’s dry heat made for scarce hay this winter.
In the meantime, the personal passion turned-charity has grown since a grant from Elations Co. allowed for expanded pasture in 2010. The non-profit corporation houses about a dozen horses, rescuing animals from abusive situations, rehabilitating them, and putting them out for adoption.
“We have nine rescue horses right now, and then we have a foster rescue that has one,” Lorenzen said, adding her own two horses gallop about the compound as well. Adoptions for two horses are pending, and a number are sponsored by families and clubs, she said.
Not every kid can have a horse, but Peacefield Equine Sanctuary partners with youth organizations ranging from Girl Scouts to 4-H, teaching about the animals while nurturing them back to health.
Dr. Julie Anderson, a veterinarian at the Rockville clinic, provides medical oversight for the organization, and said the care provided by the local facility is a credit to the area. “It’s an excellent program,” she said inside the stable with Lorenzen and other volunteers Saturday. “It’s a great place to be a horse.”
Emily Boyer, who recently completed a veterinary technician program at Harrison College, said she heard about the operation through a friend, and met volunteers at a pet show. The chance to work with horses was one on which she didn’t pass, given that she doesn’t own one herself anymore.
“I did back when I was 8,” she explained. “We had an old, retired Girl Scout horse.”
Located on East Davis Avenue, several miles northeast of Seelyville, the small compound serves the volunteers there as well as the horses, several remarked. Board member Melyssa Minnick described it as a great place for “displaced” horse people.
“No, I don’t live where I can have horses,” she said, explaining she too had them as a child while participating in 4-H. But after reading a newspaper article about the facility in 2010, she realized her love wasn’t left on the farm, and she called to volunteer her time.
Lorenzen, who has worked with horses since age 11, said it’s tough to care for the animals, hence the growing numbers sent to the woods, slaughtered or mistreated.
According to information found on the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website, the U.S. horse population in 2005 was about 9.2 million. In 2011, some 138,000 were sent to slaughter, and the number of “unwanted horses” is greater than this, it states. The Unwanted Horse Coalition estimates there were more than 170,000 such animals in 2007 alone.
Lorenzen screens potential owners, requiring references from a veterinarian before an adoption is processed. While many people think an older, abused animal would be an ideal way to start out, it’s really quite the opposite, she explained, adding these adoptees need a lot of compassion and work. Those who already own at least one horse tend to be more successful, as the adopted animal will have more company, as well as an experienced owner.
And an appreciation for the cost of care also helps, she said. The standard adoption fee of $500 doesn’t begin to cover the cost of rehabilitating, or feeding the animals, she said. On average, her horses each eat about 100 square bales of hay annually, at 50 pounds each. With hay prices ranging from $4 to $6 per bale, and the cost of grain climbing, the numbers add up.
“That’s part of the reason they’re here,” she said of those she’s rescued. “People can’t afford to feed them.”
The average lifespan for a horse is about 30 years, and according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the estimated cost per horse is about $1,825 a year. Whereas dogs range between 20 and 120 pounds, and cats a fraction of that, horses are anywhere from 1,000 to 1,200 pounds, necessitating more room and accommodations.
And if Nimah could talk, those issues might be part of the story she’d tell. The 20-year-old Arabian was rescued last August from a Clay County location, found starving and in a condition Lorenzen described in terms of a prisoner-of-war. Eight months and a lot of work later though, she happily pranced about the stable with Tammy Pogue, her soon-to-be-owner.
“Well, I have this thing for Arabians,” Pogue, also a board member of the rescue, said. “I have two at home.”
The Cory resident said Nimah’s special features really shined while working with her, and the group believes she might have once been a show horse. How and why she wound up starving in a remote pasture with a gang of other homeless horses will probably never be known.
But Pogue’s loved horses since she was a girl, and even though her mother once predicted she’d grow out of the obsession, decades later she’s still galloping.