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Hope for Horses

Hope for Horses

Local Horse Rescue Offers Hope for Horses

“I don’t think people understand that when you sell your horse, whether it be to an individual person or an auction they could still end up going to a kill barn or slaughter,” Eatonton resident Teresa Hardie describes with pain in her eyes.

It was a fact she was unaware of until she began searching online and through Facebook groups for a beloved horse she used to own. Her eight-year journey to find her horse ultimately turned up empty and led her to create an equine rescue organization that is saving many steeds from slaughter.

“I think sometimes I picked the skinniest looking horses because I just felt like nobody else wanted them,” Teresa continues.

After purchasing the horses, she transports them to her and her husband’s old dairy farm. The couple, who had operated the dairy farm for nearly 30 years, recently got out of the business and wasn’t exactly sure how they would use the property. But after saving several horses, the re-invention of the farm became clear.

In the early days, Teresa, a full-time nurse, labored to support the horses, but it quickly became overwhelming. Added veterinarian expenses led her to apply for licenses and permits to turn the rescue into a non-profit organization in August 2018. Teresa didn’t have to look far when coming up with a name for the rescue. One of the first horses she took in was, as she describes, incredibly frail and pitiful. “We named her Hope,” Teresa recalls. “When she stepped off the trailer, she was standing on my foot and I didn’t even know it.”

Hope was so malnourished that she had no muscle tone left and, after veterinarian examination, it was determined she had pneumonia. Not long after her arrival, Hope began to have seizures and the vet notified Teresa that she wasn’t going to make it. “She just looked at us and let out a big sigh and it was like she was saying, ‘Okay, I’m done,’” Teresa says.

Hope’s heartbreaking story led Teresa to name the organization Hope’s Castaways Equine Rescue. Since starting the rescue, Teresa has learned a lot about the groups that sell horses like Hope. “A lot of these horses, the kill buyers put them on there for all those people like me that have bleeding hearts and want to save them all, but we’re just putting money back in their pockets,” she says. “Now the way that we try to do it is to go to auctions and try to outbid the kill buyers.”

According to Teresa, oftentimes the kill buyers will get horses for $20 to $50 each, and turn around and sell them for $700 or $800, even though they are still completely malnourished. Slaughter barns often ship the horses to Mexico and Canada for human consumption. The other way Teresa saves horses is by owner surrenders. Sometimes people call her because they just can’t take care of their animals anymore. “People will tell you anything to get you to take their horse,” she continues. “It’s up to you to try to figure out what is going on with the horse.”   

Today, Hope’s Castaways Equine Rescue is home to 11 horses. Once at the ranch, a veterinarian examines the horses and then they are quarantined for 30 days. Teresa and volunteers work to gradually feed them back to health. The horses often need their hooves to be taken care of by the farrier every six to eight weeks as well as dental work, also known as teeth floating.

After the horses’ health improves, Teresa and experienced volunteers begin working with the animals on the ground. As they progress, they are lunged in a small, circular pen for exercise. Teresa then tries to determine if the horses are broken or rideable. The rescue’s greatest needs are experienced volunteers and, specifically, horse trainers who are willing to donate their time to help break and train the horses.

“When we adopt these horses out, we have to give them the best possible chance,” says Teresa. “We really have to get these horses to the best potential possible so when they do go to that home, it’s a forever home. We want it to fit.”

Once Teresa determines that a horse is ready to find a home, it can be adopted out, but she has strict procedures in place to make sure they don’t end up back in bad situations. She does home visits and requires monthly pictures with date cards to show how the rescue horses are doing. The organization’s adoption contract states the horses can never be re-sold or re-homed without Teresa’s permission. If the adopter brings the horse back in the same condition they left in, they will get half their adoption fee back.  

“Everybody has told me if you adopt two horses a year, you are doing good,” Teresa says. “Well, we have adopted out three in the last four months.”

All of the horses recently adopted have gone to local homes, which allows her to check in on them. Recently, Summer Gentres adopted her horse “Harmony” from Hope’s Castaway Horse Rescue. “Everybody tried to steer her away from a rescue horse,” Teresa says. “She told me people tried to warn her about getting a rescue horse because you don’t know what is wrong with them. But you know, horses are like people, we all have issues and no horse is perfect. Anyone who has truly owned a horse knows there is no such thing as a perfect horse.”

Summer said as a first-time horse owner, it was important to her to deal with someone who was honest. From the time she met Teresa, Summer trusted her. “Not only did Mrs. Teresa want to be sure her horse was going to a good home, but it was also equally important to her to make sure the horse was a good fit for me,” Summer says. “I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”

It was love at first ride for Summer. “I love a lot of things about Harmony, but I would say the thing I love the most is that she is so smart and level headed,” Summer continues. “Harmony is very forgiving. She has never offered a buck, rear, or any type of ‘funny business.’ She responds well to direction and is a fast learner. She has been everything I had ever hoped for.”

Summer and Harmony have formed an unbreakable bond. Since her adoption, the two have learned to trust each other. Harmony loves feeding and grooming time the most, but she and Summer also enjoy groundwork and riding. “I love being her adopted mom, and I will be sure to love and care for her just as Mrs. Teresa would,” Summer says.

-- Article by Leila Scoggins