By Lauren Wanko
They nosh on hay, roam through fields of grass, roll around in the sand. It’s a relaxing life. Something most of these horses didn’t have before Helping Hearts Equine Rescue.
“Our goal is to rehabilitate them and get them into homes,” said Helping Hearts Equine Rescue President Lisa Post.
Perrineville resident Post started the rescue with her husband in 2008 after they opened the Chestnut Ridge Equestrian Center — a training and boarding facility.
“During that journey of having the barn, you start realizing where unwanted horses wind up. I started pulling horses out of bad situations one horse at a time,” Post said.
Since then, the non-profit’s rescued about 150 horses. They usually house 15 at any given time — everything from miniatures to mules to a Clydesdale like Bentley. He was about to be to shipped for slaughter when Post took him in.
“While horses aren’t slaughtered in the United States any more, they’ll still be shipped abroad to Canada and Mexico. They’ll slaughter babies, they’ll slaughter old horses. They have different markets to fill for different types of meats,” Post said.
She says others travel to different horse auctions and many of the animals come in abused or sick. About 90 horses have been adopted from the all-breed rescue. The cost typically ranges from $250 to $750. There’s an application and interview process to ensure the right owner’s paired with the right horse.
“It’s not like going to a shelter and picking out a cute kitten because you have a 1,000 pound animal who has different skill sets. Our contracts stipulate that they always come back to us if the people can’t keep them any more,” Post said.
Which is what happened to Bentley.
When asked what the best part about doing this every day is, Post said, “It’s probably the satisfaction of seeing them heal.”
Veterinarian Elias Perris checks up on the animals just about every week.
Why are the rescues like this so important?
When asked why rescues like this are so important Perris said, “The purchase price of a horse is the least amount of money you will ever spend. The maintenance of the horse is where all of your expense comes from and so many people think it’s great and they love them, they’re beautiful animals, but then when the reality comes in and the expense comes in they can’t do it.”
It costs Helping Hearts about $6,000 a month to care for 15 rescues. Every horse is on a specialized diet and gets medications if needed too. The volunteer effort is all funded by private donations.
Many of the rescue horses at Helping Hearts become permanent residents because of their age or physical disabilities. But others can go on to live full, active lives like Skeeter, who was brought here about five years after being neglected. Now he earns his keep as a lesson horse for Post’s boarding and training facility.
“They can go out and do anything. They can trail ride, they can show and they’re just as good as any other horse,” Post said.
And clearly not camera-shy either.