Rescue Farm gives H.O.P.E. to horses in need

When Stormy first came to H.O.P.E. Acres Rescue, she was severely thin, covered in scars, and could barely stand.
 
Suffering from a debilitating neurological disease called EPM, Stormy was unable to control her limbs and would stagger or spin until inevitably collapsing.
 
Without being able to balance on three legs, there seemed to be no hope for the young equine, who was only three years old.
 

 
Fortunately, hope was available – in the care of H.O.P.E. Acres Rescue, that is. 
 
Helping Our Precious Equines is known as H.O.P.E. Acres Rescue, a local equine rescue tucked away off an old gravel road in Bonneau, South Carolina. Its mission is to “rescue, rehabilitate, and provide a safe haven for equines in need,” and Stormy was desperately in need.
 
Thanks to the rescue’s founders, Tracey Sawyer and her mother, Diane Ross, and along with rescue volunteers, Stormy underwent aggressive treatment that took her from barely walking to racing up and down her pasture. It has allowed her playful personality to radiate joy to those she meets, including her new adoptive owner.
 
Stormy is one of 81 other equines at the rescue who have had similar success stories.
 
For nearly 15 years, the 40-acre sanctuary has stood as a beacon of hope for mistreated and neglected horses and donkeys from across the state.
 
The concept behind the rescue didn’t stem from a deep-seated love for horses or a desire to fill a void.
 
In fact, Sawyer, a lifelong Berkeley County resident, had never taken riding lessons, and already had her hands full with kids and a full-time job. Sawyer’s decision to start a rescue struck her with a sudden epiphany.
 
“I was on my way to work one morning and had this vision laid on my heart with horses and stables,” she said. “I didn’t grow up with horses. I didn’t know a lot when I started all this, but I felt like there was something telling me to look into this.”
 
She immediately began researching. To get a lay of the land, she met with existing horse rescues and spoke with animal control agencies. There, she discovered the local animal control had no accommodating facility or the means and experience to handle a large animal rescue. Sawyer then realized she was right – there was a need.
 
Since 2010, H.O.P.E. has taken in 99 abused and unwanted equines in animal control agencies across the state, in addition to owner surrenders and abandonment cases.
 
With the help of veterinarians, surgeons, and proper medication, the rescue oversees different types of physical ailments in horses and donkeys that may be underweight, injured, or suffering from life-threatening diseases.
 
“If we can offer treatment to an animal that’s in distress and provide a better quality of life, then that’s what we do,” Sawyer said. “We always give them a shot. If there’s even a slight chance that we can improve quality of life and add years to their lives, then that’s what we do.”
 
When equines are brought to H.O.P.E., they are met with a vet who provides a diagnosis and a blood work panel to check for deficiencies. From there, they are put on a nutritional plan specific to each horse or donkey. Throughout rehabilitation, trainers will regularly perform evaluations on each animal’s progress and check that they are safe to catch and handle before adoption is considered.
 
Horses spend an average of 19 months at H.O.P.E. before adoption, Sawyer said. “We want to ensure that we put them in the right hands so that they never end up back where they came from.”
 
Those looking to adopt go through an extensive application process requiring reference checks, farm visits, and at least one other horse at the adoptive home with at least two acres of pasture space.
 
“We’ve had some go on to be therapy horses, some do polo, and some go on to be show horses,” Sawyer said. “Even though these animals have been through these traumatic experiences in their life, to watch them become someone’s partner or family or therapy animal, it’s like watching a kind of rebirth – not only physically but spiritually.”
 
Central to each equine’s success at H.O.P.E. Acres are its volunteers, who work pro-bono, or free, out in Bonneau.
 
Born out of a passion for helping horses when she was young, Daniel Island resident Nancy White has been volunteering at H.O.P.E. for more than two years. A few times a week, she drives an hour to help with the rescue’s upkeep and day-to-day operations.
 
“The reward for me to drive out here and do what I do far outweighs the time it takes to get here – and the gas,” White joked.
 
Volunteers, like White, assist with feeding and grooming, supplying medications, checking for injuries, and also cleaning up after the animals.
 
White said the hardest part of the job can be saying goodbye to the adopted horses after getting to know them so deeply.
 
“I shed tears when they get adopted, and yet, I know that’s the goal,” White said. “It’s hard, because you get to know them and their personalities, but you know they’re going to a good place. We do the best we can to ensure that we put them in the most suitable hands. And if it ever doesn’t work out, they’re welcome back here.”
 
H.O.P.E. Acres works to ensure a lifelong commitment to each horse it takes in, extending  beyond physical care, emotional support, and advocacy. White described H.O.P.E.’s operations as unique compared to other animal rescues, calling it her duty to make a difference.
 
“What we do and see here is hard to put into words. If it’s something you’re passionate about, if it’s something that is spiritually rejuvenating for you, that’s something you can’t write a paycheck for. It wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t have the same effect.”
 
Sawyer emphasized the support of volunteers like White, who have watched the transformation of both the rescue and its horses.
 
“It really is a team effort,” she noted. “These folks are here out of the kindness of their hearts – in the heat, in the rain, in the thunder, in the lightning – for not one cent in return. Just out of pure love and respect for that animal. They are part of what’s most rewarding for me – the people I call family and friends.”
 
The success stories emerging from H.O.P.E. Acres don’t just end with Stormy. 
 
Honey, a palomino quarter horse, came to the rescue with an infection so deep, believed to be from a barbed wire injury, that her hoof was purple. After four surgeries and daily treatment for a year, Honey blossomed into a thick, beautiful mare and was successfully adopted. 
 
“We find much comfort in knowing she can now move comfortably and purposefully,” Sawyer said. “She will not wonder where her next meal will come from and she’s able to frolic around with her new pasture friend, running and doing what horses do. This is why we do what we do.”
 
To support cases like Honey’s, H.O.P.E. Acres established Honey’s Fund, dedicated to securing funding for critical medical care.
 
Some medications can cost more than $1,000 per treatment, and depending on the animal’s condition, they may require multiple doses. Sawyer said it costs about $300 a month for hay, grain, medical, and hoof care – and that’s just for one horse. 
 
H.O.P.E. spends an average of $5,700 bringing an equine through rehabilitation to adoption. 
 
Through the efforts of community members and volunteers, H.O.P.E. can continue to transform lives, one hoof at a time. 
 
For more information on H.O.P.E. Acres Rescue or to volunteer or donate, visit hopeacresrescue.org/
 

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555

 

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