PERRINEVILLE, NJ — Like many who start out in horse rescue, when Lisa Post set out to establish Helping Hearts Equine Rescue, she envisioned saving many unwanted horses from unhappy fates.
Although she had already been rescuing horses personally, Helping Hearts Equine Rescue was incorporated on Jan. 10, 2008 as a non-profit corporation, so this year marks the official 10th birthday. The rescue was granted federal 501(c)3 non-profit status a little more than a year later.
In the last 10 years, Helping Hearts has helped hundreds of equines in need, young old and everything in between. Post soon learned that there were many more needing help than one rescue could physically and financially be able to help. “I mean, I knew how big the problem of homeless horses was, but the sheer magnitude can be overwhelming. In the beginning we tried to help them all, but pulling in big bunches got dicey. Over the years, I’ve learned that we have to limit our intakes so that we can do what’s best and right for the ones in our care,” she said.
Many of these equines have made an indelible mark on Post.
“Simon was a heart-horse for me. A used up old work horse who arrived skinny and sad. Fixing the skinny was fairly easy, but helping him find his smile, his happiness, that took a bit longer. I made it a mission to make sure he was happy and content. He’s the reason the barn gets night-cookies every night now. When he passed, we established Simon’s Legacy, a fund to be used to pull other thrown away old work-horses. Simone, a mule, was the first beneficiary of his Legacy, in 2015.”
The organization currently has more than 85 equines in adoptive homes. The Facebook page is full of photos of the horses with their smiling new owners.
One 2017 adoption, Ethan, was born at HHER on Dec. 8, 2013. Other than one ear that didn't form normally, Ethan was a healthy, bouncing, baby boy. Known for his "elfen" ear, the pony gelding began under-saddle training after he turned 3.
Each horse goes out with a contract that stipulates that should circumstances change, they come back to Helping Hearts. “We are their safety net. Our goal is to get them safe, and keep them safe. I’m proud of what we have accomplished,” Post said.
Some horses have come back, a few more than once. Some were deemed unsuitable for adoption for various reasons and became permanent residents to live out the rest of their days.
There is Chance, who arrived before he was born. His mother, Rose, came from the New Holland Auction in April, 2009. She was heavy in foal, but a USDA slaughter tag had already been affixed to her when her rescuers arrived.
HHER’s Second Chance, a purebred Standardbred, was born to Rose on May 28, 2009 but the birth was a difficult one. The colt was incorrectly positioned in the birth canal. The mare had stopped pushing and was up and grazing with one of the unborn foal’s leg protruding. The foal’s legs were manually repositioned and Chance made his way into the world. However, the damage had apparently been done. Multiple veterinarians agreed that Chance had been deprived of oxygen for too long.
“Handling him since birth, as he grew I noted he wasn’t hitting developmental milestones. He had difficulty retaining training information and was quick to panic and over-react to repetitive normal everyday situations,” Post said.
Attempts at saddle training were not successful. Post tried when Chance was 3, then 4. He just wasn’t progressing the way he should have and it soon became clear he never would. “Our big, sweet, friendly, beautiful, flighty baby was going to be just that, a baby in perpetuity. We initially hoped to find a companion home, but people just don’t want big, sometimes hyper lawn ornaments. So with no homes forthcoming, and for his safety, as well as the safety of potential adopters, Chance became one of our first Sanctuary horses. He’ll be with HHER for his lifetime — safe, secure, happy,” Post said.
For other horses, Helping Hearts has served as an equine hospice.
Miniature horse, Lollipop, 34 arrived frail in body, but strong in spirit. “Initially I thought we’d give her a good few weeks and then assist in a peaceful passing. She proved to have quite a strong will. Her strength of spirit shined through. She lorded over her small domain. I spoiled her and waited on her hand and hoof, spent time sharing her space. As winter wound down, I saw that her ‘time’ was coming. I wrestled with making a decision, hoping to have her enjoy some warm Spring days first. She did, then Lollipop made her own decision and passed peacefully after dinner one March evening. While actually only with us 11 months, the impression she left in my heart is one of years,” Post said.
Then there was Napoleon. The miniature horse was pulled from the feed lot in 2010 and soon adopted out. “When his current adopter advised that he was seriously ill, we offered to take him ‘home’ to give him the experience of treatment and care our team could provide. Despite three months of intensive treatment, a lot of ups and downs, the pleural pneumonia proved to be deep-seated and drug-resistant. Like Lollipop, Napoleon was a fighter, I knew he would let me know when or if he was tired. When that time came, he passed peacefully in my arms,” Post said.
Rescue work has taught Post a great deal, and she has chronicled those lessons through the rescue’s Facebook and web pages.
“Bentley of course, made a deep impression with everyone here at HHER. He had a huge personality. Frankly, he was an icon, the face of Helping Hearts for several years. He had a huge following on Facebook, even with his own Facebook group — Bentley’s Benefactors,” Post said.
Bentley, a Clydesdale, was pulled from the Camelot Feed Lot in April 2009 and adopted a few months later. Two years after that, Bentley returned to HHER, hundreds of pound underweight. He was so weak he was falling down on the ramp as Post loaded him into the trailer.
Bentley had several physical ailments including respiratory issues and hoof problems. Although tests were “inconclusive,” it is believed that he had Pemphigus Coronitis, an autoimmune disease that can be triggered by malnutrition. Bentley’s coronary bands and chestnuts would open up and begin weeping serum and sometimes blood. There was also an extremely foul odor. Later the gelding battled abscesses in his hooves. At one point Post turned to the use of medical maggots to help clean up the abscesses and try to prevent them from recurring.
See the maggot treatment here.
“Since he had more than his fair share of unusual physical issues, he taught us a lot in that realm as well. He was a professional’s dream, or nightmare, based on how you look at it,” Post said, “Farriers would bring other farriers to observe his trims and feet. Videos and photos were shared around quite a bit.”
Despite his ailments, Post said Bentley was a happy horse. Then in October 2017, the 18-hand-tall gelding passed away suddenly.
“Bentley was with us the longest, and while his passing was unexpected, I comfort myself in knowing he had a great life with us. He enjoyed spending his days lounging with BFF Hessel, reveled in the attention he received. I think he even got perverse pleasure in giving the stink eye and pushing his ‘team’ around during hoof care sessions. I miss the way he’d approach me in the pasture, greeting me with a nudge or press of that enormous head. Hessel now continues the ritual solo,” Post said.
While many may consider the death of horses to be the hardest part of rescue Post said, “Frankly, the financial side is the hardest part. Not the rehabilitation efforts, or the hours, or even the difficulties and stress of making end of life decisions. It’s the constant need to fundraise to care for our charges, and to have to weigh the financials when wanting to intake another. Especially the last two to three years, donations are definitely down, and even if we fundraise for specific costs, such as pulling a horse, or funding the care of an emergency intake — the donations just don’t come in the way they did in earlier years. I’m not sure if it’s because of the financial climate, if there are just so many more rescues, or if people have been burned from ‘bad’ rescues that they’re gun-shy.”
Despite the difficulties, “It’s fulfilling to watch a neglected or abused animal heal, both physically and mentally/emotionally, Post said, “To watch our rescues bloom, to gain or regain their trust in people, and to see them relax and feel safe and comfortable; for the adoptable ones, to see them go on to have wonderful lives in new homes. And for those ‘unadoptable’ and seniors who remain with us find peace and happiness, enjoying their equine and human companionship. That’s the best part.”
Post cannot do the job alone. Helping Hearts is possible due to many hard working volunteers, for which she is very grateful. All the labor is provided by volunteers and Post works hard to make sure administrative costs are kept as low as possible.
Helping Hearts is supported entirely by donations. To donate: PayPal via firstname.lastname@example.org
Mail: Helping Hearts, P.O. Box 342, Perrineville N.J. 08535
PayPal Donation/Sponsorship links can found on the home page of the website: www.hher.webs.com
Follow on Facebook www.facebook.com/Helping-Hearts-Equine-Rescue-Inc-245560968791360/
Helping Hearts Equine Rescue Mission Statement:
"Helping Hearts Equine Rescue is a 501(c)3 Non-Profit animal welfare organization incorporated in the State of New Jersey. We are dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and placement of equines in need; assisting equines in situations of neglect, abuse or threat of slaughter located in, but not necessarily limited to Monmouth, Middlesex and Ocean Counties - in our home state of New Jersey. To educate the public regarding the standards of care required to maintain an equine as a riding partner and/or companion animal in a humane manner."
(1) Accept into our program equines in need who have been victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment.
(2) Assist in the placement of equines under the care of private owners who can no longer maintain them;
(3) Provide necessary management, veterinary and farrier care for those equines under our protection;
(4) Rehabilitate and adopt out equines to suitable homes as sport-horse prospects; pleasure riding prospects or as retirement/companion animals;
(5) Obtain sponsorships for those equines who maintain a permanent residency within the auspices of our organization;
(6) To provide all animals under our care with a comfortable and dignified existence without pain or suffering. If and when physical and medical circumstances no longer allow that comfortable life; to let them go gently and kindly with a humane veterinary-assisted euthanasia.
Helping Hearts, is a Guidestar Exchange Gold Participant, and have been a Top-Rated Non-profit with GreatNonProfits for the past several years.
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