For neglected, abused or slaughter-bound horses, there is a loving farm in North Salem that wants to rescue them. Since 2015, Our Farm Equine Rescue, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, has been committed to rescuing and rehabilitating horses in dire situations and then finding ‘forever’ homes for them.
Sharon Kress, a lifelong equestrian, founded the organization, drawing on her many personal experiences with abandoned horses. She essentially brought several of the majestic animals back to life by giving them the proper attention, training and love. Her idea was to make a difference, not only for the needy horses, but also for those who provided them with lifesaving care.
“It started in my brain more than ten years ago,” Kress said. “I always wanted to do something with horses and children; at-risk horses and at-risk children with the very basic concept that we nurture the kids to help nurture the horses.”
The farm has welcomed up to ten horses at a time with various lengths of stay for each animal, Kress explained. Horses that have been rescued from the slaughter pipeline are required to be quarantined for 30 days after which they are given an individualized program of feeding and training so they can be adopted or fostered. Others arrive having been surrendered by their owners or come neglected or emaciated.
“We are not a sanctuary, we do not have the space or the location to just to take in a bunch of horses,” Kress said. “We feel that having a custom program for each horse when they come in – to evaluate them, to figure out what they need, whether it is training, medical (usually both) and then through that rehabilitation, we assess as to what their best next chapter will be.”
Beyond the immediate care of the horses, education and mentorship are central to the farm’s philosophy. Kress, whose daughter attends sixth grade in North Salem, offers programs to elementary-aged students (through the After School Enrichment program at Pequenakonck Elementary School) and to older kids (through the S.T.A.R. initiative or Students Taking Action for Rescues). The hands-on program aims to educate and empower teens by teaching them to be competent caretakers of the horses.
“When they see the pony that was shy and wouldn’t eat out of your hand and after a week or two of working with it, is now it eating out of your hand, that gives the kid confidence, it gives the horse some confidence,” Kress said.
When the horses are healthy and ready to go, the farm actively seeks to match the rehabilitated animals with a home, a foster trainer or a foster family that is best-suited for them.
“People inquire and say they want to adopt—we can put them in the right direction as to what is the best horse for them,” Kress added. “We never had any horses returned back.”
Kress likened her farm to those shelters that take in abandoned dogs and cats and rely on donations and volunteers for their upkeep; her farm’s mission addresses the needs of horses in the same compassionate way. The costly nature of her rescue operation requires Kress to reach out to the community for their generosity and support as she saves one horse at at time.
“We take horses that are at risk: at risk meaning they are going to be killed, going to slaughter—they have been abused, they have been abandoned, they have been neglected—they are in harm’s way and their lives are in jeopardy, immediate jeopardy,” she said.
For more information on volunteering, adopting, fostering or sponsoring a rescue horse, visit ourfarmequinerescue.org