Volunteers work to save abused horses
RIVERVIEW, Fla. — They have heartwarming stories of victory over torture, starvation and abandonment. But some days, there are no smiles. Just desperate attempts by dedicated volunteers to right the horrific wrongs inflicted on their charges.
RVR Horse Rescue, tucked in a rural corner in Riverview more than a shout from congested suburbia, is sometimes the last stop for once-majestic steeds whose owners have beaten them, starved them or simply left them to fend for themselves, with little hope of survival.
It is a recurring phenomenon that keeps the rescue in business.
“We are all about those who are on the edge,” said Shawn Jayroe, cofounder of this bastion of healing. “We are not a dropoff for people who no longer want their horses. On a scale of one to 10, we are taking the ones – those that nobody else wants to take in.
“If there’s a fight in their eye, I’ll fight with them. If not, we’re their hospice for their last days,” she said, walking from one stall to the next, telling of the tragedies these enormous but dependent animals have endured.
“We have one that was royalty – Princess Brittany. She was one of six in Keystone Heights from a place we call the ‘Barn of Horrors.”’ The former Breeder’s Cup winner was living surrounded by rotting and dead horses, with no food or water.
Shadow was living on a plot in Wimauma filled with metal and broken glass, being fed under a collapsing metal roof, said Kit Kelly, rescue and adoption coordinator for RVR, who talked the owner into giving him up. “We take in the worst of the worst.”
The most prevalent issue, said co-founder Sandy Johnson, is starvation.
The goal of RVR, she said, is to rehabilitate, socialize and desensitize the horses – and, when possible, find them adoptive homes.
It’s an expensive endeavor, costing about $10,000 a month just to buy feed and hay, said Jayroe, who purchased the 40 acres eight years ago, so she would have a place for the abandoned and starving horses she already had.
RVR counts on donations, Jayroe said.
The donations came in handy recently when the rescue took in six horses from what Johnson refers to as a “so-called rescue in Wimauma.”
Three of the six – Hank, Cochise and Sampson – could not be saved. A fourth one, Bella, died later, a devastating loss to a young RVR volunteer who stayed by the horse’s side for hours. The remaining two horses, Solo and Shasta, are on the mend, Kelly said.
“People don’t realize what is happening out there,” she said. “And things aren’t going to change until people start acting.”