Rescued Horses
Equine Adoption and Retirement Equal Hope
By Bill Johnson / July, 2011

Bigfoot is a 28-year-old horse that was soon to be slaughtered for his meat. But he was rescued from a "kill pen" in Pennsylvania and brought to Parkland to live peacefully.

"Bigfoot was my first rescue," says Matthew Seacrist. "I've known people involved in rescues and have always been around them, but after rescuing Bigfoot, I realized there were many horses out there that need to be adopted."

This realization prompted Seacrist to launch a non-profit organization to rescue, rehabilitate and establish a retirement home for horses that other people don't want. Second Chance for Horses Rescue has adopted approximately thirty horses since 2008.

Surprisingly, perhaps, only two of the horses came from circumstances involving serious abuse or neglect. Some of the horses are what Seacrist calls drop-offs - horses that for one reason or another people can't keep or care for anymore. Some were just old. Some are racehorses that are past their prime and can't continue to race.

One of the racehorses, named Questioneer, had damaged ligaments in her back feet. She was stall-bound for six months. She's now "out and about," says Seacrist, but can't be adopted because the damage to her ligaments and nerves caused her pelvis to dislocate. The veterinarian advised that Questioneer be allowed to just enjoy life in retirement.

Another racehorse had a fractured leg that was in a cast for five months and lived at the Second Chance stable for a year and a half, before being adopted and moved to a new home in Okeechobee. "I don't reject any horse from the racetrack," Seacrist says. "If they call me, I take the horse."

A mare named Aleah, Seacrist says, lived her life in a pen and had her urine collected for manufacturing medicine. She, like Bigfoot, is a permanent resident, not for adoption.

In early March, Second Chance for Horses Rescue was caring for seventeen horses. Some are kept in Parkland and others in Okeechobee, where they can be permanently retired. Dezeray Peters, one of the organization's directors, operates the Okeechobee facility and trains horses that are suitable for adoption.

Peters was inspired to try to save injured and unwanted horses several years ago, when someone gave her a horse that had been injured at a racetrack. She cared for the horse until it died. Peters rents seven acres of pastures in Okeechobee where she prepares horses for adoption. "Most people are looking for a trained horse so I give them basic riding manners and ground manners," she says.

The horses are more suited for adoption if they have learned to walk on a lead line and are accustomed to being brushed and groomed. For those old horses that aren't adopted, the pasture is a spacious retirement home.

Caring for rescued horses is not easy. And it's not cheap. Seacrist, who lives in Coral Springs, rents space for Second Chance for Horses Rescue on Godfrey Road in Parkland. In addition to rent, there is the cost of food, veterinary care, various supplies and equipment.

The organization can always use donations of supplies, including hay, grain, brushes, blankets, shampoo, towels, buckets, halters and medical supplies. Money contributed in any way is helpful and donations are tax deductible. But there's never enough.

One bale of hay, for instance, costs close to $20, and Seacrist buys roughly fifteen bales a week. Typically, he says, he spends $400 to $500 a week and subsidizes a substantial amount of that out of his own pocket. "I'm the bank," he says.

Seacrist, age 34, supports his favorite cause by working twelve-hour days as an air conditioning and refrigeration technician. Despite his demanding day job, he is at the stable early every morning or at the end of his workday. He is quick to praise the volunteers: "If not for them, it would be very tough."

He is also grateful for "a lot of help" from Finish Line Feed. "Rescue is a lot of work," he says, "but once you get going, you can't stop."

Bigfoot, his first saved horse that is part Clydesdale and Belgian, now has a bad heart. He will probably live his life in retirement at Second Chance for Horses Rescue, where he is the mascot. He was fortunate to escape being auctioned off and sent to Mexico for meat.

To help defray operating costs, Second Chance for Horses Rescue charges a $400 adoption fee. An appointment is required to visit the stable. Interested horse lovers should call 954-934-6326. You can learn more about the charity from its web site:
Bill Johnson is a freelance writer who lives in Coconut Creek.

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