Contributed by: Winnie Blackwood
CENTRAL SQUARE – Horses are given a second chance at life through Sunshine Horses, a rescue with tender loving care and rehabilitation.
The not-for-profit rescue’s goal is to retrain and rehabilitate the horses in order for them to find their forever homes.
Most of the horses that come through the barn’s doors, located in Central Square, are Standardbreds, used for harness racing and Thoroughbreds, known for flat track racing.
However, Sunshine also takes in a variety of breeds, such as Quarter Horses and Morgans.
Katherine Starr, Sunshine’s president, said during her time training Standardbreds at the Mohegan Sun At Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania, she didn’t like what she saw after the horse’s racing career came to an end.
“They just got loaded up on big trucks,” she said. “One right next to the other. God knows where they were going to go.”
Those trips could include a ride to the auction, where they can be bought by anyone with money, or to the slaughter house for meat since it is cheap.
Horses at Sunshine were bought and rescued from slaughter houses, kill pens and auctions.
B Rustler, a 17-year-old Standardbred gelding, is an example of one of those horses.
He was rescued from a kill pen in Pennsylvania and is now up for adoption.
D K Miss America, or Dawn, a 16-year-old Standardbred mare, was rescued by a friend of Starr’s right off the truck.
Dawn is also up for adoption.
“They had two labels on them,” Starr said. “They had a label for the auction and they had the Department of Agriculture label, so if they didn’t get bought in the auction then they’d just rip that one off and they were on as agricultural livestock, on the road to slaughter.”
While laws have become tighter as to what happens to the horses after racing, this leads to the problem of finding homes for them after their careers.
At times, the owners give up their horses to Sunshine to ensure they know what will happen to them, so the animals do not end up in scary situations.
Firefly Sassy, a 14-year-old Standardbred mare, was donated to Sunshine after her owner died.
Allamerican Chief, an 11-year-old Standardbred gelding, also came from a private owner.
Firefly Sassy and Allamerican Chief are both up for adoption.
Many of the horses need to be retrained.
Since Standardbreds are primarily used for harness racing and driving, they need to be saddled train in order for them to be rideable.
“Standardbreds are great,” Starr said. “Their personalities are so calm and willing, and they’re devoted.”
Some of the horses up for adoption are called companion horses, which means they are not rideable.
Starr’s late father’s 13-year-old Swedish Warmblood Serengeti is an example of an adoptable companion horse because of hip issues.
“Even the horsemen themselves, unfortunately, have an attitude that they don’t care what happens to them after they race,” Starr said. “We have some very good people that do care.”
Sunshine is run solely by volunteers and donations.
Starr said there is around five volunteers a day during the multiple shifts, who help take care of the 32 horses that reside at Sunshine by feeding, training, cleaning stalls and brushing.
Marisa Jones has been a volunteer at Sunshine for four years.
Jones said she always loved horses and was away from them for a while.
She heard of Sunshine through a news article that she kept on her refrigerator for three years, never going because she had to take care of her children.
Jones then came upon a second article.
“I thought, ‘that’s it, I need to come,’ and I’ve been here for almost four years,” Jones said.
Jones helps with a little bit of everything, including putting in orders, riding and training for three mornings out of the week.
Volunteers do not need to have any experience with horses prior, as well.
The past seven months have been the first encounter volunteer Cindy Albro has had with horses.
“I had absolutely no experiences with horses at all. None,” Albro said.
Before volunteering, Albro said she also had a fear of horses; but Sunshine has gotten rid of her fear.
“I’ve learned something new every week that I come here, and I love being a part of this,” Albro said.
Albro has even formed a bond with one of the horses, a permanent resident of Sunshine, Sisko, an old Quarter horse gelding, who was used in Civil War reenactments.
“[Sunshine Horses does] a wonderful thing here, trying to get these horses a forever home and rehabilitating them and taking the necessary and proper channels to make sure they get a good home,” Farrier O’Henry Lovejoy said of the rescue.
Aside from retraining and rehabilitating horses, Sunshine also has programs for the youth and veterans.
Some of the rescue’s permanent residents, like Ambro Doyle, are used for the programs.
While Sunshine has been around since 2001 with Starr’s involvement and then incorporated in 2003, the rescue has had to lease the farm they reside at.
The plan is to find their own farm and land.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to achieve their plan.
Adoption fees range from $300 for companion horses to $800 for those that are rideable.
For those interested in adoption, volunteering or making donations, contact Sunshine by phone at (315) 456-9380 or by email at [email protected]