If horses could talk . . .

They’d thank Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue, a 20-acre farm that rehabilitates the animals.

If horses could talk, the ones at Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue might give harrowing accounts of the abuse and neglect they’ve endured, of the trauma they’ve fought to overcome.

Because they can’t talk, Patricia Muncy, RVHR president and founder, speaks for them. And every one of them has a story. How the horse stories begin isn’t always clear, but Muncy knows how each horse wound up at her 20-acre farm in Hardy.

“Annabell and Emily Jane were almost dead when they got here,” said Muncy.

Emily Jane, a 20-year-old quarter horse, was a Franklin County Animal Control assisted-owner release. She had been starved and neglected to the point that the owner didn’t know she was pregnant.

Hours before she arrived at RVHR, she birthed Annabell, and they both collapsed from malnutrition and the physical strain of labor.

“The vet didn’t think either one was going to make it,” Muncy said. “The vet gave her [Emily Jane] an 80 percent chance of not making it.”

Four months later, the pair are on their way to optimal health.

Such is the story of many of the horses, which often come to the farm via vet referrals or owner releases.

“When [Animal Control] starts telling people they’re going to be fined, they’re happy to sign [the horses] over,” Muncy said. “If Animal Control is involved, we’ll find a space here.”

Once the horse arrives at the facility, it goes through a lengthy rehabilitation. Many start off on special feed to help put weight back on. They’re socialized and trained to be ridden again. But the hardest task is often getting them to trust humans again.

It’s no one-person job. About a dozen volunteers work throughout the week, feeding and grooming the horses, cleaning stalls and repairing fences.

“Some [volunteers] don’t make it,” Muncy said. “Volunteers come and go. Sometimes it’s hard to see this stuff. It’s heartbreaking. The average volunteers make it about nine months.”

Cameron Allen is defying the average. He’s been volunteering at the rescue for four years. He’s even adopted two horses and two goats from RVHR.

“I’ve worked at a lot of different horse farms, and this is the one I’ve learned the most at,” Allen said.

Once the horses are well again, they can be adopted for a $300 placement fee. Although the fee is low, Muncy said it helps the rescue recoup some of the costs associated with nursing the horses back to health.

“We go through 1,000 pounds of feed from the mill every week and a half,” Muncy said. In addition, they go through about 200 pounds of specialty diet feed. “The feed bill is about $700 per month.”

The rescue also goes through about 40 1,000-pound round hay bales per month. With the recent dry weather, the regular suppliers have less hay this season, so Muncy is looking for reasonably priced hay suppliers throughout the region.

But if she has to, Muncy said she’ll pay.

“If I need it for these guys, they’ll have it,” said Muncy, who left a $40,000 real estate job to open RVHR in November 2002. “That’s when my husband and I go into personal debt.”

There are times when the rescue goes weeks without seeing any monetary, feed or supply donations.

“This place is fueled by personal donations,” she said. “We can only do so much without the community’s support.”

Thanks to community support and volunteers, RVHR has rehabilitated and found homes for about 80 horses in five years, Muncy said.

Ashley, one of the horses at RVHR looking for a home.When an applicant files for adoption, RVHR conducts background checks, talking to references, employers, neighbors and veterinarians, as well as home visits.

If an applicant is approved, he or she has a 30-day waiting period before the adoption is completed.

“We work with them, teach them, do bonding time before they take the horse home,” Muncy said. “We have to make sure the horse is OK with them and they’re OK with the horse.”

The waiting period also eliminates impulse adoptions by allowing the applicants to evaluate their decisions for several days to be sure they’re prepared for the commitment.

At the end of the waiting period, the horse travels to its new home, but RVHR retains ownership for the rest of the horse’s life.

“You can’t ever sell, trade or send them to slaughter,” Muncy said. “And you can’t breed them.”

And if the new home doesn’t work out for any reason, Muncy said the horses always have a home at RVHR, because no matter how bad the rescued horses’ stories began, she is doing all she can to ensure they have happy endings.

“We’re trying to give them a second chance at life,” she said. “They’re the living dead. … We have to make sure nothing bad will ever happen to them again.”

How You Can Help

  1. Volunteer to work on the farm or to help with the business end of RVHR.
  2. Sponsor a horse with monthly donations starting at $25.
  3. Become a member of RVHR with annual donations starting at $10.
  4. Donate feed at Holdren’s Country Store in Vinton or Jack Garst Agency in Boones Mill.
  5. Collect aluminum cans and drop them off at the rescue for recycling.
  6. Register your Food Lion MVP card to have 10 percent of your savings sent to the rescue.
  7. Donate fruit and vegetables for horse snacks or hardware and tools for repairs.
  8. Stop by the farm and spend time with the horses.
  9. For more information on these and other ways to help, visit rvhr.com or call (540) 797-1999.

Source: LAURIE EDWARDS, The Roanoke Times, ClIckLink

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