Heading out to my second horse rescue highlight interview I was excited! My first interview a few weeks back went so well, and I wondered what lay in store for me on the 2 hour drive as I made my way down the winding roads through the Virginia mountains. I wondered how there could be horse pastures in such varied, wooded terrain. Then, sure enough like a big reveal out of a movie, fencing appeared! A perfectly level, gorgeous pasture of grulla colored ponies emerged (more on them in a bit).
I was greeted in an old farm house by Maya Proulx, Executive Director and founder of Hope's Legacy Equine Rescue. Volunteers were giving the farm house some much needed TLC to turn it into a future volunteer center. We jumped right into discussing the property, as Hope's Legacy has only been in their current location for 2 years. Before then, they had bounced around from farm lease to farm lease since their founding in 2008 with the help of a very successful foster network still going strong today.
The current farm was finally theirs after a newsletter seeking land caught the eye of a family who had just inherited acreage and hoped to sell some of it off for a good cause. Now the owners of just over 170 acres, Hope's Legacy has found its permanent home but is still working daily to get it where it needs to be with a goal of having enough fenced pasture for 40 horses, a large barn, trails and an arena.
There are currently only 16 horses on property (the rest are in foster care). Among those is registered Quarter Horse mare, Dora. Dora has been in and out of the rescue a couple times at no fault of her own. Initially, she was brought to Hope's Legacy after her owner went off to college and could not take Dora along. She was also suffering from heaves that her owner did not know how to properly manage and as a result, Dora was very thin.
As a sweet, rideable mare Dora found a home a couple years later, but unfortunately had to be returned after her new owner could no longer afford her care. It is in Hope's Legacy's adoption contract that horses can be returned to them if an adopter can no longer care for them for any reason. This helps prevent their rescues from going to auction or ending up in a neglectful situation again. She is now about 20 years old, still rideable and requires heaves medication at approximately $100 per month.
Maya then took me to their upper paddocks where I met the rescue's two adorable mascots with big personalities. I was expecting horses, but instead discovered four extremely large floppy ears peeking out of the run-in shed. The ears belonged to Donkey and Dolly.
"We need to go inside the paddock or these guys will get mad" explained Maya. I wasn't sure what she meant at first, but then realized this was because these two absolutely loved attention! If you ever feel the need to be hugged by a donkey, head over to Hope's Legacy.
I'm sure you're wondering how two donkeys became permanent residents of the rescue. Have you heard of the Peaceable Farm cruelty case of 2015? This is where Donkey was found and rescued.
It is among Maya's most memorable moments since the rescue's founding and unfortunately, it's not a pretty picture. She recalls the exact moment when she pulled up to Peaceable Farm. It was getting late, it was dark, and the only light on the property was that of the tractor piling up horse carcasses. Maya explained the overwhelming stench of death that filled the air. When she first saw Donkey, he was barely hanging on in a small paddock. His only companions were already deceased; a fellow donkey and a cat.
The veterinarians on the property were tagging the animals who were still alive. Donkey was tagged "red", symbolizing how urgently he needed to be removed for care. Hope's Legacy took 7 red tagged animals that night in a desperate attempt to save their lives and sadly only Donkey is still alive today. This little guy is now incredibly happy and spoiled and has developed an inseparable bond with Maya. Dolly was brought in as a companion to Donkey and is as equally friendly and lovable. Honestly, these two reminded me of my two large dogs.
After some donkey fun, Maya took me back down to where I saw that herd of grulla ponies when I arrived. Turns out, these are no ordinary ponies! Hope's Legacy is very unique in that they are home to 5 'restoration' Tarpans. If you don't know what a Tarpan is, don't worry, you're not alone! Tarpans are the ancient ancestors of today's domesticated horse! While the original Tarpans or Eurasian wild horses are now extinct, efforts were made in the 1900s to 'breed them back' into existence to preserve the history of the horse.
Only about 100 restoration breed Tarpans exist in the United States, and when Hope's Legacy found out some of them may be in jeopardy due to their owner's passing, they took 5 of them in thanks to the help of a passionate volunteer who covers all of their expenses. Read more about Hope's Legacy's Tarpan herd here.
Hope's Legacy proudly houses this small
historic herd to play their part in preserving the legacy of the horse. In addition to caring for rescue horses in need, it's just another way that they give back to the horses who give us so much in life.
After this amazing step back in time, I asked Maya what stood out in her mind as one thing she'd like the public to know about rescues. Her response was something that I didn't even think about! When taking in new rescues, Hope's Legacy's priority is helping law enforcement and animal control. Often times animal control doesn't have stalls to place rescued equines, so they turn to rescues like Hope's Legacy in seizure situations.
When this happens, many people don't realize that it is the rescue who foots the bill, not the state or county. In the case of Peaceable Farm, Hope's Legacy took in 29 horses and in 1 year of rehab spent $92,000 on their care. That is why monetary donations of any amount are so appreciated. Maya explains that when animal control calls, she does absolutely everything she can to say 'yes' to lending them a hand.
Finally, as we parted ways, I asked Maya what is one thing our readers could do to help the rescues in her care. Spreading awareness by sharing their Facebook and Instagram posts is a big one she explained. There are many horse rescues in Virginia and Maryland, so the more we share, the more likely someone will consider adopting a rescue horse for their next equine partner.