The horse is strong, beautiful—a majestic animal that has been a part of the human experience for centuries. At first we needed them, now we simply love them. Fortifying that love, Deborah Finco started Beech Brook Farm, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit horse rescue that rehabilitates, cares for and reconnects with neglected and abused equines that need a little extra special TLC.
The small volunteer based barn, housed on 14 serenely quiet acres on Fishtown Road in Mystic, specializes in rescuing gaited horse breeds such as the Tennessee Walkers, Rocky Mountains, Missouri Fox Trotters and Paso horses, as well as miniature horses, donkeys and mules.
Finco rescues horses through owner surrenders, neglect cases, local auctions, outbidding kill-buyers, buying sick or injured horses and purchasing directly out of kill pens.
“Our goal is to save as many lives as possible,” Finco proudly said.
Once rescued, Finco and her volunteers work to help the horses trust humans, gain confidence and become healthy both mentally and physically. Last year Beech Brook rescued over 30 horses.
“There is a lot that goes into working with a rescue horse because when they come here we are never sure what they have been through,” Finco explained. “We really have to be patient and try to figure out how we can best help them.
Finco said a lot of labor-intensive work goes into rehabilitating the horses before they even try to ride them.
“Some of these horses have been abused and don’t trust people, others have been neglected and others have simply never been trained at all, which makes them unwanted and dangerous,” Finco said. “It’s our job to figure out how to help them so they can find the best possible living situations for the rest of their lives.”
Currently there are several horses at Beech Brook that are in need of forever homes. One special guy is Big Red, an eight-year-old gaited, gelding.
“This horse has a heart of gold and is just a great guy,” Finco said. “My thought is that because of this [an injury on his neck and throat] that he could not work has hard as his previous owners needed so they sent him to auction. We think he will make a great horse for the right owner.”
There is a strict screening process potential adoptive owners must go through before adopting one of these special horses. Finco does thorough background checks, including Internet, references and property as well as interviews, follow-up training and vet check-ins, to ensure that her horses are being cared for properly.
“I think there is a person out there for everyone of these horses. And I don’t want any of them to fall through the cracks,” Finco said.
She supplies all adoptive owners with a support network of trainers and horse specialists to help with continuing care.
And Finco said “If things don’t work out, we require the horse be given back to us.”
As part of her endeavor to educate people about equine health and care, Beech Brook holds summer camps as well as a special youth volunteer program that involves both young people and their parents. The program is designed to get teens involved, give back and to help forge the parent child bond that sometimes is wavering during the teenage years.
“I try to do all that I can to educate people about horses and correct horse care,” said Finco.
Unfortunately she can only house a handful of horses at a time at the rescue, so she uses foster sites and homes to help her.
“We always need more money, more volunteers and more fosters,” said Finco who estimates that it costs approximately $65,000 per year to run her rescue with at least $14,000 annually for vet bills alone. “That’s not including food, hay and farriers.”
To offset monetary burden Beech Brook runs several fundraisers. The next one “Hike for Horses”, will be held on June 25. Participants, each of whom will receive a rescue T-shirt commemorating the event, will hike a one or three mile hike through local open space land finishing with a tour of the rescue facility.
“It is only with outside support and donations that we are able to save, rehabilitate and re-home these horses in need. If you would like to adopt a horse, volunteer, provide a foster home or sponsor a horse please contact us,” Finco said.