HARDY, Va. – While much of the business world was shutting down over the past year, life on the farm only got busier. This is especially true for a local horse rescue that despite facing a fire and financial hardships, managed to care for a growing number of horses in need.
Anyone who works with horses as much as Kaye Garland has will tell you, there is something magic about them.
“I love horses,” Garland said. “I have been around them my whole life. They’ve given me so much in life.”
That passion for horses prompted her to volunteer at the Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue in Hardy three years ago.
“I thought this might be my turn to give back. I was always told when I came here that this is a different breed of horse. This is not your regular horse. I thought no, I’ve been around horses, this is going to be easy. You find out real quick, these are rescues,” Garland said.
A decades-old painted horse named Fry is among the 40 plus horses currently living at the Hardy farm. Garland said he came to them skin and bones after his owner died. The owner’s family didn’t know how to care for the horse after he passed. Volunteer and RVHR board member Brandon Lovejoy said that is a common occurrence among horses they rescue.
“Through no ill-intent or fault of their own, some people get a horse and don’t know how to take care of it. Others are animal control situations,” Lovejoy said. “A large number of horses have come in over the course of the pandemic because of how expensive they can be to care for.”
Now eating a specially regulated diet three times a day, Fry has greatly improved at RVHR since he came in last fall. RVHR volunteers were able to give Fry a second chance at life. The horses’ backstories are often what captures their rescuer’s heart, as well as the public’s.
“It’s what they’ve been through. There’s no doubt,” Garland said. “I’m here sometimes when they come in…they come and they have that look in their eye. They are so beaten down. For us to be able to take that horse and put that light back in it’s eye, that means the world.”
Though not being your typical horse, often plagued with health problems and trust issues, the horses are easy to love. At RVHR, there is plenty of love to go around.
“It’s just the love and the care that you give them. And they in turn, they give it back,” Garland said. “It is just that love in their eye. I can’t describe it.”
It takes more than just love to get the farm work done and keep the more than 40 horses currently at the farm fed. But somehow it all gets done with less than 10 volunteers.
Despite caring for more horses during the pandemic, Lovejoy said the rescue is down volunteers and $100,000 in donations. They also recently suffered the loss of expensive farm equipment due to an accidental fire. Thankfully, Lovejoy said no one was hurt. While caring for the animals is hard, often laborious work, Lovejoy said the horses are the reason volunteers keep coming back.
“Each one has their own story, their own personality,” Lovejoy said.
Not every horse is brought to RVHR in time. But volunteers make sure every horse is given a fighting chance to be nurtured back to hopefully a happy ending.
“We will bring one in that’s skin and bones. It might not make it through the week. And over a few months, they turn back into good-looking horses. The goal is to rehabilitate them and readopt them, find them a forever home,” Lovejoy said.
Bringing broken spirits back to life isn’t easy, but it’s a labor of love well worth the reward.
“They come in, we usually cry. I cry,” Garland said. “And when they leave they are tears of joy. But you are still going to cry.”
It costs $3,000 a month to feed the horses. The public can help by sponsoring a horse each month by making a donation. There are also volunteer opportunities.