Neglect in Appalachia: Culture, Poverty and a Cause



It isn’t just horses.

It is children. The elderly. The roads. The homes.

I have called West Virginia my home for almost all of my thirty four years. I love this place.

I hate it, as well.

The poverty and ignorance sometimes bowls me over. The contentment, the resistance to change, the loss of hope. It is beyond the scope of outsiders.

People are warm, talkative, giving and helpful in a way you will never find somewhere else. I’ve tried. That is why I always come back here, hopeless as the place is, I can’t be without those things we have here.

Yet, I feel we are, as a whole, a consigned people. Consigned to this culture which neglects everything around us too often. It is all too people of us know.

Where I find skeletal horses, I look around at mobile homes caving in, children mulling about with trash everywhere. I know that Child Protective Services should frequently be right behind my horse trailer when we leave, though they rarely are. And that bothers me to my core. . .

Disrepair and despair. . .it is all over the hollows full of shanty type dwellings and children that will grow up never knowing there is more than “this.”

This becomes normal. Poverty and ignorance and contentment.

A world where normal is:

Horses just are skeletal, dogs just have mange, your sewer line runs in the creek and when a car stops working, you leave it there in front of the house that never ended up having siding put on it.

After a life lived in one of the poorest counties in the United States, I get it. I’ve seen things people deny take place in America. Folks think we are “better” than that, and I know “better.”

But slowly, you can show people there is more. Too many beings depends on this generation knowing more, doing more and being more.

Our mission at Heart of Phoenix has long been to show people a better way. To change a “normal” that is broken. . .to fix it. While we fix it for horses, I like to believe it helps to fix it for the people looking on, learning, understanding better than they did before.


(I know you will all ask about her, the mare from the situation on 8/19/16, and she has been seen by our vet. Her prognosis is poor due to long time neglect, though the starvation alone is not what put her in such a precarious position. If extreme starvation  was all she was fighting, she would recover. Note there are many other horses on the scene, as well as a tremendous number of pigs, goats, cows and other animals. We are working to see them safe, as well)


9 thoughts on “Neglect in Appalachia: Culture, Poverty and a Cause

  1. I know this beautiful horse has other medical issues, but I would love to bring this horse back from the brink of death. Then I would be attached and she would never leave.

  2. I will work on sending money soon.
    I pray the rest of the animals get the help they need also. Bless you and all your volunteers for all you do for WV.
    It’s such a bad situation there, I have family from Beckley, Mullens, Princeton and Bluefield, I cannot believe how it’s declined over the last 20 years. So much poverty and delglect 😔😓.

  3. When animals get to this level of neglect, they should be humanely euthanized, and time and efforts should be directed to animals that have a legitimate chance. This horse has suffered long enough…it is inherently wrong to make it suffer more while it “recovers”…..then where will it go ?Spend that money on education and working to change this culture!!!

  4. Bless you. Most folks from Appalachia love and hate it so it seems. Its difficult for those who don’t know true poverty to comprehend the true helplessness and learned helplessness that goes along with it. Change is scary, and people, all people deal with it differently. But abuse is abuse and neglect is neglect and I pray a prayer of blessing and strength and safety.

  5. Well written–and sadly, so true. I’ve seen this poverty in northern New England as well. Thank you for all you’re doing in WV

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