I am asked so many times about what running a successful rescue takes. . . What it costs.

It costs everything, ya’ll. Everything.

A friend and co-rescuer (Cindy Smith at Central Virginia Horse Rescue) wrote a blog on why starting a rescue isn’t a good idea for most people last week. It spurred this thought process for me.

A few quick facts on rescues that some followers, supporters and donors are unaware of are:

  1. Most animal rescuers are unpaid.
  2. There are no government grants for rescue.
  3. Most rescue funding comes from monthly donors giving what they can.
  4. Most rescuers have families, full times jobs and barely make ends meet.
  5. Most successful rescues were grown from efforts funded out of pocket by one or a few people for a very long time.

Rescue is a bit of a calling and a labor of love.

Sometimes it grows into a something where a organization is so well supported, the founder and others become paid staff, but that isn’t typical. It is simply ideal. As a side note, a paid staff leads to long term success, so we are all for organizations making it to that level. It just doesn’t happen often.

When I began doing rescue, I was newly pregnant with my third child. I was in my mid twenties. I had hypertension, has previously had eclampsia and had a heart defect that made my survival during pregnancy unlikely. I had a 6 month old, breastfed baby who was born 2 months premature. I had an 8 year old who was home schooled. I was trying to finished my 4th year of my undergraduate degree while maintaining a Manga Cum Laude worthy grade point average, and on the side, I tried to keep my small farm in order. I’m also inclined to keep a neat home, so there were, at at all times, 4 loads of laundry a day and 3 loads in the dishwasher to deal with and put away, but that was no matter compared to the rest.

My husband and I used our personal truck that was far from new, our own little trailer and our meager dollars for some years. We used our 23 acres of hillside, too. I stayed up all night posting stories and updates to tell the stories of the horses here. I wrote many a post with two babies in my lap and on 45 minutes of sleep in 3 days. We received no discounts from farrier or vets. We had no family to help in any manner. We made 16 trips many times with all 3 kids in the car and just barely enough to make it back and feed the horses we brought in, but we did it. Over and over until folks noticed and wanted to help.

Thank the Lord, I was a networking maniac. I sought out those on the same mission, those, in some way, trying to help horses, as well. And in the end, amazing people came in to save the day. Build. Grown. Impart knowledge. What we see today is hardly something of my making. It is something grown from many people from a seed one little couple planted, though, through such hardship and so many broken ideals and maybe some tears.

Today, we have Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue, and we are the first of our kind in the entire state of West Virginia. We are 70 plus volunteers, board members and officers strong. We have nearly 300 adopters and have saved well over three hundred horses. We all give and give and give for nothing in return beyond our hope to help more horses in need. We are still ONLY volunteers. All unpaid.

Rescue still costs everything. It is never a job.

As a founder and volunteer, I spend far more than 40 hours each week working for our horses. I still have a farm, 3 homeschooled children and a husband who runs two businesses. I still have 4-6 hours of work at home daily consisting of simple, basic routine care, breakfast, washing, laundry, picking up after three boys. . .

I am sure the hours number 60 or more most of the time, as some days stretch to 15 hours. The time given by others in HOP are really impossible to number. And for it, I am grateful, but folks do this to save the lives of horses, not to impress you or me. Like me, they have households, children, businesses, work, family and personal horses and farms to squish in to this effort. They try as hard as they can. They make time when it isn’t even possible over and over.

At the end of the day, there is no choice to leave rescue and just clean the house, wash clothes, take the children to the park, to not leave the farm chores to a husband, to not miss another family meal, not miss another holiday. . . for me and for others. . .rescue doesn’t wait, sadly. Sadly, just so you know.

To not look at very real people with very real, disappointed eyes and wonder, “How on Earth can this be right?” sometimes would mean I wasn’t human, but I am.

Still. . .45 horses in a rescue means you drop everything, no matter what it is, because you have to, because there is no choice. . .because. . .

45 horses.

It means family members you care for are asking you what on Earth you are doing, holding you to task, it means ridicule and mockery, it means hearing, “It is just a horse,” thousands of times each year. It truly means missing thing you wish you had not missed because you began journey that meant you could not turn around and go another way or look back. . .It means deciding you will not pursue a career where a large salary is possible, as well, in lieu of saving animals.

Who else is going to step in when there is no money, just criticism and . . . soft, big eyes looking at you when you have to let them go because no one else did the right things before rescue came to their aid. . .and sometimes . . .happily ever afters take place. Sure, they do. It is why I am here.


With eyes wide open and no apologies. . .thankful to be part of it. . .

It costs everything.