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Our Southern Souls: “I want this farm to be where hope lives”

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I want this farm to be where hope lives
(Courtesy: Our Southern Souls)

The following was republished with permission from oursouthernsouls.com. Read the original article here.

“This started at horse camp when I was five years old, and I have been around horses ever since. I volunteered at a therapeutic riding facility, and my dream was to be a horse trainer and barn manager. Horses were going to be my kids.

I had a great horse and went to shows all over the country, but life changed. I married and had kids, then I had a stroke in 2006. I dropped out of nursing school and had a bad breakup. Then my mother got cancer. I sold everything and moved with my two kids from Michigan to Foley, AL to care for my mom. We eventually moved in with her, and I went into a deep depression. I was 34, and life wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Broke, I tried to create a business from what I knew—horses. In Michigan, people had businesses washing horse blankets in the winter, so I put up a Facebook post about washing blankets. I expected to be laughed at for trying this in south Alabama, but the next day, I opened my phone and had hundreds of messages and comments. I started cleaning blankets in my mom’s garage, and it grew from there.

Washing horse blankets evolved into hauling horses across the country. Magnolia Equine was born in 2018, and I’ve moved between 400-500 horses per year, and I’m closing in on 500,000 miles traveled hauling horses. Sometimes I have over a million dollars worth of horses in my trailer. I am leaving this weekend to pick up horses in Georgia and will drop off one in Houston to be exported to Europe. My barn is also a horse motel where horses can spend the night on cross-country hauls.

Shorty was a 20-year-old Spanish Mustang stallion given to me by older clients who could no longer run their breeding farm in New Mexico. He has no skills, and I had no use for him, but I didn’t want him going to a slaughterhouse. I rehomed him to a woman who starved him and dumped him at a kill lot in Louisiana. I couldn’t let that happen. Shorty was skin and bones the day I picked him up. My daughters and I nursed him back to health, and now his only job is to eat and be happy. He was the start of Shorty’s Safe Haven Equine Rescue.

In 2020, I bought this farm in Foley and added a few more rescues. I also adopted my daughter’s best friend because it was either us or the foster care system. She moved in and began training one of the rescues. If you can’t find her, she is with that horse. She shares her trauma with him, and they are healing each other. Foster kids became the other half of my purpose.

Rescue horses come in with the same traumas and abuse as foster kids. Both are skittish and don’t know who to trust or love—they don’t even know what love is.

After almost a year of our family cleaning and fixing up the farm and barn, we opened Shorty’s Safe Haven in 2021. We now have 20 rescues and 13 program horses. Some have been dumped here, others are boarder surrenders when the owner can’t afford to keep the animal anymore.

Rescuing horses is hard emotionally and financially. My feed bill is $3800 a month. Some rescues are so far gone when we get them that all we can do is give them the best life possible during their last days and put them to rest with dignity. That is tough on all of us.
Every rescue has a story: a few came from an older lady whose husband is dying from cancer, others were kept in a tiny round pen in Mobile for almost 18 years. Some were starved before they came here. Our goal is to get them back in good shape and get them adopted.

Each child also has a story. We have ten students in our program who have been displaced from their biological parents. They are in foster care or being raised by grandparents. One girl was so shy when she started that she wouldn’t talk to anyone. Now she is talkative and here all of the time.

Animals teach kids how to love. Someone may come to the barn closed off and distant, but they take the horse out on the farm and come back feeling better. Horses don’t share what they are told. Some of these kids had never seen a horse, but just grooming, leading, and talking to it teaches them how to love and to trust. They learn empathy and responsibility.

It’s not just horses and kids. Everyone’s favorite rescue on our farm is Polly the Pig. She is the boss and doesn’t meet a stranger.

I want Shorty’s Safe Haven to serve our community. People are struggling right now, even in Baldwin County. I see a lot of people in crisis. Our services are free to our families and we provide our students with what they need. We even gave our families Thanksgiving dinner and a meal and gifts at Christmas. I want to provide summer camps and meals to give kids a safe place to go when they are out of school. Horses kept me out of trouble when I was their age.

We have horse shows at our arena because competing gives kids confidence, helps them overcome obstacles, and gives them something to look forward to. It also helps them to create a bond with their horse.

We have plenty of volunteer opportunities, and adult volunteers get their own horse therapy. Most of this is funded by Mobile Equine, but e also need sponsors for feed, horses, kids, camp, and shows.

If you would have told me five years ago that I would be hauling horses across the country or have a rescue farm working with kids, I would have laughed at you. Now I am overwhelmed, but my faith is stronger than it has ever been by watching this farm, horses, kids, and even myself come back to life. I am stressed but blessed. I want this farm to be where hope lives.”

Amber

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