In Loxahatchee Groves, 40 horses and a mule named Sal have banded with five dogs, three goats, two camelids and some humans on a rescue mission. A mission at Pure Thoughts Horse Rescue where, at the end of the day, something magical is going on, and there is some question as to just who has rescued whom.
“Volunteering at Pure Thoughts is the spiritual experience of my lifetime,” surgical nurse Nene Perez said as she petted Abaline, a six-year-old chestnut mare. “It’s where this healer comes to get healed.”
Perez, who has been volunteering for two months, now sponsors the mare. “Abaline rescued me, not the other way around. That’s for sure,” she said as the rescued horse gently nestled up against her neck.
Pure Thoughts Horse Rescue is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the lives of horses, yearlings and foals that were bound for slaughter, victims of starvation, neglect, abandonment and abuse. The animals bound for slaughter would have been killed so that they could be served as a delicacy in foreign countries.
Easter weekend marked the arrival of another six rescue foals from Kentucky, where Thoroughbred horses are too valuable to lose time nursing. Lower-value horses are made pregnant, their newborns discarded, as the newly lactating mother is then tasked with nursing the Thoroughbred foals.
Volunteer Michael Harkins spent Easter Sunday at the ranch helping with the newest rescued foals with a heartbreaking story.
“It’s unfortunately cheaper to just discard newborn foals, their moms’ milk is not available, and it costs more than an ordinary horse is worth to care and feed it to maturity,” he said. “So, they drop to the ground and are left to die… unless volunteers like us act to rescue them.”
Once they arrive, a team of volunteers is there to help.
“Driving here on Easter Sunday is not a chore, it’s a pilgrimage. Horses are heaven-sent. They have healed me emotionally and teach me so much,” said June Berry, who drives in from Sebastian Beach to volunteer at the ranch.
Compiling an impressive record of more than 2,000 rescues in its 17 continuous years of operation, the 28-acre ranch even boasts an Airbnb where some volunteers board.
“If you love animals, this is a wonderful place to stay,” Elle Dechene said. “There is something mystical about this place that attracts people like me. Helping out with the animals, and playing with them, fills a special place in my soul. It’s so therapeutic.”
The animals are available for adoption to experienced horse owners.
“I hang around the ranch a lot because I am serious about learning what it means to be a good horseman before I adopt,” said Harkins, a professional videographer who lives in Boca Raton.
After some initial riding lessons, Harkins said that he is now concentrating on learning as much as he can about horses, while volunteering at the ranch several days a week.
“If you hang around Pure Thoughts long enough, you learn how to groom, care, feed, ride and love horses. It’s very rewarding,” Harkins said.
Sponsors pay the horses’ monthly expenses and boarding. Perez now effectively belongs to her forever horse, Abaline.
“For so long I just got used to payments for my nice new cars,” she said. “I now have decided to drive a used car and spent that money instead on an investment that is so emotionally rewarding for me and Abby.”
There is never a shortage of work to be done. A few years ago, a hurricane flooded the entire ranch and stables with more than a foot of water, and volunteers scrambled to keep all the livestock safe.
The overhead on the ranch, which includes the medical care and feeding of 50, horses not counting the other livestock, can be daunting.
At this point, the ranch upkeep relies exclusively on the generosity of donors and sponsors and runs on the good will and hard work of volunteers. For more information on how you can get involved, visit www.pthr.org.