Few people can argue that the horse is one of nature’s most elegant, beautiful creations.
“Who doesn’t want to see a horse running across the pasture — tail and mane flying?” Linda Hewerdine said, fondly watching the animals grazing at the Society for Hooved Animals' Rescue and Emergency (SHARE).
Besides their beauty, she said, “They’re very loyal and very loveable. They make wonderful pets, besides just being ridden.”
Then why would anyone starve, beat or neglect such a trusting, magnificent animal?
Sixty-five horses — many of whom have crossed paths with cruel or ignorant owners — now have a safe place at the rescue site near Dewey, just west of Rantoul.
The rescue site will have an open house from noon to 4 p.m. next Sunday to showcase the adoptable horses and provide some fun activities.
SHARE is a nonprofit humane society in Champaign County, but its investigators cover a large portion of Illinois, including Vermilion County. It’s located on 25 acres of private property not belonging to the rescue group.
Hewerdine, who lives on the property, is president and head director. SHARE was formed in 2003, and has provided care for hundreds of horses, ponies, mules, and donkeys. In 2012 the group took in 21 horses and adopted out 25 horses.
Besides providing care, the group focuses on educating people about how to take care of horses.
While many people admire the animals’ beauty, they don’t realize how much work, time and money goes into their care.
“You have to understand it’s a lifetime commitment,” she said. “It’s a lot of work and it’s costly.”
An animal adopted from the shelter can’t be sold, she said; however, if a person must return a horse because he can no longer care for it, he’ll be given a tax credit.
The rescue farm shelters a variety of horses of all ages — from a few months old to 36 years and older. About 30 are up for adoption, but others are sanctuary animals with special needs that will live out their lives there.
A group of horses has a connection to Vermilion County — having been rescued from Muncie in January. Following a call from a neighbor, investigators from SHARE found 11 emaciated horses and one dead horse at a farm near Muncie. Two others had been rescued earlier.
All the horses were suffering from neglect and were malnourished; several had pneumonia. Two horses were blind, one with cataracts which may be operable, and another horse had a club foot. Many also had a skin infection common in malnourished horses or horses kept in unclean environments.
The owner agreed to relinquish the horses to avoid prosecution.
The Muncie horses, most of them black-and-white paints, are on their way to good health.
One of the sadder cases, from another town, involves High Road to Freedom, a beautiful horse who had sired some nice foals. However, when the offspring didn’t sell, the owner took her rage out on the horse and nailed him into a stall without food or water. Neighbors were able to get some food to the horse.
He’s now put on 200-300 pounds, but needs to add more weight.
Hewerdine has plenty of sad stories to share, but the good news is that the animals are safe under SHARE’s care.
The maximum cost to adopt a horse is $500. However, the person must fill out an application, submit recommendations from a vet and ferrier and visit the animal at the site, and investigators will check out the person’s facilities. A future owner must be knowledgeable about horses.
SHARE has nine investigators now, but more are needed. A person has to take a test through the Department of Agriculture and meet other requirements.
If you can’t adopt, you could foster a horse at your home. The rescue is a 501(c)3 non-profit, meaning costs incurred in taking care of foster horses can be deducted from taxes. The rescue is actively looking for foster homes for previously rescued, healthy horses, as well as other donations of feed, hay, and money.
Hewerdine said the shelter isn’t accepting any new owner turn-ins. But they will continue to respond to investigations and work with the Department of Agriculture and other authorities to rescue horses.
SHARE’s open house will be from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27, at the rescue site near Dewey (west of Rantoul). Visitors can meet the horses up for adoption, and enjoy games, pony/horse rides, baked goods, pumpkin painting and other activities.
People are encouraged to bring an item (or a few items) from the wish list on its website or give a monetary donation.
The rescue site is at 2946 County Road 800 East, Dewey. From Danville, take Illinois Route 1 and turn left (west) onto Route 136. Go through Rantoul, and look for County Road 800 East on the left-hand side. After one-half mile, you’ll see horse pastures to your left; turn left down the long driveway.
You also can take Interstate 57; take exit 250 (Rantoul/Fisher) and head west toward Fisher. Go 6.5 miles to County Road 800 E. Turn left and go another one-half mile.
Most of us don’t have the space, time, knowledge or finances to own a horse. But there are other ways to make an animal’s life better — through donations or volunteering. In the process, you’ll help maintain a beautiful animal. Check out the website for details on how to help.
The Pets column runs every four weeks. If you would like to have your pet featured, contact Mary Wicoff at 477-5161, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Commercial-News, 17 W. North, Danville, IL 61832.