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Maggie Lohmiller Professor Steinle Story in Journalism JRN 534 DE November 6, 2010 First Light Farm Equine Shelter

The rural, shoreline town of Perry, Maine is the home of a group of lucky horses that escaped miserable fates and are now living comfortably at the First Light Farm Equine Shelter (FLFES). The barn was set back behind a yellow two-story American Colonial house raised on a slight gradient on the 100-acre property. Across the street was a rocky beach with crashing waves of the Atlantic. Over the sea line St. Stephen, New Brunswick, was clearly visible. Horses roamed through large paddocks that were separated by white electric fencing and green iron gates. Fresh ocean air tousled the manes of the horses in a wave as a chilled wind swept across the pasture. The grass was picked over in certain areas. Horses scattered through each paddock curiously looked over to see a hay truck drive through the lawn. Bales of hay were being lifted off the bed of an old ford truck and on to a conveyor belt into a hay loft as an assembly line of people organized each stack. Horses peered from their stalls and lined the front gate hoping that a volunteer would offer them a flake of fresh hay. A young horse that arrived earlier that week discovered the shock of an electric fence as he joined the plea.

Andrea Barstow rounded a corner from behind the barn pushing a wheelbarrow filled with apples. She was in her early fifties, but looked to be in her thirties. Her eyes shone a brilliant blue hue from under her brunette bangs and a blue knit cap. She wore tall black rubber boots and a red and black parka. She slid a black work glove off and wiped the sweat from her brow as she leaned casually against a metal post. Barstow founded and built the equine shelter on her family property two years ago. I met with the state humane agent and she told me how desperate she was to find placement for seized or surrendered horses, said Barstow. I knew this was something I wanted to do after that. Barstow spent much of her childhood at a local stable enjoying her horse and friends. Over the years, she witnessed many people who boarded their horses at the stable and swiftly forgot them to stand in their stalls. Barstow took a special interest in caring for these horses when their owners had lost interest. This was her earliest indicator of her future endeavor as an equine rescuer. The shelter is not exclusive to horses in need of rescuing solely. It is also open to other equines and larger animals. In the past the shelter has taken in donkeys and alpacas in need of homes. These animals were all recently adopted by new owners. The current occupants of the shelter are all horses. The mission of the shelter is to care for equines that are victims of neglect, abuse or abandonment, or whose owners are no longer able to care for them, said Barstow, as if she had recited this many times in the past. We then rehabilitate them if we can and try to find them a new forever home.

Its wonderful when we are able to rehabilitate them and find them a new home. But the volunteers and I get attached to the horses even the other horses get attached to each other. When one leaves, especially if it is a dominant horse, the horses still seek out their friend, said Barstow. Its a labor of love, its easy to get attached, said Amber Perna, volunteer for FLFES. Watching these majestic creatures, one must pause to question why people would harm these horses. Animal cruelty, neglect and abandonment cases are more common than one might think. Most neglect cases are from ignorance not because they wanted to hurt a horse, said Barstow. Its not like people say I want to abuse a horse. People think that because the wild horses could take care of themselves that they can just put a horse in a pasture and it will be fine. The fact is we have domesticated horses, so their natural instincts have been taken away. The hardest part of the job is to say no. I have to stay within the guidelines of our mission statement. We dont take in animals from people who just dont feel like taking care of a horse anymore, but they will, or the horse is old and they cant show them anymore. We take the most extreme cases first, obviously, Barstow said. She cradled her brow in her small hands and had a subtle look of anxiety. The other reason we say no is much harder for me. When there is a horse that needs placement, but we do not have room for them. If we took them in we would be just as bad as those who neglect them because we dont have the means to properly take care of the horse. It is still hard for me to say no though to an animal in need.

Although this is a non-profit organization built on love and charity, it still requires conscientious attention to administrative work. The office was situated in the far side of the barn parallel to the last stable. The door frame was bordered with a rainbow of prize ribbons from horse shows. A small elevated table made of plywood bolted to the wall held a computer that was recently donated. All of our notes regarding training, feeding, duties, finished projects they all are kept on this computer. All the volunteers know to check here, Barstow said. Organization is the key to safely running a shelter. Notes and printed instructions lined the walls. Financial paperwork was neatly filed in a small cabinet underneath the table. A medication schedule for a draft horse named Belle was pulled up on the screen. Belle was diagnosed with Cushings disease after she was rescued, which required a great deal of care. It was evident that proper care required careful diligence from the staff. Stepping out of the office into the paddock I was met by a chestnut Arabian named Najih. He approached cautiously seeking an apple that I picked up from a bucket in the barn. His ribs were clearly defined as he cautiously walked toward the fence for the highly coveted treat. He had a sweet demeanor and a gentle disposition. His forelock blew in the wind over his ears as he carefully inspected his apple. Najih was rescued from an equine kill pen in New Jersey a few months before and relocated to FLFES to be rehabilitated and adopted. A woman who had a special interest in Arabian horses posted funds to save him. The woman did not have a place in her stable to keep Najih, so she asked Barstow to take him.

When he was saved from slaughter, he was taken to a quarantine barn before he could be taken to FLFES. The kill pen is known for being a breeding ground for infectious diseases. The person who was trailoring Najih to quarantine, switched Najihs assigned barn with another Arabian horse. The barn which Najih was supposed to be quarantined had an outbreak of Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis which killed the horses that stayed at that barn. Najih had certainly dodged a bullet by being trailored to the wrong barn. Najih was called Dodger at his quarantine barn for this reason. Once Najih was quarantined, he traveled 14 hours to his new home in Maine. In route he became violently ill with a shipping fever that nearly took his life. Shipping fever, also known as strangles, is a contagious respiratory bacterial infection that can be fatal if treatment is not administered quickly. Young horses are the most susceptible to the virus, but if they recover the horse builds immunity to the disease. When he arrived in Maine, he had to be quarantined again to protect the other horses at FLFES from the contagion. Shipping fevers are highly communicable, but not fatal in otherwise healthy, older horses. Najih was emaciated and unlikely to survive. Under the care of the staff, Najih regained his health and is beginning to gain weight. Najih, which translated in English means survivor, is appropriately named. Each horse had a unique story of how it came to be rescued from a troubled situation. The common thread of these animals was that they now have a second chance at a happy existence. Once a horse is rehabilitated, it is put up for adoption. Barstow posts pictures on the FLFES website and social media sites promoting the newly available horse.

Many of the adoption matches are made through personal references within the horse lover community, said Barstow, as she runs her hand down Najihs mane. But I have to make sure the horses are placed in loving homes. All potential owners must apply for adoption. In order to have consideration to adopt, the applicant must have adequate facilities to care for the animal. Applicants must commit to providing proper medical care and regular visits from a professional farrier. The applicants are also obligated to never sell the horse. If they are unable to care for the horse, it must be returned to the shelter. Interested potential owners can come to the farm by appointment to see the horses. There are fees associated with each adoption that vary in price for each animal that go toward the care of future rescued animals. The adoption fees are only a mere faction of how FLFES is financially supported. The financial means are chiefly generated through contributions and fundraising endeavors. FLFES holds monthly online auctions of donated merchandise from local stores and personal supporters. The auctions generate a fluctuating income from month to month, but have overall proven to be fruitful. Fundraising events tends to be varied and unique. During the month of October, the organization sponsored a Haunted Hay Ride at another local farm. They are also planning on offering sleigh rides during the Christmas season. Events they held over the past two years have had mixed successes, but it is vital to continue fundraising initiatives to increase funds.

There are still months in which the budget is strained. The veterinary needs of horses, equipment breaking, or a host of other misfortunes that cannot be accounted for in an initial budget. Andrea will always dip into her own pocket for whatever the shelter needs if necessary, said Stefanie Covino, a trainer at FLFES, who joined us in the paddock. Barstow smiled shyly. Although reserve funds are minimal, there are still plans for development of FLFES in the future. At this juncture, FLFES can only care for 15 horses at a time. Barstow hopes to be able to expand her facilities so she can care for more horses and other equines. My goal is to create a haven for as many horses as possible, said Barstow. Im on to a good start.