PASTORAL REFUGE: Appaloosas find a safe haven at White Bird refuge

Among the rolling hills of Burkeville in Nottoway County, Virginia is a 50-acre farm where horses graze on lush pastures covered in the summertime in green clover and yellow buttercups. It is a picturesque scene where all looks peaceful and idyllic. But the real stories behind this lovely view started out not peaceful at all. Some of the stories are quite heartbreaking actually.

The horses here are all residents of White Bird Appaloosa Horse Rescue, a nonprofit organization established nearly a decade ago by the husband-and-wife team, Tom Mayfield and Jorg Huckabee-Mayfield. White Bird is named for a Nez Perce Indian chief, Chief White Bird, and the Nez Perce tribe, who are credited with introducing the Appaloosa breed to the United States. The rescue specialize in Appaloosas, although they'll accept most any breed, particularly those that need urgent medical care or might be at risk of being sold to meat houses or being euthanized.

Sadly this rescue was started because of the many unwanted horses around the U.S. The Unwanted Horse Coalition estimated there were 170,000 unwanted horses in this country. This data was from 5 years ago and it has only gotten worse with the downturn of the economy. Their report indicated that owners gave up their horses because of job loss, a change in employment status, the horse's old age or unmanageability or the owner's loss of interest.

White Bird Horse Rescue is one of dozens of facilities nationwide that have received a thumbs up from the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, an international accrediting organization that sets standards for humane animal care and provides resources for accredited sanctuaries.

But it takes money to be able to do this and many of the horses are here for the long-term and horses can live up to age 30-40 years. They estimate that it costs about $50,000 annually to care for these horses. Veterinary emergencies or an unexpected increase of new arrivals can quickly increase those costs. Most of the funding for the rescue comes from private donations, grants and charitable-giving campaigns.

Ideally, the rescue farm is just a pit stop for a horse before it heads to a new, permanent home through adoption. Tom and Jorg take these adoptions very seriously too. The process includes site visits with potential owners to make sure the facilities and grounds are suitable. They also have a provision that requires the horses must come back to White Bird if the adoptive owners find they cannot keep them.

But the rewards outweigh the costs to Tom and Jorg. As Jorg puts it; "You pretty much surrender your personal life. But the return is worth the demand on our time. The horses don't need much, just a full belly, a roof over their heads and a little TLC."

White Bird Appaloosa Horse Rescue in Burkeville, VA

Responses to "Appaloosa horse rescue saves many lives (Video)"

  1. Anonymous says:

    I Think This Is Great That There Is A Place Like This To Save The Life Of These Horses. There Are Many Situations Where Due To The Times , Many Horse Owners Are Unable To Care For There Animals Like They Are Use Too!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    At last look these horses are anywhere from a thousand to thirty-five hundred dollars apiece, how can anyone afford to let them go ?There are so many people , like me that would love to have one of these beautiful animals and can't afford the high prices , I can't see anyone who could afford to buy one in the first place, not keeping it forever and taking good care of it ! I know Appaloosas can be a challenge, as a breed, but I can't see anyone just giving one up or worse yet neglecting it so much that it's taken from them ! It just breaks my heart, keep up the great work saving these beautiful horses !!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    My thought is that if you do not have the money to buy it then you don't have the money to take care of it!!!! It is expensive to properly care for a horse. God bless you.

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