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Horse rescuers; Group seeking new site for its work.

Byline: Bradford L. Miner

OAKHAM - Bay State Equine Rescue volunteers were hard at work yesterday, tending to the physical, mental and emotional health of the horses in its care.

Rescue founder Susan M. Sheridan expects that kind of care from all who volunteer to improve the quality of life of horses that have been abused, neglected, or simply presented too much a challenge to their owners.

The barn at 415 Hunt Road, built by volunteers in the fall of 2004, is still adequate to meet the rescue organization's needs, at least in the summer when water is available, but Mrs. Sheridan said the organization could be doing more.

"We have a barn that provides our horses with a safe environment, but in the winter we have to find foster homes for them. What we are looking for is land, 10 acres or more, preferably with open fields, with either a solid barn already on the property, or land upon which a barn could be built," she said.

Mrs. Sheridan said she is interested in educating the next generation of horse owners on what to expect and the pitfalls to be avoided in order to provide the best possible care for a horse.

When Epona arrived at the Equine Rescue barn a couple of years ago, she was a "very sick 3-year-old pony with respiratory and lymphatic infections, worms, rain rot, multiple wounds, and never-trimmed hooves," Mrs. Sheridan said. Epona is typical of the horses the organization restores to health and places in safe and caring homes.

"It was all we could do to keep her alive," Mrs. Sheridan said.

The dedication of one volunteer, 15-year-old Charleigh Ahearn, paid off handsomely when she and Epona won four ribbons at a horse show Sunday, Epona's first competition. Charleigh, a former 4-H Club member, "took to Epona right away and has been working with her almost exclusively," Mrs. Sheridan said.

To continue its work and to accomplish new goals, "we really need a new home and, based on estimates we've worked up with local banks, the cost of land and a new barn could be $600,000 or more," she said.

While the organization has been successful with its annual fundraising efforts, Mrs. Sheridan said, she would like to find someone to seek out and write grants to help the all-volunteer organization.

"To date, the grants we've received have all been in the range of $4,000 to $5,000. We've been turned down for several grants, and in each instance we go over the rejected application and see what we might have done differently. Our expertise at BSER is in caring for horses and what we do would certainly benefit from someone whose expertise is in soliciting grants from philanthropic organizations," she said.

Mrs. Sheridan said that while the organization's applications may fall short of the mark, she's confident that anyone visiting the Hunt Road barn - to watch the volunteers work with the horses, see the "before" and "after" photographs, and listen to the success stories - would see the benefit of providing financial assistance.

She said a new location for the Equine Rescue would have to be somewhere in the western Worcester County area within an easy drive from Oakham.

"Most of our volunteers are from the immediate area and that makes the rescue what it is. I don't want to lose any of the people who make the work we do possible," she said.

She is optimistic that some of the horses under the care of the organization will be adopted in the weeks to come.

Avoca, a Pryor Mountain mustang, "will need a very special home where her needs will be met," Mrs. Sheridan said. The horse developed cataracts shortly after birth and was almost blind before surgery. Storm, who has muscular atrophy and a breathing problem that will require throat surgery, has been at the rescue for two weeks, "and once we get his breathing problem squared away, we'll see what else he needs," Mrs. Sheridan said.

"Beyond that, we're optimistic that we'll find a permanent location for the rescue before this winter," she said. "We have all agreed that we don't want to go another winter having to put our horses into foster homes."



CUTLINE: Deanna Ahearn, a volunteer at Bay State Equine Rescue, tends to Epona at the group's barn in Oakham.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 1, 2007
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