Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Tracey Sawyer opens the gate to a fenced-in pasture and leads 7-month-old “Hope” into the stable where she will be fed.
Hope hesitates to jump over a puddle between the grass and the concrete platform in front of the stable door. She hops over and walks into the stable as Sawyer shuts the door and Hope continues to stick her head out and whinny with hunger.
Hope is the baby of the bunch, born on July 18, and christened after the rescue organization. She is the first horse born at the rescue.
Sawyer is the president of H.O.P.E. Acres Rescue, which rehabilitates rescued horses that have been abused. Her operation has been up and running about two years on what was once a dairy farm located on Dairy Farm Road just outside Moncks Corner.
“Penny,” “Thunder” and “Gypsy” all arrived at the same time as rescues from Eutawville, Sawyer said. Penny is Hope’s mother.
So far “Jasper” was in the most dire condition when he arrived. He had abscessed teeth, was emaciated and covered in rain rot. He’s since had two major surgeries that cost $4,000.
“He’s over the infections and is starting to put some weight on,” Sawyer said. “He’s got a long way to go.
“He’s not up for adoption yet.”
The serene setting at H.O.P.E. Acres is made of open pastures with friendly horses that follow Sawyer along as she makes the rounds on a golf cart. She stops and talks to horses such as “Sage,” “Dozer,” “Mattie,” “Trooper,” “Comanche” and “Ryder.”
The horses are fed twice a day. The hay and pastures smell fresh and relaxing.
Five of 10 stalls in the barn have been renovated by Sawyer and her small crew of volunteers.
“This used to be part of Gippy Plantation,” Sawyer said. “It was a dairy farm until the 1970s. It’s still a work in progress. We still need a lot of farm equipment.”
Several shrubs were cleared during the renovation of the horse stalls. Nearby, remnants of the old dairy farm are still visible as undergrowth makes its way up the abandoned farm buildings.
There are currently 10 rescues at H.O.P.E. Acres. Sawyer and her family utilize five personal horses for the non-profit to help raise funds at various events by giving rides for children.
“Since we’re a non-profit we survive on donations,” she said. “Pony rides are how we make money to keep the rescue afloat.”
Daily tasks include replacing bandages, making sure the fence line is intact, cleaning the water troughs and grooming. About two to three volunteers make the rounds on a daily basis and there are anywhere from six to 12 people around on Saturdays.
“We could use some weekday volunteers for the summer,” Sawyer said.
The facility is for rescue and rehabilitation only, not riding. Many of the rescues have come from Berkeley, Jasper, Colleton and Beaufort counties.
“A lot of the guys we get are emotionally abused,” Sawyer said. “We do owner surrenders sometimes. The county is usually involved. We like to stay around 10 horses based on the space we have.”
Mustangs Sage (a mare) and Dozer (a gelding) were severely abused upon their arrival two years ago but have recently been adopted.
“They’ve been here two years,” Sawyer said. “They’ve been adopted and will go to their forever home. Sage has white marks from being beaten. It was over a year before we could approach Sage with a treat.
“Horses are partial to people. They’re loyal if you take care for them.”
Sawyer said the idea for the rescue came to her in a vision: “Something inside showed the stables and the horses. A lot of good people came together. It takes a small army to make it happen.
“Being around these animals can be real therapeutic.”
For more information visit Facebook.com/hopeacresrescue or Hopeacresrescue.org.