Tina Garrett and Matt Venaleck had always been animal lovers, taking in large and small animals and donating to charities in order to “do their part”. Then they realized that there were a lot of horses in the area that needed help. A simple craigslist search turned up an abundance of horses with selling lines stating, “don’t want it no more” or “just come and get ‘em”.
Thus, in 2010, two self-proclaimed “ordinary people” founded South West Florida Horse Rescue and became anything but ordinary. “Bottom line, we made it happen. Our thoughts were simple, these horses did not ask to be put in these situations, they did not have a ‘choice’… we believe all animals should live happy, healthy lives and we were going to make sure we could make that happen,” says Tina.
They started with five acres and three pens, however, they were quickly taking in more and more horses and growth had to happen fast. They saved 20 horses in 2011 alone, all accomplished out of pocket with the help of friends. “We never wavered from our mission to save as many as we could and we never turned our back on or refused to take in or assist any horse who needed us. When the paddocks and barns were full, we simply built on and extended things. If we were “full” we would call in some of our horse friends to foster the rescues,” they said. In 2014, they were awarded a grant from a private foundation allowing them to purchase the 40 acre facility they continue to grow today.
SWFHR accepts any and all equines in need, extending their core values of compassion, commitment and advocacy to each horse that enters the facility. Each horse undergoes an initial exam and is brought up to date on coggins, vaccines, dental work and put on an individualized diet to get them off to a healthy start. Once they are ready, the horses enter a training program with a local professional that lasts between 30 and 60 days. Their progress is recorded and posted on social media so that potential adopters can follow along as the horses prepare for their forever homes.
The volunteer program at SWFHR offers the opportunity for people of all ages to come together and lend a helping hand to these wonderful animals, while in an environment that breeds a feeling of family amongst those involved. “Many folks have met here while volunteering here and have gone on to become lifelong friends, celebrating birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and holidays together. With a common interest, it is easy to see why we view one another as family,” says Emily of SWFHR.
Use the information below to find out how you can help SWFHR continue to grow and provide care to all of the horses in their area. As Tina says, “We chose to be a voice for their well-being, you can choose to help. We may not be able to save the world, but for the ones we save, it means the world to them.”
South West Florida Horse Rescue
Punta Gorda, Florida
If you are interested in loaning or donating your horse trailer to this particular organization, then check out details of our Horse Trailer Donation and Sharing Program here. Then, post your comments below to help out!
Also, learn more about horse rescues in these two articles: