Nestled against the Blue Ridge Mountains of the North Carolina High Country, you will find a special haven for recovering animals. Southern Sun Farm Sanctuary makes it their mission to help protect and care for a variety of equines and the occasional dog, cat, raccoon and even deer fawns.
Under the loving hands of John and Ann Lisk, animals are nursed back to health and given a second chance at life. The Lisks have over 20 years of experience in animal welfare and started Southern Sun Farm Sanctuary in honor of their daughter Kasey, who died in a tragic hiking accident, while trying to save their dog on the property.
Their farm is populated by a wide variety of inspiration animals, but one little animal stands out among the crowd…a three-legged donkey! Molly Mae is a donkey that was discovered during a cruelty investigation in Cabarrus County, NC, where she had been hit by car. She was never taken to a vet and so this traumatic event left her without the use of her rear right leg.
The Sanctuary had the donkey evaluated by a well-known equine orthopedist and it was determined that it would be harder on her to try and fix the leg after 10 years of adaptation than to just leave her be. John explained, “She is not in any pain, moves freely (and quickly when necessary!) and is a happy member of our herd.” Today, Molly Mae enjoys romping through the fields of her home and visiting with the ponies in the neighboring pastures.
When horses first arrive at the Sanctuary, they receive a vet check, including an assessment of their teeth. This is usually followed with a feeding protocol as outlined by Cal-Davis. After that, beet pulp, alfalfa pellets, and Nutrena Pro Force Fuel have been beneficial to many horses until they can resume a “normal” diet. Early in the process, farrier care is also provided to ensure horses are in the best shape possible and can be used as a diagnostic tool as well.
Once the horses are healthy, they are able to access training needs in their training complex. This includes a 100’x100’ arena and 60’ round pen. They first get to know the horse. Once everyone is comfortable, “Ann will usually throw a leg over them to see how they do.” When necessary, they work with local trainers and other skilled horsemen in the complex and on the trail.
When horses have been successfully rehabilitated, it is time to decide the best place for them. Some are best retired to the pasture, to live out their days in peace with the herd. Others become riding horses in their program. Still others are ready for the adoption process, hoping to find a loving forever home.
The couple depends on social media to find those perfect forever homes. John explains, “Quality adoptions can be very difficult in an extremely rural area. Acceptable horse ownership, is, sometimes, less than what we expect for these horses who have already been through some difficult times.”
They do farm visits for all potential adopters and have a strong adoption agreement. The agreement includes a clause that requires the horse to be returned to the Sanctuary if the new owners are not able to continue their commitment. But, they feel that “by the time that you get to that point, you’ve already failed the horse to some degree.” So, they work hard to vet each candidate thoroughly before moving forward.
Their biggest challenge remains funding. They are blessed to have generous neighbors who freely share the time and resources they have, but, actual dollars are hard to come by. Right now, they are in need of a bigger and more centralized barn to better serve horses during the harsh winters of northwestern North Carolina.
They are also in need of a more adequate trailer. They are currently using a 1991 Horizon 2 horse, thoroughbred size, dual axle, bumper pull. This trailer has a ramp load. They would be better served with a step-up loading trailer to make loading distressed horses a little easier. If you would like to participate in the Horse Trailer Sharing Program, be sure to comment below.
The sanctuary is different than many rescues because they take the horses that are not ridable, like the 3-legged donkey, Maggie Mae. They take the horses that may not ever be adoptable and provide them a herd at the Sanctuary to be their forever home. This, of course, strains their space, money, and adoption rates.
As you can imagine, these harder cases lead to horses who are uneasy at first. Once they have been at the Sanctuary for a while and start to relax, their personality really comes out. Ann and John say that when “they start to nicker when they see you in the morning because they are expecting good things, there’s really nothing better!”
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: