Standing Ovation by Ovation Riding

Today’s honoree: Howey Horse Haven Rescue.

Howey Horse Haven Rescue is a 501c3 non-profit organization, located in Howey In The Hills, Lake County, Florida.

In the rescue’s own words:

We are 100% volunteer operated and rely solely on the public’s generosity, through feed, hay, monetary donations, volunterism, and prayers. HHHR is dedicated to the rehabilitation of abused, neglected, and unwanted/unloved horses, ponies, and donkeys. We provide proper nutrition, medical, farrier and dental care, and, foremost, a safe haven for these beautiful horses to recover from their former situation. We strive daily to give all our rescues a much deserved second chance at life and ultimately place them with adopters who can provide them with permanent, loving homes, where they will never feel hunger or pain again.

We spoke with Katie Pearce, senior volunteer, team leader, and VP of Public Relations and Marketing. Katie lives on the premises full time when on break from college and on the weekends.

Big John and Miss Daisy. All photos courtesy of HHHR.

HN: How did HHHR get started?

KP: After years of helping out other rescues, Teresa Meixner saw an overpowering need for another equine rescue in our county, a need which had exploded due to the 2008 recession. In 2013 after already deciding to begin a rescue, she heard about two mini ponies near by that were starving. They had been abandoned and the neighbors had been trying to get in contact with the owners, with animal control, with anyone who would listen. As she has told me in the past, “You can’t look at suffering like that and do nothing.” However, it would take the founding of Howey Horse Haven Rescue to get the ponies to safety.

After contacting the owners and getting the two relinquished to us, they officially set us off on our journey as HHHR on May 13th, 2013. Bocephus (aka Bo) and Walktosha (aka Walker) were our first intakes and remain a part of our beloved herd of sanctuary horses. We have rescued well over 60+ equines and helped many others find homes through rigorous networking in the 4 years we’ve been open.

Where are rescues coming from?

Most of our equines come in from owner surrenders (those that have reached out to us personally) and from Lake County Animal Shelter (which would be law enforcement) after the horses/ponies have been seized or relinquished to LCAS.


What kind of facility does HHHR have?

We are around two acres and have seven pastures, one of the pastures is connected to two stalls each of which boasts a small turnout area, and five other pastures have large run-in shelters. One of the smaller pastures with a run-in shelter is our quarantine area for any new arrivals and is separate from all the other pastures/horses and is close to the house so that we can keep a constant eye on any new intakes. We prefer this over a stall in case one of the intakes goes down and is not able to regain its feet; we have the room to lift them. It’s also smaller because in an emergency we need quick access to the horse/pony and they are often too exhausted to roam a larger area.

There is one large grassy pasture with no run in which we temporarily let the horses or ponies out in so they have a chance to explore and munch on fresh grass in a new place. The other five pastures that have shelters are the permanent homes of residence for our equines, though we do rotate them on occasion to give them new areas to explore. We use the stalls when a horse or pony needs constant medical attention, for mares and foals, or in the early weaning processes.

We currently have a total of 23 equines: there are 15 mini ponies (three recent intakes were housed with a stud so they are likely all in foal and will probably bring the pony count to 18), one miniature donkey, and seven horses. We are completely filled to the brim and have 14 that need to be adopted out (five are yet to be posted as they came in a couple weeks ago and three of those are the pregnant mares). Nine of the 23 are sanctuary and for them we will serve as both a haven and their forever home due to medical/behavioral issues or their status as therapy horses.

Do you operate with volunteer help? How are you funded?

We are 100% volunteer operated and rely solely on the public’s generosity both through monetary donations and through donations of horse care items such as feed, horse items, and vet and farrier bills that are occasionally covered or partially covered.

We are running a fundraiser, Get on Board, that funds both the horses and their growing needs as HHHR is expanding to accommodate more equines. Get on Board is a chance to leave a legacy with us. It gives the public a chance to be a permanent part of our rescue as their names, family names, celebrations of loved ones and pets, businesses, or phrases can all be put on fence boards, hitching posts, stall doors, gateways, or stalls/run-ins. It’s a great way to be apart of us and it gives us a way to say ‘thank you’ to the amazing people who enable us to save the lives of horses. We have a great and ever-increasing need for sponsors.

There are multiple levels at which sponsors can donate every month starting with $10 dollars as part of the “Helping Hand” option all the way to “Herd Memberships” that can cover the monthly cost of a horse. We also plan to participate in ASPCA’s Help A Horse Day this upcoming year.

Tank at intake.

Tank after rehabilitation.

What’s one thing you wish people knew about the work you’re doing?

Teresa and I wish people knew about the time, the dedication, and the heartache that comes along with saving these beautiful creatures that have suffered at the hands of people. It takes so much to bring them back from the brink. In the couple of weeks or months that a horse may go with little to no food, they lose a ton of weight, but to put that weight back on will be a slow process that takes months in addition to the farrier, dental, and vet care that was likely forgone as well.

There is so much heartache in rescuing, there are always ones that you’re just too late to save. On those, they come in as walking skeletons and they may have been relinquished to you the day their organs started shutting down. That’s a point of no return and you may feed them and have the vet give them IVs and they may live in this terrible state of skeletal life for nine days that you hope they will overcome, and on the 10th they go down and you never get them back up again. That’s when we are forced to make that call to end their life in peace, with as little suffering as possible, in the arms of people who have given them their heart in a matter of days.

That just tears us up. It makes you question everything: humanity, why we do what we do. It’s such a heart wrenching experience that is caused by someone. Someone out there let a horse starve rather than get help early on, typically because the owner is embarrassed it got to that point. It’s really hard, because how? How can the owner allow that, how can neighbors do nothing? At the same time, those heart-wrenching times are also what propel us forward, because once you’re into rescuing you can’t get out. Sometimes those skeletons that go down along the way are also the ones that you are able to get back up. In those months they have a fiery rebirth, like phoenixes from the ashes. Then there are the ones that will be there forever, and that forever ends because of age or sudden onsets of medical issues.

I also tell people that HHHR saved my life as they have done for many of our volunteers who often suffer from bullying, depression, suicide, family loss, and a whole range of other personal issues. I know this from personal experience! Through it all there was Teresa Meixner (who really is my momma, biological or not) and the horses of HHHR. More than a home, they had given me a whole family and Scout, one of the therapy horses out there who is my light. God definitely put us all in each other’s paths; HHHR is a miracle, one very personal and spiritual for me.

Captain at intake.

Captain in rehabilitation.

To learn more about HHHR:

Many thanks thanks to Ovation Riding for their support of both Horse Nation and individuals and organizations that are doing good work in the horse world. If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to [email protected]. Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.

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