LAUREL HILL — Safe Haven Horse Rescue Center rehabilitates and finds homes for abandoned and neglected members of the equine species, but the horses themselves can help rehabilitate and provide comfort for those in need.
Safe Haven can care and provide shelter for 15 to 20 horses at a time on its 20 acres of land.
Jim Bryan, the center’s director and a decorated military veteran, said interacting with the horses is therapeutic for disabled residents and those recovering from surgery.
Melissa Thorner — a Crestview resident who recently received a double mastectomy with a reconstruction procedure — can attest to that. She found her experience at Safe Haven, shared with her 16-year-old son, Quinn McCardie, peaceful and therapeutic.
"It was pretty amazing," she said. "(The horses) are amazingly gentle.”
A compression sleeve that helps with blood flow in Thorner’s right arm has elicited public stares, but that’s not the case at Safe Haven.
"The horses don't care that I wear the compression sleeve," she said. "It's nice to be at a place where nothing is expected of me.”
The facility welcomes soldiers with wounds, sickness or post-traumatic stress disorder to experience the horses’ healing qualities, Bryan said.
"It’s good for them to be with the animals," he said.
Pegasus, a blue-eyed miniature horse who needed rehabilitation after four years of seclusion in a wooded area, is one of Safe Haven's inhabitants. A miniature horse is 32 inches or shorter, Bryan said. Pegasus is 30 inches and weighs nearly 150 pounds.
Now, Pegasus is training to visit retired and serving U.S. Air Force personnel at Bob Hope Village in Shalimar.
Safe Haven can only care for a limited number of horses due to limited funding and the facility's size, Bryan said.
Eighty percent of the organization's funding comes from Bryan’s retirement; donations fund the remainder.
Many horses come from owners unable to provide proper care, Bryan said.
"It's not necessarily the economy as much as it is people's health” that makes owners give up their horses, he said. "A horse lives 30 to 40 years. As people get on up in age ... they find out that they can't handle it."
FIND IT ONLINE
SafeHaven Horse Rescue Center’s official website: bit.ly/18erbJR
SafeHaven Horse Rescue Center’s Facebook page: on.fb.me/1a7RTFq
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.