Ask any animal lover what their dream job is and they will likely all have the same response: to start a farm animal sanctuary. Serving as a refuge for often abused, neglected and abandoned animals, farm animal sanctuaries have been cropping up all across the U.S.
Farm animal sanctuaries not only dedicate themselves to providing life-long care, shelter, and love, sanctuaries also speak out against animal suffering by welcoming visitors to learn about the animals in their care. In other words, farm animal sanctuaries are heaven on earth both for animal lovers and the animals that have luckily found their way into their care.
If this sounds like paradise to you, you are not alone. For Diane and Lester, the retired couple behind Horse Creek Stable located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia, they also aspired to help animals by starting a farm animal sanctuary. The couple has been rescuing animals since 1999 when they were living in Illinois. They happened to stop by a local dog and cat animal rescue and found themselves leaving with a cat, Rex.
Then, when Diane and Lester lived in Florida, they decided they wanted a Golden Retriever. Not wanting to support a pet shop, they searched for Golden Retriever rescues in the area and that’s how Harley, a two-year-old dog, found themselves in Diane and Lester’s care.
Rex and Harley helped shape Diane and Lester’s passion for helping animals.
After Lester retired from law enforcement after 36 years and Diane formerly owning a hair salon, the couple wanted a change. So, they moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia with Rex and Harley. After completing the Great American Horse Drive by Sombrero Ranch in Colorado in the springtime, where you drive 700 horses across 60 miles of open Colorado land (the horses are gathered into to gathering pens for inspection after the harsh Colorado winters), the couple soon learned of the need for forever homes for abused and neglected horses. That’s when they learned about Haggis Hanover, a Standardbred former racehorse who had made his way to the Hope Equine Rescue in Auburndale, Florida. Diane and Lester decided to give Haggis a forever home.
Now having Haggis to take care of, Diane and Lester settled on their current property at Horse Creek Stable. Wanting a friend for Haggis, the couple transformed their Horse Creek Stable property to include stables for other horses from Georgia Equine Rescue League who needed foster care.
Over the years, Diane and Lester have either fostered or adopted horses from Georgia Equine Rescue League. Many of the horses have lived out their lives on the sanctuary property and are now buried overlooking their pasture.
As animal rescuers are all too familiar with, Diane and Lester soon realized there were dozens of animals needing help. That’s how they next found themselves helping llamas. The first llama they fostered was a senior named Bijan, from South East Llama Rescue. He had lost all of his teeth, potentially due to an infection because of being neglected. He was unable to graze properly, so Diane and Lester experimented with different feed and eventually figured out that Bijan preferred dry senior horse feed.
Bijan put on a healthy amount of weight and lived three more years before dying of natural causes at the age of 30.
Speaking to One Green Planet via email, Lester noted a heartbreaking reality: a week doesn’t go by that someone doesn’t reach out to Horse Creek Stable asking them to take in their family pet or farm animal.
Teaching Kids Compassion
Currently, the sanctuary has two three-legged Golden Retrievers, adopted from Adopt a Golden Atlanta. Both of the Goldens are the main characters in a children’s book written by Lester, called Tricycle and Friends, True Life Adventures of a Rescued Three-Legged Golden Retriever and His Fellow Rescue Farm Animal Friends.
The book is a companion to Diane and Lester’s efforts to teach kids compassion. Visits to the farm are free to children with special needs. Having hands-on interaction with animals is beneficial to children, whether it’s cuddling kittens, walking dogs or feeding horses. Being around animals is beneficial in the emotional and psychological development of children. Recent studies have shown that being around animals has as many benefits as volunteering does for kids. Being around animals on a regular basis can teach responsibility, compassion, and can provide a vast array of other qualities that will help kids become amazing adults in the future.
When asked what advice they would have for animal lovers who want to start an animal sanctuary, Lester said, that the best advice is to “start out slowly, know your limitations and by all means don’t become an animal hoarder.” He also elaborated that animal rescue work is financially draining so if you take on too many animals at one time, you could end up neglecting the needs of the animals in your care.
To allow for people to get the full sanctuary experience and to help cover the high costs of caring for the animals in their care, Horse Creek Stable offers a bed and breakfast on the property for visitors to stay. If you’re interested in visiting and meeting all of the animals, click here for lodging details!
What You Can Do
Learning about Diane and Lester’s story gives animal lovers inspiration for their own goals to help animals. One of the most important things we can do for animals is to raise awareness about their plight in any way that we can and support all those who have the courage to speak out and work tirelessly on their behalf.
For more information about Horse Creek Stable and for ways to help support their lifesaving work on behalf of animals, click here.
Image Source: Horse Creek Stable