Group rescues abandoned, abused horses

- If a true mark of character is how a person treats those who can do nothing in return, the people at the Bergen County Horse Rescue are doing all right.

Erin McKegney Giannios and a handful of friends got together two years ago and started the horse rescue, which sits on 17 acres in Mahwah, New Jersey. Their reasons were simple and humane. She said that when horses are no longer useful to people they become disposable.

Just two years in, the rescue is at capacity with 24 horses. Ranging in age from 2 years old—like Jupiter and Olive—to Goldie, who is in his 40s. Some are here because they've been abandoned or neglected, others were brutally abused. At times, the rescue has even had to outbid horse meat proprietors at auctions.

Co-founder Danielle DeBenedetto said that when Olive came to the rescue a year ago, she wouldn't let anyone near her. Now she is friendly.

Whatever their history, the fate of the two dozen horses now rests in the caring hands of 30 volunteers at the nonprofit. Rehabilitating a horse takes years and it is not always a glamorous job.

Co-founder Joseph Sacco said the dedicated volunteers do everything, including clean up, muck stalls, weed, paint, and more.

Those who run the rescue say that if you're thinking about getting a horse you should understand that ownership is a long-term commitment, not a novelty.

For instance, Goldie is 43 and owning him means knowing all the obligations for his entire life. Instead, his owner simply left the picture and left the gelding to die until the rescue took him in. With adoption unlikely for Goldie, they'll take care of him for the rest of his life, which is expensive.

In the end, the horses end up giving their rescuers a gift—gratification. McKegney Giannios said that horses are so pure and when you look into a horse's eyes you see they just want to be loved and accepted.

We wonder what it is they see when they look into our eyes.

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