WINTER HAVEN — Once State Rep. Sam Killebrew learned about the work being done at Hope Equine Rescue in Winter Haven, he says he couldn’t help but keep returning to the horse rescue, looking for ways to support it and get involved.
“I did a dog rescue for six or seven years, so any kind of rescue — I’m into it,” Killebrew said.
And, as it turns out, there was a need that could use a little help getting kickstarted.
“They (Hope Equine staff) have a tractor down there that I think God is the only person keeping it going,” Killebrew said. “So what we wanted to do is start a tractor fund for them. We’re hoping this donation will be a good start.”
Killebrew and his wife, Eileen, recently donated $5,000 to the new tractor fund, representing a healthy start toward what will ultimately be a price tag in the neighborhood of $25,000 for a new tractor that can meet the needs of a facility the size of Hope Equine.
Until now, Hope Equine Founder and President Dani Horton says the rescue has made due with a tractor that originally was purchased for the home she and her husband reside at — a substantially smaller piece of land. Still, because of the nature of the rescue’s funding, staff and volunteers at Hope Equine have made the current tractor work for as long as possible.
“We are completely donor-funded. Everything we do is because of the public,” Horton explained. “Because of that, we have to be very good stewards of our resources.”
A GoFundMe titled “Tractor Fund has been setup for the fundraising efforts. The page also includes information about the preferred tractor — an RK55S Tractor with Quick Attach Loader — that the rescue would like to purchase. Those interested can visit the GoFundMe at this link: http://bit.ly/2ShcrtF.
The number of horses cared for at Hope Equine varies, as the facility provides adoption services, and so do the types of horses. A recent visit saw horses, miniature horses and donkeys all receiving care, shelter and rehab.
Beyond the work done solely for the horses, Horton and her team have made a point of making the facility versatile and community-friendly, partnering with Winter Haven High, for instance, or hosting a program that allows children to read to the horses.
“Whether you’re a horse person or not, it’s really cool — people need to come down and see what’s going on,” Killebrew said. “They’re doing a lot of stuff other than just taking care of these horses. It’s cool.”
“We want to help the community and be a resource for a community,” Horton said. “We want people to understand that there is a need for what we do — there is a massive need for what we do. We want to educate people that there is a need for somewhere for these horses to go.”