An Introduction to the SummerWinds Stables

The SummerWinds Stables (SWS) is formed to provide rescue and sanctuary to abused, injured, homeless and retired horses until they can be placed in permanent loving homes; to provide an equine assisted therapeutic program to assist at-risk and low income children; and to deepen the natural bond between horse and human through educational and outreach programs.

The SWS is a non-profit equine rescue dedicated to the rescue of abused, neglected, abandoned and “off the track” horses. Our organization offers sanctuary, medical care, rehabilitative services and training to these horses and then places them in carefully screened, loving and permanent homes. We receive our horses from many different sources – private owners, veterinarian recommendations, the SPCA, racetracks and boarding facilities.  To date, the SWS has rescued over 150 horses placed in our care.

The SWS has a track record of success.  Since its incorporation in 2001, the SWS has grown from a small rescue facility to a multi-faceted rescue, educational and outreach organization.    In 2003, the SWS established an Equine-Assisted Learning Program (EAL) at our facility.  The EAL pairs at-risk children from local schools, Scout groups, and mental health and substance abuse programs with horses in our rescue.  Our EAL program has proven successful in assisting children who have not been helped in other therapeutic or social service programs.  Underprivileged, emotionally and physically challenged children have found safe haven at the SWS, a place to reflect upon themselves and others and a place in which to heal.  In many cases, they have learned a sense of purpose and witnessed the benefits of teamwork for the first time in their lives.

The SWS believes in full accountability to the horses and community we serve.  To this end, the SWS established its Community Outreach Program in 2003.  Outreach Program members assist with feeding the horses, cleaning stalls, washing tack as well as grooming and exercising our horses.   We introduced a learning program in 2006, which includes hands-on equine education covering the basics of care through natural horsemanship.   The experience gained in the Outreach Program has a profound effect on the lives of many adults, children and horses alike.

The SummerWinds will continue to have a significant impact on the future of horses, at-risk children and the individuals whose lives we touch.   The SWS leads the way in helping horses and the equine community on the Delmarva Peninsula to access and utilize new research and knowledge on the care of horses.  The SWS provides basic equine needs, offers advocacy and equine adoption case management, facilitates interaction between human and horse and creates a supportive community for both horse and human to heal.

Expansion of the Equine Sanctuary:    Many of our horses were extraordinary athletes, injured at the race track and/or are now too old to continue racing.   They performed at the most competitive level in the equestrian world and in the process of giving their all, were injured physically or psychologically.  These amazing creatures, in one defining moment, went from being a champion to an unwanted horse headed for the slaughterhouse.  The SWS believes they deserve better.  Hence, we provide these horses with a safe home or find a foster home for them.

Not all horses at the rescue had a career in racing.  Many are abused and unwanted.     One horse, Joe, was so badly beaten about the head that he now has only one eye.  Pops, a registered quarter horse, suddenly lost sight in both eyes four years ago.  “Pops” is so gentle that he can be ridden by children.  He came from a top racing stable where he had enough to eat but no one to care for him.  Consequently, before coming to SWS, “Pops” was confined to a world of darkness, alone and with only limited contact with human or equine friends.

SWS needs help immediately to shelter these horses.  Additional shelter is needed for the rescue to so that we might take in additional horses in need of sanctuary.  Currently, we turn horses away because we have limited shelter.     Our goal is to build a 10-stall barn to provide more adequate shelter for the horses in our care.  Our current wooden fencing is beginning to show signs of age and disrepair and donations of fence posts and boards would provide a way for us to immediately repair fencing and keep our horses safe

Beyond the Ring

There are so many ways a horse is good for a child. When you think about all the pressures of childhood today – from drugs to bullying – there is no wonder that kids are looking for a way to connect. What better way for a child to open up than to a horse that has nothing to give in return but unconditional acceptance and limitless hope?

Through the years of running the outreach program, so many children have passed through the gates of our sanctuary. Some wanted to be there, others would have rather been anywhere but. The overall feeling that something more powerful was happening when kids and horses were present together was always present.
Horses are innocent yet wise, and children are so real that there can be magic when a connection is made. Our horses have always been patient therapists, despite eager fingers learning how to braid or a child who just needs the extra nudge to reach out and touch a soft nose. The magic is there.

There is nothing better than the sound of a child’s laughter down a barn aisle, or of a calm nicker when it’s time for breakfast. The sounds of a barn make it alive and full of promise and hope. Our horses learned to be part of skits, enjoyed the interaction of a quiet volunteer and appreciated the rub-down after a training session.

It took years to realize that the joy in rescue and outreach is tangible. It is a pulse, a gift and an awakening of the spirit. To provide opportunities for horses and children alike has been such a spiritual and therapeutic journey. Allowing them the chance to unplug and connect. Allowing a horse to really get close to a child. Healing together. These are some good things. This is the stuff dreams are made of.

Stay tuned for the next chapter.

Sammy’s Story

One of our first rescues was also one of the most notable. We were contacted by an owner that was running out of time and money. He had a very sick Chincoteague Colt, who was dying of Salmonella poisoning at 15 weeks old. When I asked the owner what the baby’s name was, he said that they didn’t even bother because he wasn’t supposed to live.

We took this colt in and placed him in a quarantine location not far from our farm. None of the vets in our area would help this colt – he arrived with Pneumonia and dehydration, plus both back legs were swollen with Salmonella infection. He was stricken with a fever and couldn’t even hold his head up – it looked hopeless for the little guy.

Thankfully, a vet from Southern Delaware offered her help in the nick of time. She drove 2 hours from her practice to come and help us. Still, he had a 10% survival rate. We did immediate surgery on both legs – flushing the infection and giving him strong antibiotics. A culture done on his legs showed that the salmonella had cleared up, however, he managed to contract Pseudomonas, a very rare and resistant bacterium found mostly in humans.

Again, we treated both legs, gave him antibiotics and painkillers. Daily, his condition has improved. This little guy has a lot of heart – he has managed to make it against all odds. Every day, we clean and treat his legs, give him antibiotics and a new bandage. While he continues to thrive, we are also running out of funds to help him. Our vet bills were in the thousands – without the continued use of antibiotics, he never would have made it.

When he arrived without a name, we started calling him “Fuzzy Peaches” after his mother, but we have since changed it to Sammy, which stands for “Summer’s Absolute Miracle”. We are happy to report that, despite his humble beginnings, he is thriving with a family in Delaware. Its amazing how love, care, and dedication can save a little life.

As a non-profit organization, all donations made to the SummerWinds Stables are tax-deductible.