By Lauren R. Giannini
Pure Thoughts Horse Rescue, a non-profit 501(c)3 “where the next chapter of a horse’s life begins,” has helped 1800 horses since it opened in 2002, thanks to the dedicated efforts of founders Jennifer Swanson and Brad Gaver and their loyal volunteers. Now they need the help and support of horse lovers to overcome a natural disaster.
On August 27, their facility was devastated by severe flooding caused by torrential downpours dumped by Tropical Storm Isaac that set a 100-year record in Loxahatchee, Florida. Jen and Brad were alone, responsible for the hands-on care with no volunteers scheduled. By 2 p.m. the waters had risen to three and half feet at the barns. Afraid that some of the ponies might drown, they opened every stall door, 39 in all.
By Tuesday, animals sheltered at Pure Thoughts had to be evacuated because it was too dangerous to stay. All their neighbors were in the same fix. Brad and Jen had to find high ground. The six-horse trailer was stuck in rising waters and they made many trips with the two-horse to remove horses that concerned them the most. Many horses, however, had to deal with standing water, which meant that hay couldn’t be put on the ground. But all of their animals – horses, ponies, minis – were safe, including the missing brain-damaged lamb and pig.
People rallied from all over the horse world. Kim Tudor posted a plea for help on Facebook. Karen Reese of Hilltop Polo Farm in Aiken took home two babies that were emaciated when rescued. A group of mares, led by former rescue Dakota, swam to Deer Run.
Jen and Brad, assisted by their volunteers, have been running Pure Thoughts out of three farms. They kept the ‘bands’ or sub-herds together, which reduced stress from the relocations. The horses, holding good weight, look and act very healthy.
Everything else at the original facility, however, is water-damaged beyond repair or use: all the hay and shavings, farm equipment, the essentials horse people take for granted. Isaac also put an end to Jen and Brad’s plans to dismantle and move the buildings, barns and fencing to their new property. Persistent standing waters in mid-September rotted the wood and posed health risks from mosquito infestation. The new home of Pure Thoughts consists of 20 acres on much higher ground about nine miles east, closer to Wellington.
“It’s a blessing that Jen and Brad had the new land already; but they need help for the new facility – money, building materials and also manpower,” said Kolleen Bylciw, who boards her adopted rescue at Pure Thoughts. “I can’t tell you enough about their dedication. They work all day, every day. They train horses, take in rescues, teach riding lessons and youth polo. When I got back from a trip and saw what Isaac had done, I couldn’t believe what they had accomplished.”
You can support the efforts of Pure Thoughts Horse Rescue in several ways. You can bid on their regular on-line auctions and also donate items to be sold. Pure Thoughts maintains both a website and official Facebook page where you can donate via PayPal. If you want to know where your contributions are going, Jen and Brad invite you to bring it yourself. Remember, they need more than money and materials: they need hands-on to prepare the new facility so they can move all their animals onto one property.
You are invited to their festive fundraiser on December 29, which will take place at the new Pure Thoughts facility: Brad and Jen, who have been together for 10 years, are “putting a ring on it” and getting married.
“We don’t need anything for us, just for the horses,” said Jen. “We’re inviting everyone, it’s open to the public, but you have to RSVP by Dec. 15 – we can host 300 people maximum. We’re having a dinner and dancing to celebrate getting married. There’s no admission fee – just whatever a person decides to give for the horses. We’ll have a silent auction and we’re hoping to have a live auction.”
For more information: http://purethoughtshorserescue.com/
To RSVP for the wedding: Jennifer@pthr.org