As Batesville Road winds through Afton, near the county line between Nelson and Albemarle, the turn onto Castle Rock Road becomes a gravel path. A big metal cutout of a horse silhouette marks the entrance of Castle Rock Farm, the new home of Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue. The non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation founded in 2008 now has a permanent home. The all-breed horse rescue operation works to save equines from abuse, abandonment, neglect or slaughter. Equine rescue may be provided regardless of the animal’s age or disability to give a second chance at life and being loved. Many people may recall the original story of the initial rescue over five months in 2015 and 2016, assisting the Louisa County sheriff’s department and animal control seizures of 48 horses, mules and donkeys. There is no government support for Hope’s Legacy rescue.
Executive Director Maya Proulx compared the rescue shelter to familiar SPCA operations. “Pet adoptions are commonly thought of as dogs and cats, but horses need the same love and care. They are just bigger.”
Hope’s Legacy has rescued more than 225 horses from Virginia. Current residents include Donkey and Dolly, a friendly donkey pair now united from separate rescues, as well as Pete and Sarah Jane, a rescued pair of donkeys in quarantine until their health is restored.
The primary aim of Hope’s Legacy is to adopt out equines to permanent homes. Last year, new homes were found for 27 horses. Other objectives include rescue and rehabilitation, as well as preventing rescue situations, and teaching future horse owners proper equine care.
After working for nearly a decade on leased properties and foster farms, moving seven times in nine years, a permanent home was truly needed and Castle Rock Farm was purchased in 2017. The 172-acre property in Albemarle County is half paid for. The remaining balance is seller-financed at zero percent interest, and pay-off is planned for two lump sums in 2019 and 2020. A total of $525,000 has been raised in a capital campaign goal with a goal of $1 million. This amount is intended to cover the cost of the land, as well as farm operations. A tractor, new hay barn and fencing were installed before 52 horses and donkeys moved in.
The staff of two includes founder Proulx, a Nelson County native, together with her own 17-year-old thoroughbred horse, aptly named Hope. Rosi Beachy, director of development, is the other employee, responsible for fundraising and grant writing, as well as policy and procedure development, all on a part-time basis. Caroline Sandridge is a volunteer serving as the coordinator of more than 40 active volunteers. Sandridge invites new volunteers to a range of activities including feeding, grooming, landscaping fixes, public relations events, education on rescue and even just interacting with the horses who need kind human companionship. There are now six board members.
Five Tarpan horses, an uncommon breed with only 100 in the United States, can be seen at the entrance pasture. They are not halter-broken, making them unsuitable for riding, and are now permanent residents known as sanctuary animals. In the future they may be able to be paired as a team.
Hope’s Legacy is now working with youth, including 4-H and pony clubs, to teach respect for animals and proper horse maintenance. New community outreach programs being launched include “Books at the Barn” for children, and a “Gelding Clinic” to prevent unwanted equine pregnancy. Being a model for best practices includes land management. Castle Rock Farm has established riparian setbacks for pastures to maintain a clean waterway on the Mechums River, which runs through it.
Last year they drew up a diversified fundraising plan, needing to increase the income stream that relied heavily on individual donations. Recent grant applications and social media campaigns have had some success. On Sunday, May 5, the farm will host The Hoofing It for Horses 5K Trail Run at 8 a.m. and an open house from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with vendors, food trucks, music and a yard sale for tack. This event is a free family day for all horse lovers and a chance to learn about rescues. For more information, visit www.hopeslegacy.com.