“Saving just one horse will not change the world, but it will change the world for that one horse.”
When God created the horse, He birthed into existence the perfect example of fluid grace and poetry in motion. Watching a horse gallop through a grassy field, mane and tail flying in the wind, one cannot deny the power and beauty of an animal that has long served mankind in both work and pleasure. But with partnership comes responsibility, and many times, for many reasons, a person is unable to care properly for an animal in its possession. The result is often a sad reflection of man’s cruelty, whether intended or not.
Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue offers a humane solution to any equine that is in need of special care because of neglect, abuse, or when an owner can no longer care for the animal. Hope’s Legacy is a safe haven where horses, ponies, donkeys and mules can be cared for, given medical attention if needed, rehabilitated and trained before being carefully fostered or adopted by a person willing to give the animal a loving home.
Maya Proulx is the visionary behind Hope’s Legacy and shares credit with a remarkable team of devoted volunteers and staff doing their best to provide comfort and dignity to equines who have been neglected and forgotten. Since 2017, the equine rescue has made Castle Rock Farm its permanent home. The 172-acre farm, located on Castle Rock Road just off of Craig’s Store Road in Batesville, is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. Driving in on the gravel road with a canopy of green leaves and the Mechums River slowly meandering through the property gives the impression of an earlier century where life evolved at an unhurried pace.
The name of the equine rescue came from Maya’s off-the-track thoroughbred, Hope, whom she’s had for seventeen years. Hope is in residence at a therapeutic riding school near Charlottesville where a new chapter of her life began, doing a job, Maya said, “she is very good at.”
Maya, a Nelson County native, started riding when she was a child of four and got her first horse at eleven years of age: a quarter horse/Standardbred cross who had been abandoned at a boarding stable. The mare was Maya’s first rescue experience, but in the years that followed there seemed to be one horse after another that came to her from some type of bad situation. Eventually Maya decided she wanted to do rescue on a larger scale and began looking into what it would take to start a non-profit horse rescue. Her dream became reality in 2008 when Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue, Inc. became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Maya founded Hope’s Legacy after she found out that many animal control agencies in Virginia do not have facilities for seized horses.
“I wanted to create a resource for animal control agencies in Virginia so they had someone to call when the need arose. We started out in a neighbor’s fenced-in field that had a two-stall barn on it, and that first year we took in only one donkey that was actually adopted the same day we got it. The next year we took in three horses, so we grew slowly. Advertising was by word of mouth, through our primary veterinary hospitals, Blue Ridge Equine Clinic and Westwood Animal Hospital, and animal control.”
Maya said in the first nine years of Hope’s existence they moved seven times, borrowing and leasing properties around the area. In 2015, they started looking actively for a more permanent home. As fate would have it, one of the rescue’s supporters told Maya her parents had passed away, leaving 480 acres to their children and some of the siblings wanted to keep their acreage and some wanted to sell. She asked Maya if she would be interested in looking at the property and Maya said, “absolutely.”
Originally, Hope’s Legacy had budgeted a certain amount for 50 acres of land, but the owners, not wanting sell to a developer, offered them 172 prime acres for less than half the market price of what land was bringing in western Albemarle. The offer was brought to the board of directors and with Maya’s recommendations, the board said, “Let’s do it!” The family members agreed to finance the property with zero percent interest, “which was a huge gift,” said Maya.
“We closed on the farm two days before Thanksgiving of 2017 and began fencing the next week. There was a small house on the property and an old barn that was used but eventually had to be torn down. At that time, we had ten horses. Once we got the first field fenced, we moved a few horses into it, and when the second field was finished, we moved a few more. We used round pens and made small paddocks. The volunteers carried water to the horses from the Mechums River that winds through the property, but later wells were drilled and now each enclosure has water. Run-in sheds were built the next spring and several larger finished sheds from Helmuth Buildings in Harrisonburg were brought in on trucks. Many were donated by supporters.”
From the start, Maya’s husband, Rich, played a big part in Castle Rock Farm. He was the grounds and facilities supervisor, taking care of the mowing as well as leading volunteer groups in building projects. Although not originally a “horse person,” he helped his wife deliver and bring in equines and fully supported her mission. Sadly, Rich passed away in May of this year, leaving a large vacuum in Maya’s heart as well as the hearts of his family and friends.
This October Hope’s Legacy will start their first major construction project, an 8-stall intake barn. Maya said, “This barn will provide a safer environment for our caregivers, veterinarians, volunteers, and farrier, who currently work outdoors. This 40’x72’ barn will be named for Henry Javor, a supporter who gave generous financial assistance to the project. The barn will have a central aisle and cross ties will provide shade, protection from the elements, secure footing and better visibility. It will be used to house equines from large rescue operations, provide stall rest for injured or starved horses, to quarantine one group of equines from others, and provide housing on a second story for a future farm manager and possible rental unit. Thanks to generous donors, the financial goal for the barn has already been met. Also, the final payment on the 172 acres was paid in March of 2021, making Castle Rock Farm mortgage-free. In the future there will be a riding ring, a round pen for training and a network of trails for training and trail ride events.”
Since its inception, Hope’s Legacy has taken in 500 horses, ponies, mules and donkeys and found forever homes for the majority of those taken in. It has taken a lot of work by the staff, volunteers, donors and sponsors who give so generously of themselves. When asked if there was anything specific Hope’s Legacy needs at the moment, Maya was quick to request more volunteers to help with the farm’s growing needs. No experience is needed, and training is available for anyone with a heart for horses. “We have retirees, high school students, people who have ridden horses, people who have never been around horses, ex-military, anyone, really, who would like to help,” Maya added.
Events at Hope’s Legacy include “Hoofin’ It for Horses,” a 5K trail run on the property with an open house and tour of the farm afterward, and a “Books at the Barn” program for 6- to 14-year-olds. For more details, log into the Hope’s Legacy web page at www.hopeslegacy.com.
Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue is the remarkable story of what one person with a passion for kindness can do to make a huge difference in the world… especially if you are a horse!
The Saving of Bobby Earl
Horses have a body score from 1-9, with 5 being optimum. In March of 2018, a 10-year-old horse was brought to Castle Rock Farm with a body score of 1, the lowest on the register and the poorest overall condition. The owner was forced to surrender the animal, who had been deprived of food to the point of starvation.
Carolyn Sandridge, a Hope’s Legacy volunteer since September of 2017, said she was instantly drawn to the emaciated equine, who was physically and emotionally depleted.
“When he came off the trailer and was put in a stall, the look in his eye told us he was an emotionally broken horse. He was so defeated at first and never even nibbled the hay he was given for several days. He was afraid and didn’t trust anyone. For his height, he should have weighed around 1,100 pounds, but when he came in, he weighed between 800 and 900 pounds.”
Bobby Earl, named by Maya Proulx, had learned that humans couldn’t be trusted and pulled away from any contact with them. Carolyn said that slowly, slowly, after about five days, he began to show some interest in his surroundings, his food, and the people who came to feed him. Nourished in both body and soul, Bobby Earl began to gain weight and thrive.
Carolyn became increasingly attached to the horse, and in December of 2020 officially adopted him. He continues to be boarded at Castle Rock Farm, so his needs are taken care of on a daily basis. He has gone from a fearful, untrusting animal to one who recognizes the love Carolyn shows him and nickers a greeting when he sees her approaching.
“He is full of personality and wants his ears scratched whenever possible,” said Carolyn, who praises the benefits of being a volunteer at Castle Rock Farm. She said it does your heart good to be part of an organization whose main goal is the care and well-being of horses that just need a chance for a new life.