Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue is a rehab for injured bodies and souls
Photos by Jeanna Duerscherl | The Roanoke Times
Pat Muncy, owner of the Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue, pets Gus, a 25-year-old Belgian. Muncy has taken in animals since she was a child, a passion that led her to starting the horse rescue.
Bill Wells feeds a treat to one of the horses at the Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue in Hardy. The staff is all volunteer.
At left: Bill and Bonnie Wells clean out a stall at the Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue. They have been volunteering since August 2010 and come every Wednesday to help feed and take care of the horses.
The injuries Blair, a sleek, gentle, copper-colored mare, suffered were horrific, life-threatening and avoidable.
In July 2003, trapped in a dilapidated trailer being pulled through Salem, the horse’s hind legs broke through the worn floor. It’s unknown how long her hooves were dragged along the city’s streets before police stopped the truck’s driver.
Both of the horse’s back hooves were damaged. The abrasion to her left pastern joint — just above the hoof — was gruesome.
At the time she was relinquished by her owner, Blair, hundreds of pounds underweight, seriously injured and pregnant — a condition then unknown to the vet treating her wounds — was at risk of being euthanized.
Through the Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue, she found a friend in Pat Muncy, who was willing to invest months in her rehabilitation and maternity care and the placement of the foal she would deliver in 2004.
Years later, Blair shares 21 acres with more than 30 other rescued horses — and a few donkeys, chickens and dogs — at Muncy’s home in Hardy.
With a leg too fragile to bear any weight other than her own, she will spend the rest of her life roaming these safe pastures.
Last of the rescuers
Muncy, 49, has been operating the horse rescue since 2002. She and her husband, Jason, bought a small home and acreage near Westlake and began taking in horses, mostly animals that have been seized by animal control officers in Franklin, Roanoke, Botetourt and surrounding counties.
There were other local groups that rescued horses when Muncy started this nonprofit. All have since disbanded.
“We’re the last surviving,” she said.
Her staff is all volunteer, mostly family — Jason and her son Raymond Wickersty — and a collection of workers who include retirees, Scouts and court-ordered community servants.
Muncy, a petite blonde with a raspy voice, has become a jack-of-all-trades — landscaping engineer, grant writer, vet tech — to be able to properly care for and find homes for horses that need more than an average amount of TLC.
Healing troubled souls
Walking the perimeter of the horse rescue farm is a challenge — the uneven ground is swollen and slick from rain. Grass and clover are just peeping through the soil.
The landscape is cut by a series of fences dividing the pastures and dotted with sheds and pole barns — some constructed with fallen tree branches and other scrap materials.
But this patchwork piece of land is serene, a place of healing, a rehab for injured bodies and souls.
Guided by Muncy and Truman — an adorable black-and-white border collie mix and the farm’s official greeter — a tour includes stories of each of the rescued horses. Most are there as a result of animal control seizures from owners with good intentions who got in over their heads.
Besides a lack of medical care and food, some of the rescued animals arrive with emotional scars. Horses can remember trauma and neglect for a long time.
While they live at the rescue farm, Muncy and other volunteers work with the animals to calm their fears. Horses are herd animals that need interaction with people and other animals, but horses, it turns out, are also picky about their buddies.
Gus, a large Belgian, prefers the company of Cole, a skittish miniature mule, and Nestle and Sparky, a pair of temperamental donkeys. Serenity and Storm are troublemakers when they share a grazing area with other horses but get along fine as a pair.
Almost all of the horses are adoptable. Many are ridable, but some have physical and emotional problems that mean they can only be companion animals. Blair and the cranky donkeys are officially “retired” and will live out their days at the farm.
Bill and Bonnie Wells, a retired couple from Moneta, volunteer every Wednesday doing whatever needs done, including socializing with the residents.
“Most of the horses are really sweet,” Bonnie Wells said. “But some need more human contact so they’ll know humans aren’t trying to hurt them.”
Healing the soul is critical to making sure the animal is prepared to move on from the horse rescue. Before any of the mares or geldings — stallions are neutered before they ever set hoof in these pastures — are placed with an adoptive family, Muncy said she makes sure they are “people-safe, farrier-safe and vet-safe.”
The cost of care
The rescue is funded almost entirely through donations, supplemented by a few grants for construction and equipment.
Muncy finds creative ways to make those dollars stretch. She trades eggs from her chickens for outdated produce from a church food pantry. Corn husks — shucked by customers at the Westlake Kroger and donated by the store’s produce manager — supplement the feed troughs.
Still, there are many bills — for feed, farrier services, vaccinations and Coggins tests (blood tests used to detect a deadly disease transmitted by mosquitoes), and other medical expenses.
A horse is an expensive companion animal. Regular vet and farrier service plus the cost of hay and grain add up to thousands of dollars per horse each year.
The tough economy has made it difficult even for people who could once afford it to care for their animals. Muncy said she has to turn down an average of three requests per day from owners in financial distress who want to turn over their horses.
“We have to set limits,” she said, to stay viable.
The work can be heartbreaking — especially when horses arrive so wasted from starvation and neglect they die despite efforts to save them.
But it’s also heartwarming, Muncy said, when a horse is matched with the right home.
“Watching them leave, seeing them getting on the trailer to a new family,” she said. “That’s amazing to me.”
- Mineral blocks
- Horse tack
- Troughs and heaters
- Horse-related supplements
- Fly repellents
- Halters, break-aways and lead ropes
- Blankets, sizes 50 to 72
- De -wormers (Ivermectin, Strongid, etc.)
- Grooming supplies
- Round bale horse hay feeders
- Corner feeders
- Canned corn and carrots
- Fresh apples and carrots
- Feed buckets
Roanoke Roanoke> Valley Horse Rescue
P.O. Box 13
1725 Edwardsville Road
Hardy, Va. 24101