By Jillian Risberg
It was a rough beginning for Sweet Pea and Paco — the mother and orphaned son (because they found out right after they saved her she was already pregnant), both near death sick, shipped from a kill pen to New Bolton Center (PA).
With loving care all three survived and have been thriving at Starfish Equine Rescue.
“Each rescue is always personal,” says Abby Revoir, who created and runs the rescue, calling it one of her proudest life achievements. “Their eyes meet mine, and they speak to me.”
Or Elf, a baby foal four-months-old taken from his mother far too soon, skinny, matted in manure and pee and sick from Pennsylvania.
“I stopped counting after 60. I believe we are getting close to 100 saves,” says Revoir, of her labor of love, where they rescue horses from slaughter, neglect and abuse.
The center has taken on local cases where the equines were seized from properties and surrender cases where owners can no longer care for their horses due to medical or financial setbacks. All animals are evaluated, vetted, rehabbed — retrained if needed, and put up for adoption.
When Revoir promised to do everything she can for horses, she felt it to her core and never looked back.
Mornings she feeds horses their special individualized meal, then turns them out. Water dishes get filled daily and every stall gets mucked. Horses get groomed, a good time to check the body for weight and injuries. It’s also a great way to get to know their personalities and regain their trust. If the horses need training or to be exercised, they get ridden a couple times per week.
“Lunch is quiet time where horses just get to be horses, no people around to bother them,” Revoir says, adding that the farrier and vet are out frequently each week.
Then every evening the horses come in unless they are 24/7 turnout due to stocking up or lameness issues. Everyone gets fed dinner and they do this routine again every day.
Horse slaughter is horrific for many reasons, according to Revoir, who says there is no humane way to slaughter a horse. Their muscle skeletal system is unlike a cow. They are extremely nervous and spooky creatures due to being prey animals so they are kicking and fighting in the holding pens and shoots. Limbs break and they are constantly getting hurt.
“The tractor trailers transporting them to the slaughter plants are horrible too. They have no room, no food or water, downed horses get trampled (on these) 18-plus hour rides to Canada and Mexico,” she says it’s gut wrenching. “And the worst part is these horses shipping are darn good horses. I have several perfect kids horses that I have saved directly from the kill buyer.”
How these beautiful creatures come to be marked for slaughter or abandoned or mistreated in the first place, Revoir says horses end up in the wrong hands very easily. It’s as simple as a family taking their horse to an auction and someone they don’t know purchasing it. At every auction there are kill buyers. They buy horses, any horses — for as cheap as possible, and as many as they can fit in their trailers.
“It’s very important to have contracts when selling or rehoming horses because the horse slaughter industry is very real and they slip through the cracks often, when families think they are safe in a field with the family they sold their horse to,” she says.
And horses can end up in the pipeline due to a family member’s death.
“If their dad passes away and has horses and the family wants nothing to do with them they sell them on craigslist or auctions,” Revoir says off-the-track racehorses are not supposed to end up at auctions or with kill buyers, but they do.
Once they are done racing or injured they are too much of an expense so the trainer at the track needs to move them along. Oftentimes they try rehoming them but then those owners dump them at auctions if the horse was too “hot” or has an old track injury.
“A lot of Amish working horses are sold at auctions once the family is done with them,” says Revoir. “All types of horses end up in auctions and kill pens.”
She says horses give us companionship, work for us, and then often are dumped like trash, forgotten about and shipped to slaughter.
Revoir’s love affair with horses started in high school, after coming across horrifying footage of the inhumane slaughter of these majestic creatures in the name of the horse meat industry.
“It forever changed me,” she says. “I can never unsee it and it’s why I made a promise that someday I would make a difference.”
After attending Centenary University, in 2011 she received a bachelor of science degree in equine studies and did just that.
The moment Revoir saw her first horse she fell instantly in love.
“Everything about them — from their smell to how stunning they are to how forgiving they are,” she says they don’t judge us, even after everything these rescue horses have gone through they still give humans a second chance.
According to Revoir, they require all of her time, which has led to loss in personal relationships.
She has missed family events and special occasions due to sick horses or horses foaling.
“My biggest challenge so far has been juggling Starfish Equine Rescue, and my business teaching riding lessons, horse shows and coaching my IEA Team,” says Revoir.
Her 501c3 (SER) is named for a story about a young girl throwing starfish into the ocean. When she’s told there are thousands and her endeavor won’t make a difference, she picks one up and proudly states that she made a difference for that one.
“I will continue to save one horse at a time, like the starfish poem,” Revoir also says please donate if you can, help spread the word by networking and volunteer applications are available on starfishequinerescue.com.
If you are interested in adding a horse to your family, see if adopting or fostering is right for you. This opens space at the rescue, which in turn saves more horses.
Follow their journey on Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok @starfishequinerescue.