It’s a Cinderella story for dozens of starved horses, thanks to some Orange County heroes.
Last month I wrote a story about a horse rescue in Huntington Beach in need of help. Red Bucket Equine Rescue had saved 86 horses, some starved and abused, others found chewing each others tails off for food or headed for the slaughter truck. See stunning before and after photos
For two and a half years founder Susan Peirce kept them at the Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center. But as of September the horses were set to lose their homes.
“People were calling, crying,” Peirce says. “Our website was out of control with the hits, it went off the charts. I’m still digging out, trying to respond to people and write thank you notes. It’s unbelievable.”
In addition to donations, 40 people have signed up to volunteer their time to the horses. Others showed up at the equestrian center just to visit, bringing jars of apple sauce and molasses.
“The whole community has embraced this,” Peirce says. “Because of that, our horses are safe.”
The money will keep the horses in their Huntington Beach stalls through the end of the year. It has also allowed Red Bucket to take in five more starving horses in the past few weeks.
Red Bucket rehabilitates the horses, many abandoned by their owners because of the bad economy, for adoption. Since Red Bucket was founded, 35 horses have gone to “forever homes,” including three since the story ran. Several more adoptions are in the works.
The largest donation has come from the Cecil B. DeMille Foundation. A relative of the filmmaking legend came out to see the horses. That night, she phoned Peirce inviting her to pick up a check for $100,000 at her Newport Beach home.
A private donor then matched that donation.
“Red Bucket has stepped up during very troubling times and taken responsibility for horses victimized by cruelty and difficult economic times,” an email from the foundation reads. “We encourage other foundations and humanitarians to contribute to such a worthwhile cause and outstanding organization.”
The Stanley E. Hanson Foundation, based in Anaheim, donated another $10,000 with a promise of $1,000 a month “for as long as we’re around,” Peirce says. A foundation trustee said Hanson, an Orange County businessman now deceased, had empathy for animals in distress.
ACRA Incorporated Aerospace, also out of Anaheim, made a similar pledge: $10,000 plus $1,000 a month support.
Peirce has also received about $8,000 in donations from horse lovers throughout Orange County.
And a representative from Random House called a few weeks ago to set up a fundraiser in conjunction with their book launch of “The Eighty Dollar Champion,” a true story about a horse that went from slaughter truck to a grand champion.
The fundraiser is set for Sept. 11 at the equestrian center. Tickets for brunch, an autographed copy of the book and a Q & A with the author, Elizabeth Letts, cost $80. There will be a flag ceremony on horseback and a dressage demonstration to the national anthem. All profits will go to Red Bucket.
Peirce says the community outpouring doesn’t mean Red Bucket is safe, though. Their operating budget is nearly half a million dollars a year. Each horse costs about $600 a month to take care of. And there are countless more horses to rescue.
“I have to turn down heartbreaking calls every single day, like you can’t believe, knowing these horses will go to slaughter,” Peirce says. “I’m talking about a dozen a day. And we cry every time we say ‘no.'”
But for now the work can continue.
“Red bucket belongs to all of us.”