Harlow Today

Susan & Harlow

Founder, Susan Peirce

Our Story 

In July of 2008, Susan Peirce found a starving thoroughbred filly at a run-down and dilapidated stable. Although it was evident that the horse had been beaten and abandoned, the barn manager did not feel obligated to feed her since he wasn’t being paid. Instead, he was planning on calling a meat wagon to pick her up. He felt no responsibility and certainly no empathy for the terrified horse. Unable to turn her back, Susan went to the local feed store and bought 50 pounds of carrots and a “Red Bucket.” It took her 6½ hours to catch the emaciated filly, but once she caught her, she never let go. She named her Harlow and made her a promise of a loving, forever home.


In January of 2009, Susan returned to that same stable where she found nine additional abandoned horses. Again, the barn manager was not feeding them, and they were clearly starving, suffering and in a horrible state of neglect. One horse in particular was endangered. Susan, along with a friend, spent the next 36 hours trying desperately to save her. Unfortunately, she was so sick and emaciated that the emergency vet recommended they offer her the only gift that they could…mercy. They named her Gracie, and that was the defining moment that changed Susan’s life. Looking around at the eight remaining horses that were also suffering, a line was drawn and Red Bucket Equine Rescue was born. Eight more Red Buckets were purchased, and eight additional promises of second chances were made.


Recognizing the desperate plight of our American horses, Red Bucket formed a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and created a compelling mission and a meaningful vision. By May of 2009, our rescue had grown from 9 horses to 71! We had saved 74 horses our first year, 77 horses our second year, and by the end of Red Bucket’s third year, we had saved a total of 96 horses. Red Bucket developed a very strong track record of rehabilitating and training our horses. As our reputation grew, we also began to re-home many of the horses, finding loving and committed forever homes. Adopters came from Colorado, Wyoming and Oklahoma, in addition to local Southern California communities.


In January of 2012, we were given three months to relocate and find a home for the 65 horses under our care at that time. With the assistance of The Orange County Register and several news broadcasts, we were successful in getting our story out to the public. Thanks to the conviction and support of our donors, and the generosity of the public who wanted to see our good work continue, we were able to raise enough money to put a down payment on a “ranch that the horses own” in Chino Hills, California. The Red Bucket Ranch was a first major step in creating a long-term future for our horses, and the promise of a sustainable model to ensure that our good work would continue, and that many more horses would be provided a second chance. 


Red Bucket was founded because we couldn’t turn our backs. We understand that “rescue is only the beginning,” and we have created a model of rescue that significantly increases the probability of success. We are committed to saving and serving slaughter-bound, abused, high-risk and desperate horses. Our dedicated team lovingly cares for the horses as they heal and are assessed, rehabilitated and trained in preparation for their forever homes. Once the horse is carefully matched with an adopter, our Field Support Team partners with the adopter to remove any barriers to success, and facilitates a happy and safe transition. Our program removes obstacles and provides the tools, training and support that help keep the horses happy and safe in their new home.


The amazing transformations of hundreds of shattered horses, and their second chances, are only possible through the generosity of others who wish to help us help the horses. The Red Bucket Team and the horses that they serve are deeply grateful for the donations that make our meaningful work possible.