Saving Gracie Foundation resolves to rescue, rehabilitate horses
What Barb Phillips saw in 2013 forever changed her.
She still shudders when she thinks of the herd of neglected and malnourished horses she committed to save. She remembers loading up a trailer with hay and water and regularly driving down to Spanish Fork to feed them. And the moment she purchased 13 of the horses is a memory she can never forget.
It was the incident that pushed Phillips to found the Saving Gracie Equine Healing Foundation, which aims to rescue and rehabilitate horses on a property in Wanship.
Phillips, founder and executive director of the foundation, is proud to see the horses she has helped over the course of a few years. She and her small team have put thousands of hours and dollars into the nonprofit, she said, but Phillips knows she cannot complete her goals alone. For that reason, she and Hattie Cole, the director of marketing and fundraising, recently held the foundation’s first organized fundraising event through Live PC Give PC. Saving Gracie Foundation raised $10,000.
Phillips and Cole said they participated in the fundraiser in order to raise community awareness about the foundation, which formally began in 2015. Cole expected to raise a few hundred dollars, so she was shocked to see the final amount.
“It gave Barb and I a lot of hope,” she said.
The group plans on hosting regular fundraising events in the future, as well as launching a volunteer program for people to work on the ranch.
The nonprofit has come a long way since Phillips and Cole rushed down to Spanish Fork to see the horses that were causing a buzz in the horse community. A large herd of about 100 horses had been abandoned by their owners and were starving, injured and in all-around bad shape.
Phillips, who owns the Blue Sky Ranch with her husband, Mike, immediately thought about taking in some of the horses. The ranch already had horses on its property for its horseback riding program.
“We felt like we were in a good position to help. We had hay, we had grain and we had a relationship with a vet,” she said.
Phillips and Cole joined others to provide food, water and veterinary care to the horses while a lawsuit against the owner of the horses ensued. The horses were not able to leave the property because of the lawsuit, but one was so badly injured that authorities allowed it to leave and be under veterinary care. Phillips paid for the care of the horse, which she named Gracie, and took Gracie home before another 40 of the horses were eventually put up for auction.
On the day of the auction, Phillips purchased another 13 horses.
While Gracie and the other horses recovered, Phillips decided to create the nonprofit so she could continue rescuing horses. She named it after Gracie.
“It was a very emotional and passionate decision. I just felt like, ‘OK. This is going to be my next thing that I am going to do in my life,’” she said. “It was a life changer for me.”
Since that time, Phillips and her team, comprised of Cole and Amanda Herbert, the organization’s trainer and head of horse rehabilitation, has rescued 32 horses and re-homed 14. The team helps the horses overcome the trauma they suffered and go to another home. But sometimes, Cole said, they have been through too much. In those cases, the horses will continue to live on the Saving Gracie’s 17-acre property.
It is difficult work, but Phillips and Cole said it is rewarding.
“We do see a lot of really hard things and we’ve been through a lot of hard things, but when we see Gracie and Spartan and all these other horses that we’ve rescued that are success stories, it just keeps us going. We will not stop until we physically can’t do it anymore,” Cole said.
Phillips said her life is now dedicated to caring for horses.
“It means everything to me that I can help even one horse,” she said.
The horses on the ranch come from different situations, Cole said. Some are wild mustangs, others are thoroughbreds that are not able to race anymore. The foundation also takes in retired Blue Sky Ranch horses that are no longer able to be ridden.
Donations, including those from Live PC Give PC, go toward the food and veterinary care of the horses the foundation already has, and it helps the team rescue more horses, Phillips said. A few days ago, the Saving Gracie Foundation rescued a horse in Texas from slaughter.
Phillips said she hopes to one day purchase more property so she can have even more space for horses and continue to help each one she can.
For more information about the Saving Gracie Equine Healing Foundation, visit http://www.savinggraciefoundation.org.
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