Ten years ago Nanci Beyerl moved to a plot of 10 acres in Pattersonville with four horses. She was looking to escape her own past, and decided offering sanctuary to abused, neglected and overworked horses could be a way to do that.
The horse sanctuary she created -- Peaceful Acres -- is now a 156 acre farm and provides a home to 54 horses. And Nanci is helping other people find peace through what she calls "equine guided experimental learning."
Peaceful Acres' 54 horses come from every sort of background. Some were rescued from neglectful or abusive owners after suffering blunt force trauma to the head, or years in a pen without movement, or being starved. Others were overworked. Some are retired racehorses, and some come from overbreeding. And then there are the horses from "kill pens."
Nanci explains that kill pens are horse auctions where the animal is auctioned on depending on its meat value. The purchased horses are then shipped over the border and slaughtered.
"Horses are an American icon, they're seen as pets or companions," says Nanci, "but in Europe and Asia, they eat horse meat."
Twenty of the horses at Peaceful Acres were rescued from kill pens; one of them is Pearl.
Pearl was purchased at auction by Peaceful Acres for the grand total of $36.
But Nanci says the price of caring for a horse for a year is between $4,000 and $6,000, so it can be difficult to find the money necessary to take care of a new horse. She says the price is well worth it.
The hardest part of her job, she says, isn't the cost of care for the horses, but having to say no to taking in more.
People helping horses, horses helping people
Part of the farm's mission is to not only provide therapy for horses, but for people, too. This therapy doesn't involve riding the horses, rather it puts the people together with the horses in ways to help them work through problems. Nanci says she sometimes has people address the hurdles and temptations in their lives by building them with props around the barn -- and then they have to figure out how to get the horses over the hurdles they built. Other times it's as simple as getting a teenage boy to get a horse to come near him.
"For the most part, it lets people create metaphors for their own lives based on their experiences here," says Nanci. "What hurdles do you face, what are your strengths, what fences hold you in in your own life, and so on. Here, people can think about what they want out of life and you can only find that in a stable place. So come to the stable."
But the main component to their equine therapy is that the horses provide acceptance and an authentic relationship for people who don't have either in their lives.
"These horses were denied everything for their whole lives, but now they deny nothing from others," says Nanci. "They give 110 percent to these people."
What Peaceful Acres needs now is a little more support. It takes donations and offers adoption opportunities for the horses; but the horses also need companionship.
"Right now, what we need is volunteers to come and spend time with the horses, take care of them for a few hours, and just be a buddy," says Nanci. "It's perfect for people who want horses in their lives again but can't afford to own or adopt one."
One of Peaceful Acres' supporters is Steve Wozniak, the Apple co-founder. An animal lover, he had followed the farm's work and rescues over the last few years and made a donation to the farm -- he also appeared at a fundraiser for the farm at Proctors this past September.
As thanks for his support, Peacefull Acres named a rescue horse after him. "Woz," a Belgian draft horse and former Amish workhorse, now spends most of his time high up on the hill overlooking the farm.
Nanci would be happy to not have to ask for money anymore -- she'd like to not even have a job anymore.
"I love my job, but don't get me wrong, I'd love to be put out of work; I'd love to not be needed. I rescue horses for a living. Put me out of business."
There are large-format photos of Peaceful Acres at the the top of this page -- scroll all the way up.
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