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Posted September 16, 2009 | comments Leave a comment

Due to financial strain, woman must close farm devoted to saving horses

By J.R. Williams -- jrwilliams@nvdaily.com

BERRYVILLE -- Holly Tomlinson has living proof of her life's work.

Healthy horses -- temporary residents saved from slaughter or neglect -- roam her sprawling 40-acre farm in Clarke County.

For more than a year, the Healing Horse Farm has helped about 45 thoroughbreds and other horses find good homes. But the work comes with great expense, and Tomlinson said Tuesday that mounting financial pressures soon will force the farm to close.

Last week, she e-mailed to supporters a plea for manpower and financial support to keep the farm going. Some $25,000 was needed to keep operations afloat, it said.

"I have to go forward," she said in an interview. "Everybody who's on this farm as a thoroughbred could be on the slaughter truck."

But she sent out another message Tuesday, this time to announce the farm's closing.

"In the end I created a job for myself which I have neither the skills for or desire to do -- executive director of a nonprofit," the letter says.

As a former investigator for the U.S. Equine Rescue League, Tomlinson was involved in the rescue of eight horses from another Clarke County farm in November 2007.

Investigators found the horses emaciated and without food or adequate water. That case led to the development of Healing Horse Farm, and several of the rescued horses are still in good health there.

"I'm just heartbroken that we couldn't get funding," said Ronda Everhart, a volunteer at the farm who met Tomlinson during the rescue effort and adopted one of the sick horses.

"We're desperately trying to find foster homes. [Tomlinson] won't give a horse to just anyone."

Over time, the focus of the farm became rehabilitating racehorses, and partnerships were developed with nonprofits like Thoroughbred Placement and Rescue.

But there also were plans for the horses to facilitate corporate team-building and as a healthy activity for at-risk youths and other organizations.

Those programs, while not a full-time focus, had served groups like 4-H in the past, said Maureen Potts, another volunteer at the farm.

The farm's closing is "devastating," she said.

Tomlinson estimates she has about two months left at the farm before the land is turned back to its owner. Of the 19 horses there now, about a dozen will need foster homes, and Tomlinson said she still plans on finding homes for all of them.

Those who adopt horses from the farm typically pay a fee -- $200 to $500 -- and demonstrate that they're the "right owner," she said.

Meanwhile, the farm is asking for donations of hay and feed to Berryville Food Supply. Fundraising also will continue. Everhart is planning several rummage sales at the farm, one on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Oct. 17 and 31.

Tomlinson said while she is unsure what her next step will be, she won't stray far.

"There's a language that horses have," she said. "There's a sensitivity that they have. You can give an individual insight into themselves. They are a perfect mirror for where you are."

To reach Healing Horse Farm, contact by e-mail at info@healinghorsefarm.org.


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