Geronimo clip-clopped the streets of downtown Nashville for 17 years, one of the many carriage horses that transport tourists around Lower Broadway and downtown Nashville.
At age 32, his working years done and needing special care for painful conditions in legs and hooves, Geronimo came to Ferrell Hollow Horse Farm in February 2016 for rehabilitation, medical care and to live out the rest of his days in comfort.
The farm is located in Readyville, Tennessee, an unincorporated community in Cannon County midway between Murfreesboro and Woodbury.
“These horses have given their lives to serve humans,” farm founder Cindy Daigre said. “I’ll do anything I possibly can so they can be comfortable, and to try to make them happy for as long as they have left.”
Fifteen special-needs horses permanently live at this unique equine sanctuary for the aged, neglected or abused. The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee helps support the farm’s mission to care for special needs horses through The Animal Welfare Fund.
Daigre starts her day at 5 a.m. by softening hay pellets and other senior feed, a three-hour process that repeats itself three times a day.
Some of the horses are coaxed into stocks to have skin abscesses cleaned and foot injuries examined. Blind horses learn how to navigate their surroundings by being led around their paddocks. The farm spreads crushed stone that serves as a guide for their hooves.
Daigre takes horses who are skittish from abuse into separate corrals for rehabilitation, calming them with gentle care and the occasional special food treat.
Each horse’s care costs an average of $600 per month. Six volunteers rotate visits to assist Daigre.
When not with the horses, Daigre spends several hours of her day raising funds and enlisting community involvement. The goal is to help as many horses as possible.
The ones she can’t rescue will likely end up at kill auctions in Canada or Mexico.
It’s what I’m meant to do — be a caretaker,” said Daigre, who started riding horses at age 8.
Gratification comes in the form of success stories.
When a giant black draft horse named Buddy became lame and could barely move, Daigre and her volunteers cleaned and soaked his feet every day and gave him therapeutic shoes, a tedious and time-consuming therapy.
Two months later, he made a surprisingly strong recovery. Daigre watched as Buddy kicked up his heels and galloped across a field.
“That’s when all you did to help this horse,” she said, “is definitely worth it.”
The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee supports Ferrell Hollow Horse Farm and its mission to care for special needs horses through The Animal Welfare Fund. The Animal Welfare Fund helps organizations passionate about the welfare of animals by supporting spay and neuter assistance, wildlife rehabilitation, and sanctuary for injured or orphaned animals. To find out more or donate visit The Animal Welfare Fund.
Also, 2016 grants from The Foundation to nonprofits dedicated at least in part to animals and animal welfare include:
— Agape Animal Rescue, to provide spay or neuter surgeries to 80 abandoned dogs to prepare them for permanent adoption.
— Adventure Science Center Nashville, to provide 300 middle school students with free science lab experiences, investigating the microbiology of plants and animals.
— Walden’s Puddle, to provide care and treatment to Tennessee wildlife in need, with the goal of returning the rehabilitated animals to the wild.
— Ziggy’s Tree Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (Franklin County), to provide care of Tennessee’s orphaned and injured wildlife with the goal of returning them to their natural habitat.
— Friends of Animals of Jackson County, to provide financial assistance for Jackson County residents to spay/neuter their pets.
— Humane Society of Lincoln County, to spay/neuter shelter animals to make them more adoptable and to offer spay/neuter discounts to financially challenged pet owners
Photos by Anthony Scarlati