Holiday Horses

One thing I miss about working at a newspaper is the opportunity to potentially make a big difference for a person or a group by showcasing their story for a much larger audience than they could reach on their own.

Seasonal holiday stories about good causes to give to can be tedious unless you really appreciate the work they’re doing. Such as the case here. Because they require so much upkeep, life can get grim for unwanted horses, and improving their situations takes a lot of sustained effort.

I was happy to do what I could for this horse rescue. I never heard from th again, but I’d like to think I helped them out a little bit.

(BTW, The group’s website doesn’t seem to be active anymore, but you can still find them here:

Also, an update on the photo featured in the photo: Lady Netty N died in 2018, and the horse-racing community offered a tribute to her apparently illustrious and globetrotting career:

 (FRED ADAMS FOR THE TIMES LEADER Lisa Smith brushes Lady Netty N In her Center Moreland stable, where she runs the Retired Equine Adoption Society Of The Northeast In the background are volunteers Sally Miller and Tom Linski, along with Buddy the dog.

 (FRED ADAMS FOR THE TIMES LEADER Lisa Smith brushes Lady Netty N In her Center Moreland stable, where she runs the Retired Equine Adoption Society Of The Northeast In the background are volunteers Sally Miller and Tom Linski, along with Buddy the dog.

Unwanted horses find friends

An area woman and her group are filling a need, but could use some help.


CENTER MORELAND - A Christmas tree stands prominently in Lisa Smith's house, but the magic of the season happens in the stable outside. There, amid garlands, colorful ornamental balls and festive lights, scruffy but contented horses shuffle in and out of stalls to quickly gulp down helpings of grain and perhaps an apple or two.

Waiting anxiously, Breezy nibbles at the rest of the holiday decorations - greetings cards from around the country addressed to the horses. Perhaps if the thoroughbred knew the cards are part of the reason she has grain to eat and a stable to stand in, she wouldn't deface them. Her lack of appreciation won't stop Smith and volunteers at the Retired Equine Adoption Society of the Northeast from hanging the cards or donors from sending them and slipping in a few dollars to make spirits bright at the horse rescue. The group holds a holiday fund drive asking for $1 donations along with the cards. The problem is that in this recessionary economy, the cards don't cover as much of the stable as usual. "It doesn't seem like the cards are coming in as fast as last year," Smith said. And while the weak economy is keeping a clamp on R.E.A.S.O.N.'s income, it’s opened the floodgates on expenses. "With the economy so bad, it’s a scary time for horses. ... It’s an abundance of them, and people can't afford them," said Cheryl Willis, a volunteer who's on the charity's board of directors. "In addition, all our prices went up. ... It’s like twofold." Competition is increasing for corn as it becomes more useful for energy, she said, and sawdust is hard to find with lumber mills closing. Plus, the rescue is receiving horses from property foreclosures. There are currently 18 mouths to feed in paddocks alone, and that doesn't account for the random other homeless animals that find their way to the home.

When the organization formed about a decade ago, finding money was a primary concern. "We got a group of people, and we got a lawyer and an accountant and we started raising money," said Smith, who had always wanted a horse as a child. The seeds were sown when she and her ex-husband helped find a new home for an abused horse and then became involved with an adoption organization. Eventually, the family's rural property transitioned into a horse stable and volunteers started stopping by to help. Some, such as Sally Miller and Tom Linski, come quite a distance. Miller lives in Wilkes-Barre and Linski in Hanover Township, so they carpool. "It's good therapy with these horses," said Miller, who's recovering from a double hip replacement. "I never thought any place like this existed."

"That," Smith says, "is our biggest problem. People don't know we're here." The rescue raises about $25,000 annually these days, Smith said, and adoption fees range from $650, "for a horse that will take you out for a ride and usually pulls a cart as well," to $1,000 for ones that are young and well-trained. But that leaves little for maintenance - the tractor needs repairs, the stable and fencing could use some rehab and the fields need to be scraped. "If anybody has a used skid-steer they want to drop off, that’d be great," Willis said.

"Over 300 horses have gone through this property, so things are getting old and dying," said Smith, who takes no pay for running the rescue and pays the bills by cleaning properties because it gives her a flexible schedule. "What's really hard is this is my house, too. ... It’s like a never-ending job." But because the rescue follows up on all its adoptions and requires that all adoptees must be returned if unwanted, Smith likely will be involved as long as she owns the property. "The program will never end until the last horse dies," she said.

TO SEND CARDS Greetings cards and donations should be mailed to: R.E.A.S.O.N., Retired Equine Adoption-Society Of The Northeast, RR2, BOX 379, Harveys Lake, PA 18618. The rescue has open houses every Sunday afternoon. Go to its Web site for more information: