By Kathryn Bockino
“Please do not pity them. Instead help them; do something” is not just a motto for Spirit’s Promise, a Horse Rescue Program at Blossom Hollow Ranch in Riverhead, but a mantra. The founder, Marisa Charles, has rescued thoroughbreds, Manhattan 9/11 police horses, and even horses who were at auction and about to be sold into horrible plights. With about 150,000 horses going to slaughter every year, Spirit’s Promise is a sanctuary, a haven, for these creatures that had nowhere else to go.
Marisa didn’t always rescue horses. In fact, this all started because of a midlife crisis. While working for the garment industry, and then in construction, her “biggest problem of the day was what facial I would get, or what color nail polish I would be picking out.” However, once her children went away to school, she realized that she wanted to give back “to the universe.” Her husband, Jeff, was the one who suggested she should start horseback riding in order to connect with nature, and that’s when it all clicked. This would be her new, lasting project.
Spirit’s Promise offers a variety of packages, all with the intent of spreading awareness and love for these horses. A popular one, the “Head ‘em up; move ‘em Out” package, allows individuals to bring the horses in from pasture, put them in their stalls, feed them, and groom them. People can also spend a full day learning all the basics of life at the barn, host a birthday party for their kids, or even experience equine therapy. “People come and they self-discover with the horses. We help cancer patients, psychiatric patients, autistic children, and battered woman; anyone who needs us, we are there for them, and I’m the horses’ translator.” Says Marisa, who personifies all of the horses and gives them personalities. She does this in order for people to realize that these animals do have feelings, distinct traits, and can feel abandonment.
With all of the programs, dances, and events, Marisa wants people to become aware of the fates that many of these horses might have succumbed to if they weren’t rescued. If horses don’t run fast enough in races, or if people can no longer afford to care for them, the slaughterhouse is often the first place they are sent. Marisa says, “They’re magical creatures. It’s a choice for all of the horses; they have this power behind them, but they still choose to be kind to us.” This is why these horses, many of which were abused and discarded, have been given a new purpose at Spirit’s Promise as healers and teachers.
“The same person that tortures them, is the same person who can stop the torture,” and because of this, Marisa also says that the horses have taught her a tremendous amount of patience and love. From Major, the Manhattan police horse who served in 9/11, to Heartbreaker, who was hog-tied and kept in ropes for days to “teach her a lesson,” Spirit’s Promise wants to help people become educated about these amazing animals, and to realize that many horses out there still need help. Spirit’s Promise is not only a sanctuary for horses, but a place where people can open their hearts, and find a true connection with these beautiful animals.
2746 Sound Ave, Riverhead, NY