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Horse Health | Dark Horse Rescuers Give Neglected Animals New Homes

Posted By: JR

Watching LoveJoy chowing down on special hay in his fenced “isolation ward” in the west Hernando suburbs, Christy Gross thinks the spotted saddle pony knows how lucky he is to be alive.

“He comes up to us now. At first, we couldn’t touch him,” she said of the “senior” horse, about 20 years old, who is being treated for the ravages of neglect.

LoveJoy is not the horse’s original name. At Dark Horse Rescue, names are changed to protect innocent horses and avoid human embarrassment because equines taken in for rehab and adoption might be known in the close-knit horse-owning community, said Gross, president of the nonprofit. And because horses, like people in recovery, deserve a fresh start, too.

On this day at Dark Horse, several volunteers were busy putting a new coat of white — courtesy of Porter Paints — inside the barn, while others were hauling hay and water across six fenced acres. Dark Horse has access to a hundred acres, but more fencing awaits materials and funds.

The spruce-up heralds Saturday’s Open House to raise awareness and funds. Families are invited from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for crafts, food, fun and “meeting the horses,” said Gross. Calendars and T-shirts will be on sale. Dark Horse is on West Oak Grove Road and signs will direct the public to the event.

There are 12 horses ready for adoption: “We try to find a good ‘fit,’ with the horse and its particular needs matching the skill level of the owner.”

A Franklin, Tenn., native who lives in Hernando now, Gross, 35, founded Dark Horse Rescue in 2009. Since then, 41 horses have been sheltered.

“I used to volunteer for animal rescue in Fayette County (Tenn.), and there was a big horse neglect case there. I knew I wanted to stick with horse rescues but I couldn’t find anyone doing it,” she said.

Dark Horse and 501(c)3 status as a nonprofit followed.

Gross’ group works with the DeSoto Sheriff’s Department and other agencies, and she educates potential owners on horse health, expenses and space needs.

Gross made two court appearances in Tate County, winning both times, to obtain orders taking mares Gypsy and Rain from a neglectful owner; LoveJoy is one of 11 horses whose owner might lose the rest by court order if he fails to care for them.

Sierra, with beautiful blue eyes, is an adoption-ready Appaloosa that was turned over to Dark Horse by the Memphis Animal Shelter.

“Since this summer, we’ve taken five from MAS and placed two,” Gross said.

All horses undergo a 30-day evaluation in isolation after they arrive. Ailing horses such as LoveJoy may require longer periods.

She’d like to see laws amended so horses aren’t categorized as “livestock,” with a lesser standard of care.

“Horses have become companion animals — pets — and they should be seen legally as such.”

Eyeing her horses, from calendar “pinup” Gypsy to on-the-mend LoveJoy, Gross said: “With good matches, these horses turn out to be gorgeous.”

— Henry Bailey: (901) 333-2012


Dark Horse Rescue’s volunteer base has grown to some 50 to 60, and on any given week about 12 will come in for chores. The Hernando-based nonprofit is the only such rescue effort in northwestern Mississippi and West Tennessee.

Stroking a brush on the barn instead of grooming her own steeds at home, volunteer Rebekah Pearson of Millington, Tenn., quipped: “I just wanted something to do, to refine my painting skills.”

Lindsey Champagne of Rossville, Tenn., helping out with her mother-in-law, Susan Champagne, said: “I’ve always had a love of horses. My mother-in-law told me about Dark Horse, and I got involved.” The technician at the Forest Hill Animal Hospital in Germantown says “my life revolves around animals.”

Other helpers include Dr. Jennifer Dunlap, a Somerville, Tenn., veterinarian “who’s always ready to come to DeSoto,” said Christy Gross, president of the nonprofit group.

For more information on Dark Horse or to volunteer or donate buckets, fencing, hay or other items, call (662) 469-9139 or go online at darkhorserescue.org.

Other horse rescuers in the area include:

Have a Heart Rescue in Greenwood, Miss., at (662) 871-5882 and haveaheartrescue.com

Coyote Hills Equine Rescue in Chunky, Miss., at (601) 490-0655.

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