BY JENNIFER SOLIS
---- — WEST NEWBURY — Horses have galloped the Earth for millions of years, but when man domesticated them about 6,000 years ago, a special and enduring bond was formed.
Throughout history, these regal animals have helped to shape human and societal development — pulling our ploughs and stagecoaches, herding our cattle, carrying our hunters across the plains and our soldiers into battle. In recent years, horses have gained popularity as sources of entertainment, sport and companionship.
So for horse-lovers like Mary Martin, owner of New England Equine Rescue-North, caring for horses in their time of need just seems like a natural way to give back to these loyal partners.
“They are such noble creatures — so forgiving and trusting,” she said.
Martin grew up around horses as a girl in Topsfield and has worked in the equine rescue business for 10 years. For the past three years, she has run her NEER-North organization on 58 acres leased on River Road. But Martin is hopeful the new year will bring with it some new digs for her operation.
As president of NEER-North, Martin and her “great and very loyal volunteers” work to locate horses, ponies and donkeys in risk of abuse, neglect or slaughter and rehabilitate them for adoption.
Right now, she has nine horses in her stables and three out on trial for potential adoption. Two miniature horses and one large pony are arriving in early 2013.
NEER-North is a satellite barn of the original NEER organization founded in 2005 by Beth Hill-Ross of Rhode Island. This past year, NEER-North earned an independent, nonprofit tax status, got a nod from the state Department of Agriculture, and received a top rating from the online review site Great Nonprofits.
And if that isn’t enough good news, Martin just learned that a generous horse-lover is providing a substantial donation to help NEER-North find a permanent property to call its own. Martin is eyeing a place locally and has launched a “Home of Our Own” campaign to help raise the $200,000 in additional funds needed to move forward on the deal. She said tax-deductible donations toward the purchase are much appreciated.
Martin also accepts donations to help offset costs for her program that helps horse owners in financial crisis feed and care for their animals. Having a horse is a luxury that can be hard to sustain once tough economic times hit, Martin said. So NEER-North provides short-term help. Because she can’t always take on additional horses, Martin uses donations to give owners food and essentials to sustain their horses, while she works to find the animals a new home. An average-sized horse costs about $200 a month to support, not including veterinary costs.
Because so many people are falling on tough times these days, Martin said the horses she places are relatively young animals in very good condition who typically just need “a little polishing.” So, she and her volunteers spend their days rehabilitating animals with names like Violet, Bogie and Teddie until they can locate a “forever person” to take the animals home and cherish them.
Martin found just such a match in Lee and Ron Delp, who adopted an older donkey named Buckwheat. Despite a stable of horses and ponies to choose from, the Delps decided to take Bucky — as he is called — because he has “bad feet” that would have made him harder to be adopted, said Lee Delp, the lead public safety dispatcher for West Newbury.
The Delps were seeking a companion for their miniature horse, Chief, after their older horse, Chico, died earlier this year. They said Bucky has become a lovable new member of the Delp family, joyfully serenading them at sunrise each morning.
“We love him; everyone that meets him or hears his soprano singing can’t help but love him, too,” said Lee Delp, who has high praise for NEER-North and its commitment to making sure Bucky was properly settled into his new home.
Martin insists that before any adoption is finalized, the potential owner agrees in writing to submit a veterinarian certification and picture of the adopted animal to NEER-North every three years. They must also promise to return the animal to her if they no longer can keep it.
During this season of giving, Martin is particularly hopeful people who value the work she’s doing are willing to contribute what they can to the “Home of Our Own” effort.
“No more rent means more horses helped,” Martin said, “No amount is too small to help make this dream come true.”
Tax-deductible donations to support NEER-North may be sent to 183 River Road, West Newbury 01985 or contact Mary Martin at NEERNorth@aol.com. To see photographs of animals available for adoption at NEER-North, visit www.neernorth.org.