Driving down Silver Spring Road in Wilton, there’s a sign for Rising Starr Horse Rescue, but the good work being done down the long drive can’t be overstated. Rising Starr Horse Rescue’s mission is to save, rehabilitate, retrain and rehome abandoned, neglected or abused horses. It would be easy to look at a horse rescue farm as only saving the lives of horses, but often those horses are also saving us.
Rising Starr’s Executive Director Kelly Stackpole grew up in Ridgefield and is a trainer and riding instructor by trade. In 2005, while looking for a horse to teach lessons on, she came across a horse auction house and was horrified by what she found. She rescued her first horse, Bigg Bert, and knew that she wanted to rescue other horses. She founded Rising Starr Horse Rescue in 2015 in Redding and in 2019 moved to Wilton. Since then, Rising Starr rescues and rehomes an average of 25 horses a year. “Every horse at Rising Starr we lay our hands on, we know them, because we don’t just rescue them and never see them again, we follow them for life, every single horse,” says Stackpole.
Although there is federal legislation pending in the U.S. to ban the slaughter of horses, it also ships about 50,000 horses to Canada and Mexico for that purpose. “We feel strongly that we need to work harder to stop these horses from going into the pipeline, before they fall into the hands of kill buyers. As things get colder and more expensive, I get at least 2-3 phone calls a week to take horses,” says Stackpole.
This past August, Rising Starr took ten horses from a very big well-known sanctuary that was not caring for the animals. “It was the worst thing I’d ever seen. There were 30 rescues involved to get all the animals,” says Stackpole.
Donations make a difference
Rising Starr has about 100 volunteers to assist with the horses, even children as young as five years old can come and help. “There is something for every volunteer. We have people who come in to read to the horses. That makes such a big difference to the abused horses, the ones that have never been handled,” says Stackpole.
That’s how Susan Groo started volunteering in December of 2020 – by reading The Night Before Christmas to a horse. “I started reading to him and his nose went right in the book. As much as we try to heal them, they heal us,” says Groo.
Rising Starr will hold its 5th annual Starry Night Gala fundraiser on September 9th of 2023 and will need to sell 240 tickets at $250 each to cover the cost of the event, to be held at the farm. “You can wear diamonds, but you have to wear boots,” says Stackpole. There will be an auction to help raise money. The cocktail hour will take place outside the indoor arena and horses will be brought out to visit. “We want people to see where their money goes,” she says.
The Christmas season is not to be missed at Rising Starr. The barn is decorated in holiday cheer with wreaths, a menorah and a giving tree, where patrons can make a purchase towards a bale of hay, grain, vet bills, or anything a horse may need. Each horse has a stocking hung awaiting Santa. On December 3rd, Rising Starr will host their Making Spirits Bright holiday shopping event. Local vendors will be on hand to sell their goods in the aisle of the barn, while shoppers can visit with the horses and hear about Rising Starr’s work. There will be plenty for kids to do and a wine tasting for the adults.
There is always much to do to keep the farm going, a need for volunteers, donations, and people to fill their programs. Rising Starr is renovating a building with plans to have it as a residence for help. The indoor riding ring needs a new roof, repairs and a paint job.
“We can’t exist just on donations,” says Stackpole.
Horses healing humans
Rising Starr has a life coach that works with clients in one of the paddocks with the horse, sharing the energy. On Friday nights, they offer yoga with horses, with mats set up and down the aisles for $25/hour. They also have a program for veterans and first responders, taking them on trail rides and teaching them how to work with a horse and ride if they want.
“The horses are really healing, and we have people who come for all kinds of therapy, including anxiety, which a lot of kids are feeling today,” says Stackpole.
“We’re never going to save enough horses. The big piece of what we do is educating people to make better decisions for America’s horses,” adds Stackpole.
For more information, please visit www.risingstarrhorserescue.org •