With a goal of raising funds for rescued horses, the recently renamed Maryland Horse Rescue will hold its fall festival on Saturday, Oct. 8, from noon to 6 p.m. at the farm, at 14001 Mattie Haines Road in Mount Airy.
Melanie Biemiller, executive director of the rescue formerly known as HorseNet, said they currently house 41 horses but have had as many as 120. Biemiller said festival-goers will meet their horses and see and feel the impact the rescue makes.
"People can visit the horses, feed treats and pet them," Biemiller said. "We will have a grooming station where folks can groom a horse, and we are hoping to provide pony rides for a small fee."
Biemiller said the open-house event will include food and fun, as well as the unveiling of the new Maryland Horse Rescue name and logo. There is no admission fee but the rescue will accept donations.
"Aw Boy will be there [selling] French fries, and we'll have apple cider, soda and other vendors," she said. "We will have a kid zone with face painting, cornhole for kids and for adults, and a place for kids to jump around in the hay. People can buy a cup of carrots for 50 cents to feed to the horses."
Eldersburg resident Richard Taylor said he has attended the past several years.
"It is a lively event," he said. "They have a lot of different things, horse riding, feeding the horses in the stalls, music, a barn setup with food and refreshments. But the main thing is that you are supporting animals. When I give money to a rescue I make sure it is going to the animals, not some CEO. At HorseNet rescue, 100 percent goes to the horses."
Taylor said he visits animal rescues throughout the year, posting his videos on his YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/RichardTaylorTV including interviews at HorseNet Rescue.
"I hate seeing anything suffering or abandoned," Taylor said. "It's unacceptable in all circumstances. So these organizations who rescue and care for them are important."
It is important to barn manager Linda Williams to provide their horses with a safe place to continue their lives with care and love. Williams has volunteered at the rescue six years and been their barn manager since April 2015.
"They deserve the best at their second chance of life," Williams said. She made a connection with this rescue through their herd of blind horses. Williams is deaf.
"I decided to volunteer at [HorseNet when] after a donation of tack equipment the former barn manager gave me a tour around the farm. At that time there were over 50 horses, and I was surprised to learn there was a blind herd," she said. "At that time there were 12 blind horses. I met a blind horse named Shadow, and it was love at the first sight. After I left the farm, I didn't stop thinking of all the rescued horses. After that I went to farm every weekend [to volunteer] and every time I left the farm I left with the best feeling that those horses were cared for and loved."
Biemiller said she has also seen the impact horses have on others, and that's why it's important to rescue them and to raise funds through this event. She said those who attend will find a lot to like.
"We are having a silent auction with many items," she said. "We will have a Black Ankle Winery tour, a Mount Airy gift basket with gift cards and items from many Mount Airy area businesses. We have a Scentsy gift basket and a HorseNet Rescue Gift Basket. It's a very nice canvas bag with a HorseNet T-shirt, a book that was written by our founder many years ago and a pair of horse bookends, signed sports memorabilia and more. We are also auctioning of all four sponsorship levels for people to bid on."
"If someone really wants a horse and can't have one, they can sponsor one and come out for weekly visits and some hands-on experience with our education and training coordinator if it is possible with the horse they sponsor," she said. "Every little girl wants a pony. A lot of times, around the holidays, someone will sponsor a horse for their grandchild or another child. Then they can come out by appointment and visit the horse. If the coordinator is available they can go out into the training ring, get their hands on the horse and get to know him, not by riding, but with grooming and other [interactions]."
Sponsorship levels start at $12.50 a month, to include a photo of the horse, a letter of thanks and a thank you posted on website. Levels go up to $100 a month, to include meeting the horse, getting a photo and the story of your horse, special gifts, a letter of thanks, a posting on the website and weekly visits by appointment.
"The compassion they have for the horses is incredible," Taylor said. "Having those blind horses goes above and beyond, and the [fall festival] is educational. You always see families there and couples walking around. I don't get to feed horses often but there you get to feed them and you get to pet them. You see how the rescue works in reality, not just by pictures."
Williams said the festival began in 2008, and attendance has steadily grown with many repeat visitors and new visitors annually.
Biemiller said when she sees Williams interact with the horses who share her condition and seeing the dedication Williams demonstrates for the horses touches her heart. She said Williams even keeps an RV on the farm in case she needs to be on call for a sick horse.
"Last year when it was calling for the blizzard Linda and her roommate stayed in the RV and got snowed in," she said. "They spent five days at the farm in that 3 feet of snow — making sure the horses were cared for. The plow guy couldn't get to us for several days and volunteers couldn't get in, so they took care of everything."
According to Biemiller, the rescue actively seeks volunteers as well as potential adopters.
"Our adoption policies and procedures are on our new website," she said. "We have a laundry list of help we are looking for, like daily farm chores, direct care of the horses — bringing them in and out, feeding and watering. There's sweeping the barn, grooming, and we are also looking for very experienced horse riders. They have to go through a session with our coordinator. We need specialized people to work with horses on the ground and under saddle. There's work with event coordination, marketing, [public relations], newsletter and graphic design and sign making. There's a lot of opportunities to volunteer."
Biemiller stressed the volunteer aspect.
"All the money goes directly for the care of the horses," she said. "We rely on the kindness and generosity of the community to take care of our horses. It's important to us that they get quality feed and hay and regular hoof and veterinarian care."