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Hope's Legacy Equine Rescue welcome their 89th and 90th intakes of the year

Brady, a black gelding, stands in front of his friend Liesel, a bay mare. They were taken from a neglectful home and brought to Hope's Legacy.

Hope's Legacy Equine Rescue recently welcomed their 89th and 90th intakes of the year -- two horses that were rescued from neglect.

When I spoke with Maya Proulx, she was still waiting to find out how the courts would rule on the case of Brady and Liesel -- two horses she took in that had been seized from their owners by law enforcement in West Virginia. Proulx runs the Hope's Legacy Equine Rescue in Afton.

MAYA PROULX: What I have been told is that people had been calling animal control for several years, wanting something to get done about the conditions they were living in, and the condition of the animals.

Liesel is a laid-back bay mare in her 20s, and Brady is a black gelding who Proulx thinks is in his teens. He's skittish, though, so she hasn't been able to do a comprehensive exam yet. He gave my recorder a very skeptical sniff when I approached.

Assuming the judge prevents the horses from returning to their former home, Proulx and her team will work on socializing him with the hope that, some day, he'll be adopted.

PROULX: Once he is safe to handle [laughs] -- and he's not mean, by any means, he's just very fearful … Once he is settled a little bit more, then the next step would be to find a trainer to work with him. He's one that I think needs to go to a professional trainer versus our volunteers working with him.

As for Liesel --

PROULX:  It's just working on getting her weight up to where it needs to be, and going ahead and then we'll assess her, see if she's ever been ridden under saddle.

Proulx has anywhere from 25 to 30 horses at any given time. The rescue is nestled in the gorgeous wooded hills of Albemarle County, not far from the Nelson County line. Proulx founded the nonprofit in 2008, and moved seven times while leasing various properties until purchasing their permanent home in 2017.

Maya Proulx, founder and executive director of Hope's Legacy, with mascot Donkey.

PROULX: When we bought it, the house that's now our volunteer center, and there was an old cow barn … were the only structures on the property.

Now the 172-acre property boasts 30 acres of fenced pastures, shelters, and a medical barn. Up until last year, about half their horses came from law enforcement and half from owners voluntarily surrendering them.

PROULX: We've taken in 92 horses so far this year, and four of them came from law enforcement, and all the rest have been owner surrenders. There's been a massive shift in where our horses are coming from. We're seeing a lot of older people with health issues … Some job losses, or people having to move due to jobs, and they can't take their horses with them.

That's also a big increase in their overall number of intakes. Last year, they took in 76, and just 56 the year before. Thankfully, though, adoptions have increased as well -- they've already found good homes for 71 horses this year.

When a horse is surrendered to Hope's Legacy by its owner, Proulx said it typically just needs minor medical attention, like vaccines and hoof care. But if law enforcement had to get involved, it's often a starvation case. She trains her volunteers how to carefully feed those horses until their digestive systems are working properly again.

PROULX: When they look at the [horse neighs] feed instructions and I'm telling them to literally give this starving horse a cup of food, because everybody else is getting food by the scoop, I'm like, no, I mean a literal cup, because that's all their body can handle at this point. Usually they can build up pretty quickly, once you get their system going.

One such success story is a donkey, named Donkey -- a survivor of Peaceable Farm. In 2015, he and 80 other equines were taken from a so-called rescue in Orange County where seven horses were found dead and another five had to be immediately euthanized, as the Washington Post reported.

PROULX: He was so emaciated and so weak that the vets almost euthanized him on sight, but they decided to basically give him a shot and see if he could make it. And he did, and I absolutely fell in love with him … and he has his buddy Dolly; she's another permanent rescue.

Hope's Legacy paid off the property last year, so now they're looking to build a bigger intake barn to better treat horses that arrive in critical condition.

PROULX: Knowing that the rescue owns this property free and clear, you know, it is -- it's the horses' and it will be a resource for them for years and years to come, makes me really happy. Having that stability, and knowing that there's somewhere for them to go.

If you're interested in donating time or money to the horses, visit hopeslegacy.com to learn more. For WMRA News, I'm Randi B. Hagi.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.