Photo Story: Retired Horse Farm
Mill Creek Farm in Alachua, Florida provides homes to horses which retired from government use and destined for slaughter. Others were abused or abandoned. In the farm they receive medical treatment and lifelong care. They are even buried in a certain place in the farm called Field of Dreams. Regular volunteers help feed and care the horses. The farm is open to the public on Saturdays so every person has the chance to care those horses.
Etosha, Norton and Susi get along most of the time, except when they fight for carrots.
Sly doesn’t seem to care so much about the conflicts happening around him. Maybe it is because he cannot see. He is regarded as a beauty in Mill Creek Farm. He has to keep his every pace graceful, although he is blind.
Watermelon is short, but the kids love her.
They are “retirees” who live at Mill Creek Farm.
Located in Alachua in North Central Florida, the tree-lined pasture is now home to about 130 horses and some other animals. Most of the horses retired from federal uses and zoos or rescued from abuse or abandonment. Once they arrive in the farm, they are provided with lifelong care and they will never work or be ridden again.
“I don’t want to die doing nothing,” said 85-year-old Peter Gregory, who created the sanctuary for the horses and put all of his money into the farm.
The facility was started in 1984 by Peter and Mary Gregory, a couple who used to live in England. The couple have always been animal lovers. When they were young, they visited a farm where cart and carriage horses had a two-week break from their work on streets of London. Since then, they have dreamed of doing similar things one day.
Their dream was real when they purchased 140 acres of farm land in 1983 and later expanded the farm to 265 acres with the help of donations. Now they live and work in the farm. It’s a non profit and depends on individual donations and volunteer work.
Before Peter and Mary created this farm, they managed hotels. They had one hotel in Pompano Beach in Florida and another one in Jamaica. They also owned restaurants. They put nearly all their money into this farm. Hays and carrots cost, as well as medical care or regular dentist visits. According to their official website, it costs about $275,000 annually. Although they receive donations, it is expensive.
“I will die poor,” Gregory said. “I am really proud of what I have done at the end of my life.”
According to Gregory, something may go wrong every day. Fences may be broken. Trees may fall down.
“Every day is an adventure,” Gregory said. “It will not work without all those volunteers.”
The farm has about 20 regular volunteers. Others work occasionally. Included in the regular ones are a couple who visit every Saturday, a woman who is in her 80s and comes six days a week, and a woman who has volunteered for about 19 years.
Lynne Brennan has volunteered in the farm for about 18 months. She said she learned about the farm from an article in the Gainesville Sun. The story was about how “Teacup” was rescued. Then she phoned the farm and started to work there two days a week. The work she has to do includes brushing, grooming and checking horses’ bodies and feet.
“He was blind due to starvation when he was found, but he is a real beauty, isn’t he?” Brennan pointed at Sly. “That was Watermelon. She was found starving at a pig slaughter house.”
Sheryl Ryland is the one who comes to the farm every Thursday for nearly 19 years. She has become great friends with the Gregories.
“They care more about animals than themselves,” she said.
The farm is open to public every Saturday. Admission is two carrots per person. Horses usually put their mouths through the fences or run with kids who have two carrots in their hands.
“The people who owned this farm is doing a great thing,” said Ann Wood, who visited with her husband Stuart and their granddaughter Shea. “The horses have got enough care. We are just giving them extra treat.”
They live 10 miles away and it was their second time to the farm.
“I just want to live as long as possible to see this farm expand if I am lucky enough,” said Gregory, although he said he now even couldn’t pick up one bag.