A Sanctuary for Horses

Sunshine Horses – A Sanctuary for Rescued Race Horses
Provided by Rob English

Article written by Betsy Bedigian

The day Honey Don’t Hangover (Tito) arrived at Sunshine Horses was his first day at what would become his forever home. At only nine years old, the life had gone out of the Standardbred gelding following an albeit brief harness racing career earning $24,000 before being sold into service as a carriage horse. Beth Smart, coordinator for Sunshine’s Equine Care Committee, recalls her fear. Tito would not be strong enough to get off the trailer let alone survive that first night.

Life-ending trips to a kill lot is an everyday occurrence for standardbreds, and thoroughbreds, no longer able to race. Rescued from a Pennsylvania kill lot, Tito’s intake form read like a veterinary school exam. The 17hh horse was emaciated with ribs, hips, and withers projecting from a frame buckling in pain. A coat covered with rain rot, cracked hoof walls, drainage from the right eye, scrapes and fly bites were further evidence of his difficult life. Yet, none could distract from the life-threatening shoe boils. Tito needed a chance and Sunshine Horses would give that to him.

Founded in 2003, Sunshine Horses is an independent adoption agency committed to rescuing, rehabilitating, and rehoming horses, and has found loving homes for more than 250 horses. One of the largest Standardbred rescue and adoption groups in New York State, Sunshine Horses operates with the support of over 130 dedicated and passionate volunteers – there are no paid positions. The organization is accredited by the Standardbred Transition Alliance and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, and recognized by the Equus Foundation with Guardian Status.

Dean Bentz, a volunteer for almost 10 years, developed a very special relationship with Tito. “I was intrigued by Tito from the very beginning,” says Bentz. “He arrived with a broken soul that quickly captured the hearts of the volunteers.” Tito’s shoe boils required twice daily care and weekly veterinary visits. Bentz added, “As he learned to trust, he began to mend. His spirit brightened, his ears would perk up and he would come running when called in the pasture.” Bentz remarks that you could see the appreciation in his eyes for all the hands that touched Tito.

While Tito’s health improved, the shoe boils remained a constant threat throughout his four years at Sunshine Horses. Tito lost his battle at just 13 years old. However, his story does not end there. Tito’s story lives on in the volunteers, who, like Bentz, find deep joy and personal fulfillment in working with the horses arriving at the farm.

While hundreds of horses never have that second chance like Tito, hope can be found in New York State’s Agriculture and Markets Law provision that prohibits the commercial slaughter of horses known to be racehorses or breeding stock. The provision authorizes the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund Corporation (“Thoroughbred Fund”) and the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund Corporation (“Harness Fund”) to utilize certain designated revenues to pay for racehorse aftercare.

Sunshine Horses, located close to Syracuse, in Clay, NY, is committed to live its mission: to aid horses no longer able to race a safe transition to a forever home. For cases like Tito, Sunshine Horses offers a safe and caring landing spot. Sunshine relies on donations and grants, volunteers, sponsors, and adopters to fund this level of care. The hope is that access to designated funding will improve as the number of horses requiring care increases given the new laws to protect these very special animals. Visit SunshineHorses.org to learn more. Volunteers are welcome.


PAR is a grass roots organization in Central New York.
Contact People for Animal Rights
PO Box # 401,
Cleveland, NY 13042


The images were created by Ave Calvar Martinez, André Ulysses De Salis and Edgar Santana from pexels.com


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