On Tuesday, August 1st, Kiwanis member Buddy Spong presented Holly Carter as the speaker for the week. Spong first heard about Carter while reading an article in a local magazine about the poor treatment of retired race horses.
“[I thought] ‘Aren’t race horses treated like royalty?’. . . I read the article, and I was absolutely fascinated,” Spong said.
Carter gave up her career as an interior designer to rescue race horses at The Winter Farm facility, named after one of her horses. She adopts out nine to twelve horses every year.
“Horses give everything I could have ever wanted in my life,” Carter said. “I’m trying to give back to them.”
After participating in fox hunts in Ireland and riding all over Europe during her younger years, Carter formed a real bond with horses.
After a fifteen-year break from riding, she decided to resume her riding career. However, it was difficult to find an affordable horse that could meet her level of riding.
Carter decided to try the race tracks to see if she could provide a home for a retired race horse – a decision that would result in her dedication to saving horses.
“I was unaware of the plight of race horses…,” Carter said. “We have a major slaughtering problem in the United States.”
She became aware of the number of retired race horses that were sent to the slaughter houses. Some ships even act as processing plants, taking horses aboard in North America and arriving at Europe with processed products. Carter knew she could not stand by as these creatures were helplessly sold.
“I can do my best…,” she said. “I can save two, three, four…”
Now, ten years later, her non-profit organization The Winter Farm is dedicated to rescuing horses and giving them a life after their racing careers have ended.
“God created them to run… and be forager,” she explained.
According to Carter, race horses typically live a structured lifestyle, being medicated and left in a stall for twenty-three hours.
“They’re conditioned like that,” she said.
Carter uses patience and trust-building exercises to help the horses adapt to their new lifestyles. They learn to respond to signals and grow comfortable with the different riding tack.
“They go through a type of decompression. They start to trust you. You really take these horses almost like they’ve been unbroken…,” she said. “We are not a training facility.”
After the horses achieve a healthy mental state, they are able to be adopted out and get second careers. Three horses from The Winter Farm now participate in fox hunting in Moore County.
“They love it; they’re happy,” Carter said.
One stakes winner received a sesamoid injury during a race. He was donated to The Winter Farm where he remained from November 2015 until July 2017.
A teenage girl came to the facility this past July in search of a horse and fell in love with him. Although the horse had not been ridden since his last race, the girl was able to ride him perfectly.
Carter’s goal is to rescue and re-home as many horses as she can. However, there are many that she is unable to save.
“Sometimes we have to… pay money to get them out of a dangerous situation,” she explained.
Last year she went to an auction where five geldings were being auctioned off. She offered to pay $3,500 for all five but lost them to a kill buyer at $5,000.
“All those guys went to slaughter houses. There was nothing wrong with those boys,” she said.
Carter hopes to work with the community to rescue as many horses as she can. All donations are tax deductable, and she is always open to having volunteers.
In fact, she has a program that allows war veterans with PTSD to work with the horses and help one another heal.
Carter is hoping to find a larger facility to expand The Winter Farm. She hopes to find a location in or around Moore County with a minimum of twenty acres. With a larger facility, she believes she would be able to rescue more horses and give them the lives they deserve.
“You want to get up in the morning and feel like you have a purpose. Horses are the same way,” she said.
To learn more about The Winter Farm, visit TheWinterFarm.org. To sent a donation or ask about volunteering, contact Holley Carter at TheWinterFarm@Outlook.com or call (910) 246-0547. Visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/winterfarmottb/. The Winter Farm is located at 260 Bump Along Lane in Southern Pines.