Saved from slaughter, Central Pa. Rescue brings hope for horses

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LEWISBERRY, Pa. (WHTM) — Marty Petratos and Connie Greenawalt started Central Pennsylvania Horse Rescue four years ago. Their main goal — save horses from “slaughter auctions.”

“We know we can’t save them all,” says Greenawalt, “And we can’t make a difference in all their lives, but we can make a difference in the lives of the ones we save.”

“Somebody needed to,” Petratos adds. “Too many horses going to slaughter, and there’s nothing wrong with them, there’s no reason for it, and someone needed to do something about it.”

According to Petratos, horses sold for slaughter don’t just die, they die in agony.

“They’re shipped live to Canada or Mexico,” he says, “where they’re basically tortured before they’re slaughtered. The people who like eating horse meat think the horse being tortured sweetens the meat.”

The horse rescuing actually started before they founded the organization. “We saved two horses from New Holland, then two years later we went back and saved three more,” Greenawalt said.

About that time they were able to purchase their farm. “This one came up foreclosure, it was abandoned for forty-five years,” says Petratos. “We cleared sixty acres, built all the buildings, built all the fences, and proceeded to do what we do.”

“After that,” says Greenawalt, “Everyone would say ‘Can you take my horse?’ ‘Can you take my horse?’, before we knew it we had ten horses, and two donkeys, and like thirty goats. From there we thought we could be saving a whole lot more if we started an official rescue.”

Besides the auction rescues, CPHR also takes in horses surrendered by owners who are either unable or unwilling to care for them anymore. So far they’ve taken in 126 horses, and just recently celebrated their 100th adoption. But once they come in, getting them ready to adopt out can take a long time.

“They come in thin,” says Greenawalt, “Malnourished, feet issues, people haven’t bothered to take care of their feet or their teeth or get them up to date on their shots, and training, it can be a year or two before they get adopted. It’s 7 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week, 365 days a year for Marty and I.”

“We’re very grateful to the volunteers that we have,” she adds, “That dedicated so much time to us, without them we couldn’t do all this. Nobody’s getting paid, they’re here out of the goodness of their hearts.”

Christine Smith is one of those volunteers.

“My daughter and I came here at the beginning of November, just to look at the horses because we were interested in maybe getting a horse.”

Then she met Twinkles, a beautiful Haflinger horse.

“We fell in love with her and the one that was surrendered with her, and we started volunteering here.” Eventually, she ended up adopting Twinkles.

One of the trainers, Ronald Decker, says he actually had very little experience with horses when he first visited the rescue.

“When I came the horses kind of gave me good therapy, so I just hung around, I adopted one, spent a lot of time with her, working on stuff, read a lot of books, and now after working on it with at least around a hundred horses, got around 80 adopted.”

Another trainer, Anna Miner, was in 4H as a child and grew up with horses around her. “I was on a hiatus there for a while. My husband was with the military,” she explains, “And had been down at Fort Hood.” She describes reconnecting with horses as “definitely the best.” She helps to train horses and riders but hasn’t adopted a horse… yet.

“I’m on the four year plan. When my son graduates I’m going to get one.” she says with a laugh.

Caring for the horses takes a lot of work and a lot of money. Just feeding one horse costs them about two hundred dollars a month, and there are medical expenses and farm upkeep to contend with. The donations they receive barely put a dent in the expenses. Marty Petratos and Connie Greenawalt both work outside jobs to help pay the bills. They’re hoping to get a financial boost from the Give Local York campaign on May 7 but will continue to do all they can to help as many horses as possible.

“Being able to save the horses is what it’s all about,” Greenawalt said. “Once you get started you just can’t stop.”

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