Thomasville Scouts aid equine rescue

Efforts help build five stalls
Sep. 30, 2013 @ 12:20 PM

Looking around the layout at Safe Haven Rescue and Retirement, Rhianna Weavil noticed that something was adding up. The rescue center in High Point had more horses than it had stalls.

Safe Haven Rescue and Retirement, 245 Cedar Ridge Lane in High Point, currently shelters 14 horses that have either been abandoned or removed from neglectful homes. Horses are one of the silent casualties of the Great Recession, as people unable to provide them proper care either turn them over or simply walk away, leaving the animals to fend for themselves.

“The horses are taking a big hit,” said Jin Wiltsey, owner of Safe Haven. “I blame it on the economy. People can’t afford to feed their horses, they can’t afford the hay, the farrior, they let hooves go. It’s not an inexpensive hobby. We’re seeing more and more of it every day, people abandoning their homes and just leaving the horses.”

Safe Haven successfully adopts out recovered horses, but for every one that leaves, two more show up. Realizing the nonprofit could use some help, Rhianna, a Girl Scout with Troop 02435 in Thomasville, came up with a plan.

“I wondered why they didn’t have as many stalls as they had horses,“ Rhianna  said. “They really need stalls before the winter.”

With help from her friend and fellow Girl Scout Cassie Douglass, Rhianna spent the past few months raising money for the nonprofit. Through yard sales, a car wash, a bake sale and just asking for donations, the duo raised more than $500 for Safe Haven and are set to take part in its latest venture — breaking ground on Oct. 5 on five additional stalls just in time for winter.

“Its been pretty fun but the real hard work doesn’t start until we start building,” said Rhianna. “It was a bit more than I thought and I figured it would be a pretty good amount of work. It’s very rewarding, especially for the horse because now they’ll have somewhere to stay.”

Rhianna and Cassie are working toward their Silver Award, the highest honor a cadet can earn. They volunteer three times a week, performing the same duties as anyone else working at the shelter. So far, they have more than held their own.

“They love being around the horses and it’s just a blessing to have them with us,” Wiltsey said. “They feed, groom, exercise, walk them around the pond, bathe them, clean stalls. They do basically the daily care of the horses. They do what we do.”

The girls now know the horses, and their stories, by name. There’s Ty, a retired white show horse who favors his hind leg and loves a good brushing. Gus was found abandoned in the woods, sunburnt over 80 percent of his body and weighing only 500 pounds or half as much as a horse his size should weigh. Cassie cherishes Kate, a brown female who was rescued from an owner who beat her with a board. There are 14 horses at Safe Haven, all with similar stories of neglect and abandonment.

“We’re hoping this will last,” said Cassie. “I’ve learned all horses are different. It depends on your personality as to which one you like the most. It feels really good because the more I help the more I feel like I’m actually doing something and helping someone.”

Holly Weavil, Rhianna’s mother and troop leader, introduced her daughter to the rescue through a friend’s birthday party. She said the girls want to continue volunteering even after the stall-building project is finished.

“I’m very proud of her,” Holly Weavil said. “She is an animal lover and she loves helping animals. It makes me so proud that they’re taking this upon themselves to do this. They’re just becoming independent young ladies.”

Once completed, the project will add five additional stalls as well as a full functioning barn to take care of rescued horses. An emergency stall also will be created for new additions.

Since its inception in 2009, Safe Haven has successfully adopted out 34 horses. Wiltsey, a former executive director with the Humane Society, founded the shelter after realizing the growing need to help abandoned or neglected horses.

“There was nowhere for these horses to go,” said Wiltsey. “I couldn’t tell these people any place to call because I didn’t know of any. That’s where it evolved. It evolved from the need.”

Once rescued, horses are nursed back to health, both physically and mentally. Many animals come in grossly underweight and often are victims of severe emotional trauma. Safe Haven’s goal is to get these horses to the point where they can be successfully adopted.

“We want to make sure we understand the horse’s needs so we can make them the best possible horse they can be,” Wiltsey said. “Once we reach that goal they become available for adoption.”

Thanks to the efforts of two Thomasville Girl Scouts, Safe Haven now will be able to provide additional comfort to its four-legged guests, increasing their chances of one day finding a lasting home.

The lasting impact of this Silver Award project by two Thomasville Girl Scouts should be felt for many years to come.

For more information on Safe Haven Equine Rescue and Retirement, a nonprofit, visit


Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or