Retired racehorses find new purpose at animal rescue and therapy farm

MILLSTADT, Ill. – Retired racehorses who have given their all winning on the track and then spending years breeding new generations of racehorses for their owners, only to end up on the road to slaughter, are being given a second chance.

Equus Rescue and Therapy is a non-profit organization in Millstadt, Illinois started by Margo Sutter. She rescues horses who are retired from the racetrack, horses in horrific conditions, and horses in kill pens on their way to slaughter.

“People call us if they can’t take care of their horses anymore. Sometimes it’s a very emotional surrender,” says Sutter. “Sometimes it comes from a phone call. Sometimes they’re shipping and on their way to Mexico and can we step.”

These horses are anywhere from yearlings to 35-years-old, many coming to them barely alive. Liza was one such example.

“She was one of those horses that had been a racehorse and then a broodmare, so she had given a lot of babies back to her owners and breeders and then she was no longer needed,” Sutter said. “(The owner) was shipping her to slaughter in Mexico. That was her happy ending after trusting people her entire life.”

Sutter stepped in and brought Liza to Equus farm.

Equus currently has 50 horses, some of them blind, some still recovering, and some who are already repaying their debt through a program called Equine Angels, where the horses are used as learning and social tools for at-risk children. Sutter says the children learned to step into leadership roles by leading horses, grooming them and realizing that these thousand-pound animals that had lost trust in humans, similar to these children, could trust again.

The rescue organization operates on donations and what Sutter calls the best group of volunteers in the world many of which are from Scott Air Force Base.

Sutter says she’s noticed an amazing connection between the horses and veterans and that’s why at the end of this year she’s starting a new program to help veterans returning from battle and first responders.

“These horses have seen the worst in humans, yet they provide an amazing refuge for so many,” she says.

That’s why the Equus mission is so very true: “A noble life deserves a second chance.”