New York Farm Animal Rescue Finds Buddies in Blind Horses Looking for Fuller, Happier Lives
Animal lovers will find not one but two Buddys at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary in Saugerties, New York.
The farm animal rescue, founded by Kathy Stevens, is dedicated to taking in "broken beings" — cows, goats, sheep, pigs, and other species that most of the world considers food — who have "never known a moment of joy," and providing them with warm beds, shelter, and the space to develop a trusting relationship with humans and other animals.
"Rescuing a terrified cow who has been brutalized, or horse, is no different from rescuing a terrified dog who's been brutalized, or abandoned," Stevens tells PEOPLE about Catskill's work to make sure all creatures receive love and care.
Along with providing a relaxing forever home for farm animals, Catskill Animal Sanctuary also offers virtual and in-person tours to animals lovers and has programs to help humans adopt a vegan diet.
The Catskill Animal Sanctuary's residents are special, but one horse has inspired an important tradition at the rescue. In 2001, shortly after Catskill Animal Sanctuary opened, Stevens took in a blind horse named Buddy to save the animal from euthanasia.
"People either don't have the skill or patience to help their animals once those animals lose their sight, or they believe that the animal cannot have a good quality of life," Stevens said of the challenges Buddy faced when he started going blind.
Luckily, Stevens had the patience and heart to work with Buddy and offer him a life that wasn't limited by his vision loss.
"He became a huge personality who was demanding to spend increasing amounts of time outside. And then one day it became obvious to me, this animal wants to run. He desperately wants to run. Blind horses can't gallop. They can't do what their hearts yearn to do because they don't know what they're going to run into," Stevens shared.
To offer Buddy the ability to run safely, Stevens trained Buddy to move comfortably through space by teaching him different verbal cues. After Buddy had a better understanding of his surroundings, Stevens started riding the 20-yer-old blind horse, taking the animal to a 50-acre field and steering him safely to where his heart desired.
"He started to trot, and then he started to cantor, and then he started to gallop, and he galloped as fast as he could. And I just let him run until he wanted to stop. And he stopped, and he let out the most beautiful neigh that I've ever heard in my life," Stevens recalled of Buddy's first ride at the sanctuary. "I was weeping."
Since this touching moment with Buddy, Stevens has helped rescue seven more blind horses, three of whom have been named Buddy, and has helped all of them rediscover the things they love most in life.
Buddy One and Buddy Two have passed, but Buddy Three and Buddy Four currently reside at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary. Buddy Four, who arrived recently and was already named Buddy before he reached the rescue, is settling into his new home and is working to befriend Buddy Three.
"The Buddys are hanging out as buddies late at night in the barn," Stevens said of the friendship starting to form between the pair.
"He's utterly delightful. And he will be, like all of them, a remarkable teacher," she added of the most recent Buddy to move in.
Stevens is hopeful that all of the Buddys have taught animal lovers about the personality, strength, and joy found in every animal, especially those who are often seen as food or farm property.
"Society turns its back on farmed animals — animals who want their lives every bit as much as we want ours, who experience every emotion we do, who are just as uniquely individual as our dogs and cats, and who feel pain, fear, and suffering no differently than you or I. I hope the story of The Buddys will help humanity see them — not only old blind horses but also cows and pigs and chickens, too. They want their lives as much as we want ours," Stevens said.
To learn more about the Catskill Animal Sanctuary and support their work, visit the rescue's website.