Founder's death puts horse rescue in jeopardy

- For more than 30 years Equestrian Inc. in Carrollwood has rescued horses - some of them on the brink of starvation or worse.

But now, the place that has sheltered so many animals over the years needs a rescue of its own. They've lost their leader and they could lose their land.

For DeeAnn Smith, Astoria is more than an ex-racehorse saved from starvation.

"We kind of grew up together," DeeAnn said about her beloved horse.

She fought back tears as she talks about her mom, who was devoted to rescuing horses like Astoria.

"She rescued people as well as animals. Not just horses. Dogs, cats, you name it, she took it," DeeAnn said.

Glenda smith founded equestrian Inc. more than 30 years ago. She died of brain cancer in January.

"I am who I am today because of her," DeeAnn explained.

She's not the only one struggling with the loss. Bob Patterson has volunteered there every weekday morning since meeting Glenda nearly 3 years ago.

"It was just an instant recognition, her love and devotion. This was her life," Patterson said.

Glenda’s life was dedicated to saving horses under sometimes dire conditions.

In the summer of 2015, our cameras captured flooding, and Glenda was there to make sure horses were not lost in the waters.

"We're hoping that the community will step for these horses because they're all wonderful, wonderful animals," Glenda told us back then.

Now the rescue she founded needs a rescue of its own. Days after Glenda's memorial service, the landowner informed them he intends to develop the property.

They have until the end of the year to work something out, or leave.

"We can't find homes for some of our sanctuary horses, so if we have to move, if we don't have a place to go, we don't know what will happen to these horses that can't be adopted," explained Equestrian Inc. board member Nancy Schneider.

She’s referring to horses like 18-year-old Terrific who suffers from a crippling hoof disease.

As bleak as things look right now, DeeAnn and the dedicated volunteers at Equestrian Inc. are determined to honor Glenda's last wish, to take care of the horses.

"It's not the end. Absolutely not," DeeAnn insisted.

Schneider echoed, "We'll do whatever it takes to keep this going."

"As long as this place is here, I'm here. It's a very special place," Patterson added.

Right now, they're trying to work something out with the landowner to keep a few acres for the rescue, but if that doesn't work, they'll have to find a new location.

Since most of the volunteers are in the Carrollwood area, that could be challenging Either way it's a lot of money, so they've set up a fundraising page.

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