For three years, Susan Peirce has been running the Red Bucket Equine Rescue horse rescue organization out of the Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center without having to pay rent.
"There aren't that many places that can take them in," said Peirce. "This is a 1,000-pound animal. They're not only really big, but they're also incredibly expensive. And then they're also more difficult to place. So our horses really are some of the victims of the economy that people just don't even understand."
But the horses aren't the only ones struggling through a tough economy. Now the equestrian center needs the space for paying customers. And the nonprofit's fate depends on funding for a new ranch.
"I'm saying 'no' daily, and that's incredibly emotional. I cry privately every night," said Peirce. "And then there's the emotion of when you place a horse. When you place that horse, it's so bittersweet because you love them and you're attached to them. But then you've done your job, and that's pretty great."
"You can't imagine somebody treating an animal so beautiful like that. You just see no light in their eyes, whatsoever," said Kimberly Forhrman, a horse trainer. "And then you see over time as they grow to trust you and they love back."
But all the love and care in the world can't buy the land the animals need to recover. And now there is just a month left to find new homes for 56 horses.
"A lot of people think that horses are kind of like just an expensive hobby," said volunteer Lauren Harms. "But horses are a lot more than that: They help rehabilitate people when you rehabilitate them, and they just show you there's more than how many hours can you work, how much money can you make."