Anyone who owns horses knows just how much the current economic downturn hurts. In fact, The Unwanted Horse Coalition conducted a survey to find out just how deep this issue runs and learned that the recession is hitting horse owners hard; it is also hitting horse rescues hard.
Up until a few months ago, acclaimed Hollywood actor and Broadway star, Paul Sorvino was able to fund one Pennsylvania-based horse rescue pretty much singlehandedly. That’s because Gray Dapple, which currently has 18 horses in care, is run by his daughter, Amanda Sorvino.
But the recession has cut her father’s ability to cover all the costs. “At the ranch, Dad wrote the checks and I brought in horses and we had a staff – a barn manager and my boyfriend and me. It was a family operation,” says Amanda Sorvino.
It is still a family operation but funding is tight. Some people think because she is the daughter of a famous actor, Amanda’s rescue doesn’t need donations. But with 18 horses in care right now and more sure to turn up, Amanda says costs are going up because of the kind of horses she rescues.
“Some horses are not going to be adoptable. They are young but they are lame, injured. We tend to have horses that have special needs. And some will never leave my rescue.”
An A Circuit rider in her childhood, Amanda got into the rescue business because of one horse – Pastel. “…probably the most beautiful horse I have ever seen. But Pastel was not going to make it in the circuit,” Amanda pauses to collect herself. “We purchased another horse for me. We kept Pastel for awhile but she was just forgotten. I never really knew what happened to her. I looked for her for years but never did find her.”
Pastel inspired the name for her rescue – graydapple.org – but New Holland was what really got Amanda started on the path to rescue. “I have been rescuing for more than 4 years, after my first visit to New Holland. I was shocked that a kill buyer could buy show horses and ship them to slaughter.”
Rescuing horses also led Amanda to begin finding, investigating and exposing illegal slaughterhouses in the mid-Atlantic region. “I grew up in an actor’s family and on movie sets. A lot of life is acting so when I went undercover to investigate the Bravo operation, – I was playing a role. I never had any fear while I was doing this.”
But Amanda has paid for her activism, receiving death threats and unable to disclose where her rescued horses are being kept. “Because of all my undercover work, I don’t like to give the location out. I have exposed so many kill buyers and there have been threats made,” explains Amanda. “The horses are now in three boarding operations.”
Amanda relies on volunteers to help her recover, rehabilitate, retrain and adopt out the horses she rescues and like other rescue operations, she is always looking for funding. “Because we are boarding all the horses right now, we need to get something back for all of the money we put out when we rescue and rehabilitate.”
She has horses available for adoption and uses fees to help defray costs but adopting one of her horses is not easy. “The application is really restrictive; we charge a non refundable adoption fee.” Once you adopt one of Amanda’s horses, you can’t, “…re-sell, give away or trade the horse. The horses come back to me.,” Sorvino laughs. “It’s not really a rescue. We are a rescue in spirit, a combined rescue and sanctuary.”
Even with adoption fees, there is never enough to cover costs. Amanda makes it easy for people to donate to her rescue, accepting checks, major credit cards and PayPal.
“When we rescue a horse from slaughter we make that horse a promise that life will be wonderful from her on in.”