It’s a sunny morning in the hills just east of Hendersonville. Walking through her backyard pasture, Whitney Wright approached a handful of horses. Her boots are muddy and her spirits are high, especially when the horses trot over to see her for a handful of carrots.
“Being around a horse makes you feel better, makes you a better person,” Wright said. “These horses have gotten me through every hard thing I’ve ever been through—it’s healing to be around them.”
Founder and executive director of Hope for Horses, Wright leads an equine rescue, rehabilitation, and adoption organization that covers all of Western North Carolina. In its 20 years so far, Wright estimated they have rescued and found safe homes for over 500 horses.
“In our first year, I didn’t know if this was something just in my head or something that was needed,” Wright said. “But, it’s almost like the more our name gets out there, the more people reach out to us.”
Rescuing around 30 horses each year, the nonprofit houses the animals on four properties located in Hendersonville, Weaverville, Burnsville, and Leicester. And recently, Hope for Horses achieved a long-term dream by purchasing a 30-acre property in Leicester that will serve as the main facility for all the horses saved by the organization.
“The fact that we were able to purchase this property means this organization will live long after me,” Wright said. “And we will never lower our standards. Every horse that comes here will get the utmost care.”
Created in 1999, Hope for Horses was a way for Wright to save the creatures she’s loved and cared about her entire life. After rescuing four horses on her own, Wright befriended her veterinarian, Dr. Ann Stuart. Soon after, the duo pushed ahead with getting the organization off the ground.
“Seeing what was happening to these horses, it was just inexcusable. This can’t happen. There was no question about it, this had to be part of my future,” Wright said. “Each case is completely unique—financial hardships cases, horses that have been horribly abused and neglected. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to take care of every horse we get calls about.”
Wright noted that for every horse they’re able to rescue and care for, several more pop up in need. There’s essentially a nonstop stream of neglected horses. But even with limited resources, Hope for Horses will not give up on doing as much as it can to slowly and steadily eliminate the atrocities.
“We do a lot of community outreach, from free out-in-the-field castrations to our hay and blanket bank, where we give local people resources who run short in the winter months,” Wright said. “We also do a lot of educational training, during which we instruct animal control officers on what to look for in cases of neglect and abuse.”
Once all the carrots were devoured from her palms, at least for the moment, Wright watched the jovial horses return to the far reaches of the pasture. The look on her face is one of unconditional love, something apparent in her personal and professional work with these incredible animals.
“It can be frustrating at times, because you want to see an end in sight,” Wright said. “But, the phone never stops ringing. Then I see all those faces in photos around my house of the horses that we’ve rescued. And I think, how could I not do this?”