The Retirement Home for Horses Inc. at Mill Creek Farm is an equine forever home.
At 44, Dakota is enjoying a hard-earned retirement. Used for many years as a rental trail-riding horse, Dakota was ridden relentlessly with little rest and care. At night, she was hobbled with a rope tied around a hind leg and left outside under a tree in all kinds of weather. She still bears the scar left by the rope. Finally rescued, Dakota was rehabbed back to health and adopted out to a supposedly loving home. But in a cruel twist of fate, two years later the mare was reported as abused and undernourished.
Fortunately, once again, Dakota was rescued and, this time, sent to her forever home. Dakota arrived in 1998 at the Retirement Home for Horses Inc. at Mill Creek Farm in Alachua, just north of Ocala. And 19 years and counting later, she’s a happy, healthy horse.
“Dakota had to have her right eye removed and is blind in her left eye. But she lives quite happily in a big pasture with her longtime buddies, Shetland ponies Bracken and Andy, and Dusty, a Florida Cracker pony,” says Nora Denslow, who is a board member/volunteer for the not-for-profit 501(c)(3) operation. “Dakota has been on the farm the longest and is the oldest horse. She is very loved.”
Founded in 1984 by Peter and Mary Gregory, the Retirement Home for Horses Inc. at Mill Creek Farm provides lifetime care to elderly rescued horses, as well as those retiring from public service. The operation does not accept horses from private owners. The farm is protected from development by a perpetual conservation easement.
Peter Gregory died in March 2014, and the farm is now run by 84-year-old Mary, her son, Paul, and a board of directors. And as Denslow notes, “We couldn’t survive without our wonderful donors and indispensable volunteers.”
“Elderly rescued horses, generally those more than 20 years old, are very difficult to place,” says Denslow. “Older horses can have health issues and need special care. We provide them with a home for the rest of the lives.”
At this writing, the 335-acre Mill Creek Farm is home to 135 equines, including two draft horses, three mini-donkeys, a mule and three mini-horses.
“Volunteers help feed and groom the horses,” says Denslow. “The horses get regular vet, dental and farrier care. They have large pastures and are grouped together according to personalities and physical issues. They spend 24 hours outside grazing and have shelters in their pastures.”
On Saturdays, the farm is open from 11am-3pm to visitors for a self-guided walking tour along the grassy lanes between the pastures. Admission is two carrots. A laminated placard is located on each pasture fence, identifying the horses and how each came to Mill Creek Farm.
“We have lots of families visit. It’s just a great fun day for everyone,” says Denslow. “But we also hope to educate people about the plight of rescued horses. We hope after visiting the farm that people understand why we do what we do for these wonderful creatures.”
Learn more › Retirement Home for Horses Inc. at Mill Creek Farm › 20307 NW County Road 235A, Alachua › (386) 462-1001 › millcreekfarm.org › open Saturdays, 11am-3pm
Admission: 2 Carrots