River View, Florida
Shawn Jayroe’s passion for horses and desire to help the underdog were cemented during the rodeo days of her childhood in Texas. After their pole bending competition, she and her beloved horse, Ringsin, entertained the audience with their trick show during the intermission. But it was there that she first witnessed the darker side of horsemanship and she resolved to help the defenseless animals.
Into her adulthood, even among roles as both full-time single parent and full-time hairdresser and business owner, Shawn dedicated time to helping horses in need. She evolved into a true “Horse Angel” by seeking out and rescuing abused and neglected horses, nursing them back to health, then finding them suitable adoptive homes. All at her own expense.
Armed with the determination of a hundred soldiers, Shawn purchased a dilapidated 40-acre ranch in Riverview, Florida, that has since blossomed into the healing haven, known as RVR Horse Rescue. Although surrounding housing developments threaten to encroach the borders, the increasing bustle and construction congestion quickly fades away for the remaining few miles leading to the ranch. The final stretch ends in rutted dirt at the gated entrance.
Majestic southern live oak trees drip with Spanish moss and provide a light reprieve from the relentless Florida sun. A handcrafted RVR sign adorns the fence and another discourages well-intended visitors bearing treats: “Please do not feed the horses . . .” Inside the gates, the driveway splits the property and is lined with multiple pastures that are home to approximately twenty-five horses currently under rehabilitative care.
Shawn’s passion for her life’s work is contagious. Volunteers flock to her aid. With their muscle, dedication, and compassion, Shawn and her team have saved the lives of hundreds of animals and touched the hearts of countless humans. RVR Horse Rescue’s worldwide social media following allows people from around the globe to follow their miraculous life-saving work. Shawn’s army of Horse Angels perform heroic rescues throughout the state of Florida and rehabilitate equines on the brink of death. There is no paid staff and other than Shawn’s paycheck, which is funneled to the rescue, grants and donations make their work possible.
At the heart of this incredible 501c(3) non-profit organization is one woman with the weight of her legacy planted squarely on her shoulders. Around-the-clock nursing, political backlash, personal threats, and constant financial pressure can’t deter this devoted and determined superhero.
A recent rescue of eight horses in need taxed the organization to its limits, both financially and physically. Yet it is not in Shawn’s DNA to refuse to help. She rallied her team and the community into action, thus, resulting in yet another miraculous ending and The Great 8 are quickly being sponsored to adopt into loving homes once their rehabilitation is complete.
Her pockets are empty. Her soul is heavy and her heart is tattered and torn. And yet, there is not one day, even one moment, when Shawn would refuse a helpless baby a new chance at life. Luca is one such baby, literally. The two-week old colt and his momma, Gypsy, were rescued in September 2015. The pair was living in an open field, without proper shelter or shade, during an especially rainy period. Between the piercing Florida sun and the particularly soggy weather, the newborn quickly developed a severe case of rain rot and sunburn.
A concerned neighbor called a local vet, who contacted RVR Horse Rescue after speaking with Gypsy and Luca’s owner. Thankfully, the horses were relinquished willingly and their recovery plan was put into action immediately. Pathetic Luca instantly grabbed the heart of anyone who saw him. Gypsy’s ailments were less obvious, but her malnourishment prevented her from sustaining her baby. The horse angels at RVR Horse Rescue kicked into high gear. Luca’s recovery required him to be tube feed every two hours, in around-the-clock shifts, until his momma recovered enough to feed him herself. Volunteers poured in to help. With the excellent care he received, Luca’s skin condition healed and he re-grew a beautiful, shiny coat. The frail, sickly boy transformed into a spunky little character in a few short weeks.
At RVR Horse Rescue, every effort is made to rescue and rehabilitate equines in need. Sometimes the abuse or neglect has exceeded the possibility for rehabilitation and euthanasia is the only humane outcome. These tragic endings are a stark reminder that education of the public is a necessity.
RVR Horse Rescue’s Children’s Outreach Program is aimed at early childhood education. What better preparation for future generations could there be than to proactively teach children about combating animal abuse and neglect? Each year, the children’s program expands to reach more schools, more classrooms and, therefore, more children. Their recently released two-part children’s book series, ‘A New Home for Dominick’ and ‘A New Family for Dominick’ are true stories aimed to capture the hearts and minds of the youngest generation. The Dominick books complement RVR’s adult novel, ‘A Healing Haven – Saving Horses and Humans at RVR Horse Rescue’.
The addition of two adorable miniature horses is allowing RVR Horse Rescue to expand their community outreach even further, to both children and adults alike. Boots, and dwarf mini, Gilbert, have become two permanent ambassadors and draw the limelight at community events, which allows RVR to spread their message further. Both minis are undergoing training to become certified therapy horses, which is the next phase of the community outreach plan.
The “Let’s Go Nuts” campaign targets over breeding. The program provides gelding/castration vouchers and clinics in order to reduce the number of unwanted horses. Over breeding puts horses at risk of becoming homeless or sent to slaughter. Poor breeding practices can also lead to birth defects and lifelong health complications, as they have seen first-hand with their little Gilbert. Following the lead of small animal spay and neuter campaigns, RVR will provide vouchers for horse owners to geld stallions through participating veterinarians, and will also host gelding clinics at the rescue.
Each step of RVR Horse Rescue’s multi-faceted approach brings them one step closer to their goal of stemming the tide of equine abuse and neglect.
By Shirley Alarie
Photography Courtesy RVR
Besides the dedicated staff and volunteers at RVR, they are also blessed with the talents of writer Shirley Alarie. Shirley has written three heartwarming books about the rescues who call RVR home. Her first novel “A Healing Haven” tells of RVR’s owner Shawn Jayroe and her army of Horse Angels who tackle the unspoken issue of equine neglect. “A Home for Dominick” and “A Family for Dominick” are children’s books that introduce animal advocacy and the search for a loving home for a little donkey. Both of the children’s books are based on real characters and events at RVR Horse Rescue. If you are looking for a great read for yourself or one for your children or students follow the link http://rvrhorserescue.org/rvr-books/
RVR Horse Rescue was featured in the January issue of We Ride Sport and Trail. This editorial was also written by Shirley