When Beth and Drew Breton heard about a sickly, orphaned foal that was taken to an auction rather than a veterinarian, they knew they had to give her a home, if only for eight hours.
Named Kiseki, which means “miracle” in Japanese, the little horse inspired the Bretons to learn more about the challenges equines face in today’s world and to start a horse rescue in her memory after she passed away.
Kiseki Horse Rescue, located in Clinton, is a new nonprofit welcoming at-risk horses to thrive through rescue, rehabilitation, education and community outreach programs.
“As a kid, I loved horses,” Beth said. “I used to put Band-Aids on snails to make them feel better.”
Unlike his wife, Drew got his introduction to equines later in life – after a 20-year career with the Navy and a few academic degrees later – and it wasn’t the gentlest of beginnings.
“A year ago, I would have never said we’d be running a horse rescue, or I would be running a horse rescue. A year ago, I didn’t think horses were smarter than dogs. I had no idea,” he said. “And then in March, I got a horse and I was amazed by how intelligent they are, but also how you can connect with them and they can connect with you.”
His first horse was Billy, a “not very nice boy” that would strike, kick and bite. Luckily, Drew saw underneath the tough exterior and realized it was all fear.
“He taught me all of the things that I was doing wrong and how to do them right so I didn’t get hurt,” Drew said. “He’s pushed into me, he’s kicked me three times.”
Billy is now Drew’s personal horse and currently resides at a farm in Freeland run by Leah Eddington, who also happens to be on the board of directors for Kiseki Horse Rescue.
“I thought poor Drew was going to get killed,” Eddington said. “But he showed up every day, twice a day, every morning and every night and he brushed the horse and he worked with the horse and he learned. The horse now knows the sound of his truck when he pulls up and vocally responds to it.”
The Bretons did some research and learned about the future of unwanted horses that go to auction and are not bid on. No bidders means the doors are wide open for individuals looking to make a profit off of horse meat.
All of the horses they’ve purchased at auction and saved from this fate came to them with some kind of ailment. Pregnant mare I-Candee was severely dehydrated and 300 pounds underweight. Sis, who was at the same auction, was also underfed and swaybacked.
Two other horses purchased at auction, Reba and Grace, are on the mend and will be ready for adoption soon after being rehabilitated.
Mac the pony, whom the Bretons’ son bid on while their backs were turned, had a misaligned jaw and other injuries from being abused.
“And now, that pony is like our mascot,” Eddington said.
Like they did with Billy, the Bretons decided to adopt Mac for their own.
Not all horses have come from the auction, however. Kiseki Horse Rescue recently acquired a horse with a skin infection surrendered by his elderly owner who could no longer care for him properly. He will likely recover in a year when his hair grows back.
“We want to educate people about horses and what they’re capable of. Sometimes you’re not just rescuing them, they’re rescuing you,” Beth said. “In a lot of places out here, they’re a work object. But they’re also amazing and they need to be celebrated, not just thrown away when you’re done.”
Eddington agreed that education is lacking in the horse industry, which she has been in her whole life. She is often the first to try out a new horse that arrives at Kiseki Horse Rescue.
“People think horses are a great idea, they love the idea, it’s nice and romantic, so they go and buy their first horse that comes along and it ends up getting injured, or they don’t know how to take care of it,” she said.
Upon arrival at Kiseki, horses are quarantined for 21 days so as not to spread any disease. A vet evaluates their medical condition. Bit by bit, the horse is introduced to other horses, animals, people and kids. Eventually it is ridden, if amenable, and rehomed with a new family.
“This is what our goal is – a nice, loving horse that’s safe to be around and is healthy,” Drew said.
“That’s what’s important to us, is finding someone who is going to love them and give them everything they need,” Beth said.
The horse rescue is currently in need of more volunteers, foster homes and donations.
Steve Hudziak is currently fostering I-Candee and Sis, after responding to the Bretons’ request for foster homes on Nextdoor, a social network for neighborhoods.
“I enjoy them and it was a good cause too, so heck yeah,” he said. “I grew up on a farm.”
Eddington said she has felt blessed to have met the Bretons.
“For a guy who’s never had any horses, he’s the most dedicated horse guy,” she said of Drew. “He comes out to my farm twice a day and he still takes care of all these guys.”