Horse rescue needs new home

To tweak a line from Shakespeare, Susan Peirce needs a kingdom for a horse.

Fifty-six horses, in fact.

The co-founder and president of Red Bucket Equine Rescue, a Huntington Beach-based nonprofit that rescues and rehabilitates abandoned horses, is appealing to the community to donate funds for a new permanent home for her animals.

For three years, Red Bucket has housed its horses at the Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center. However, center owner Mary Behrens and manager Mike Rademaker recently gave the nonprofit's horses until Feb. 15 to move out of their stalls to make room for paying customers, and Peirce and her volunteers are seeking funds for new accommodation.

Wherever Red Bucket's new home is, Peirce hopes it will be at least close to Surf City.

"People talk about 'our horses,'" she said. "There's this sense that these horses, here in Huntington Beach, belong to all of us."

So far, two anonymous donors have come forward and offered matching funds, and a third has requested a tour of the site. Community members have also shelled out about $5,000, Peirce said. Since the nonprofit doesn't have a new location picked yet, she couldn't specify how much is needed.

The growing demand for stalls and the need to turn a profit has made it harder to find space for the rescue horses, Behrens said. To give Red Bucket a cushion after its move-out date, the center will provide pasture space until May for the 40 horses housed there. (The nonprofit has 16 other horses at a facility in Temecula.)

Behrens said Red Bucket horses could stay indefinitely in their stalls if they had medical issues that prevented them from leaving. She also said the nonprofit could continue to bring new horses to the pasture after May, but the intent would be to house them there for a short time before they could be fostered or adopted.

"We'll continue to support them in their efforts, because it is all about rescuing horses and finding them good homes," said Behrens, who cofounded the nonprofit.

Peirce said she appreciated the center's support of Red Bucket in the past but that the May deadline would be difficult to meet.

"We have been grateful to be part of the Huntington Beach community the last three years and thankful to be at the equestrian center," she said. "Our mission has three parts: We save horses, we rehabilitate them and we re-home them. Unfortunately, a 90-day period does not allow us to rehabilitate or retrain horses."

Peirce noted that while Red Bucket doesn't pay for stall rentals, it does foot its own costs for hay, bedding, electricity and other expenses.

Since Red Bucket began in January 2009, it has rescued 96 horses that were lost, sometimes intentionally, by their former owners. When the nonprofit acquires a new horse, one of the first things the staff does is give it a name — a symbolic gesture, as the name is likely the first thing the horse has ever owned by itself, Peirce said.

Among the residents of Red Bucket's stalls are Sawyer, Turner, Dolly and Parker, the latter named after KTLA reporter Lu Parker, who covered a story on the nonprofit.

"Of the 96 horses we've saved, I can tell you who the horse is and what their story is," Peirce said.

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

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