The state of Florida is a popular retirement location for many Americans. Its warm temperatures and sunny skies make it the ideal climate for many to live out their golden years. It is also an ideal environment for retired horses. For producer Yi Suli, VOA's Elaine Lu takes us to Mill Creek Farm, a retirement home for horses.
Retired couple Peter and Mary Gregory live on Mill Creek Farm, a 100-hectare sanctuary for old, abandoned, and abused horses.
"He came from Manhattan,” Peter explained about one of the horses. “He lived in a basement stall in Claremount Academy. For eight years, he never left the building, never saw daylight."
Mary described another horse. "About 25, she was so abused. She only has half a tongue."
"She was found abandoned in Albany, Georgia about seven years ago,” said Peter of yet another. “See her right leg there. The sore on her foot here."
Not all of the horses have been abused. Many are retired from service with police forces, park rangers and even the circus.
The Gregorys have devoted themselves physically, emotionally and financially to Mill Creek Farm since retiring from a successful hotel business in 1984. "We started with a million and half dollars,” said Peter. “ But that soon disappeared in the first 10 years, because we paid for everything ourselves. We didn't really ask for any money for horses that came here."
By the mid '90s they needed financial help and set up a non-profit organization to raise money to care for the horses. On average, each horse requires $1800 a year to cover feed, veterinary supplies and other expenses.
Peter provided an example of his costs. "Last month, for instance, I spent $8600 on hay alone."
Caring for their horses also requires help. Bob Watson has been volunteering for more than five years. "I usually do maintenance type of jobs like repairing fences, painting, working with tractors in the field, or cutting trees, cutting wood, cleaning the creeks,’ Said Watson. “All kinds of general maintenance type of work."
In addition, people can help through the Adopt-A-Horse Program. Former Attorney General Janet Reno and tennis legend Martina Navratilova are among the high-profile adopters of horses on Mill Creek Farm.
"We have people [who have] adopted horse for $40 a month to help defray the expenses,” Peter said. “We have other people send donations from $10 to $100, or $1,000 occasionally."
And volunteers, like Gloria, say retirement life for these horses could not be better. "They don't have to work. They don't have to be ridden,” she said. “They are in pastures where they can graze and get grass. They are well fed. They got plenty of carrots. Everybody loves them. I don't think they can be happier."