STATE ROAD — What began as a new story about Bit O’Luck and a horse rescue group named for him moving to State Road took a plot twist this year, as the horse rescue group found a new home closer to Huntersville where it began and a new horse sanctuary has formed in its place in the Yadkin Valley area.
Klondike Farm Horse Sanctuary was formed March 15 and includes three of the horses originally with Bit O’Luck Horse Rescue. Bit O’Luck, better known as Willie, and two other horses were moved back to the Huntersville area. Emma, Janie and Hope remain in State Road with Klondike Farm Horse Sanctuary.
Rob and Diana Small had provided the land with their home, formerly the home of Lucy Chatham near Grassy Creek Winery, for the horse rescue group. Now, Diana and her mother-in-law, Betsy Small, who has relocated to Elkin, have taken the reins and are running their own rescue under the Klondike name.
Since March, the Small family has added three new rescues to the State Road property, Spirit, Blaze and Shadow.
“It got to be really stressful,” said Diana Small of Bit O’Luck Rescue founder Greg McCormack’s traveling between Huntersville and Elkin.
But when McCormack found new property and was ready to move the horses, Small said she wanted to continue the equine rescue program. “I think it’s really needed in this area,” she said.
Thus, the formation of Klondike Farm Horse Sanctuary, named in honor of the former dairy farm operated on the property, which had an office in the Smalls’ home.
None of the rescued horses are younger than 21, the age of Spirit, and the Smalls recently learned that Emma has a genetic medical condition found in many descendents of Impressive’s line, hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYOPP). Diana said they first thought she was having strokes, but a veterinarian at a local office had heard of HYOPP and researched it more. The condition is an inherited muscle disease caused by a genetic defect and it causes her to have weakness in one of her back legs and disorientation.
“She seems to get better one day and then the next day she will seem to have trouble walking,” said Betsy. “It’s hard to watch.”
The most recent rescues at Klondike are Blaze and Shadow, who came as a pair from Winston-Salem because they were already bonded. “It was a couple, and the wife had lost her job and they couldn’t afford to keep them. One of them has papers and is registered and people would want her, but they wouldn’t want to buy the other one,” Diana said.
The couple didn’t want to split the pair up, so they found a home at the State Road sanctuary.
“They are beautiful horses, they are affectionate,” Diana said.
Already, the two horses have been walked to Grassy Creek Winery a couple of times during special events so that visitors could pet them and give them attention.
The Smalls have plans to expand their pasture land for the horses as well, and eventually they hope to accommodate up to 10 horses.
Also, Betsy has reached out to area schools, such as Bridges Academy and Yadkin Valley Community School, about setting up field trips to the farm for students.
“We are still seeking volunteers,” said Diana, who explained that she and Betsy handle both of the two daily feedings every day. “We have one or two dedicated volunteers, but we are doing all the feedings twice a day every day.”
The duo also walks the fields closest to the house with a wheelbarrow to remove manure piles, which helps reduce the number of flies and people stepping in the manure. They said it also makes for great exercise.
“Every morning we groom them, spray for the flies and gnats, put baby oil on their ears. It’s a four-star retirement home for horses,” said Betsy, who’d never been around horses before she started helping at the horse sanctuary.
Among the ways people can help the sanctuary through volunteering, Betsy also said they are open to people who want to sponsor a horse and come by and pet and love on them.
“It’s a commitment,” she said of volunteering regularly. “I think people wouldn’t mind coming out when they want to, but they can’t commit to it. We need someone who is able to do a specific time each week or more regularly.”
For more information on Klondike Farm Horse Sanctuary, 122 Chatham Lodge Lane, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, visit www.klondikefarm.com, call 336-526-1008 or email KFHS.NC@gmail.com.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.