COXSACKIE — Look into the eyes of a rescue horse and you will be hooked, Janet Kash said of the horses at Unbridled Thoroughbred Foundation.
“When you look into these horse’s eyes, you have to love them,” said Kash, a new volunteer at the horse sanctuary. “The sheer size of them is intimidating, but they are so gentle — you look into their eyes and you feel they are loving and gentle and amazing.”
Unbridled, based on Farm to Market Road, rescues former race horses and this month was recognized for its work when it was named Horse Rescue/Sanctuary of the Year for 2021 by the Equis Save Foundation.
The organization was among 100 nominees nationwide to compete for the annual award from the Montana-based foundation.
The top 10 rescues were selected by the foundation in May and then the public had the chance to weigh in and select the top sanctuary in the country through an online voting process.
The public chose Unbridled Thoroughbred Foundation.
“It’s a very gratifying win because it is due to people who believe in us and support us,” Unbridled founder Susan Kayne said. “To have earned the public’s trust and be the people’s choice is a humbling honor that is just tremendous. I am blessed by it — it is a privilege to have earned the public’s trust and to be honored this way is just the cherry on top.”
The Coxsackie organization was the only thoroughbred rescue group to earn a spot in the top 10.
Unbridled was also nominated for the award in 2020 and finished third nationally.
As this year’s winner, Unbridled wins $1,000 to assist the horses and for maintenance of the facility, and, of course, bragging rights.
Unbridled does incredible work saving horses that would otherwise be relegated to the slaughterhouse in most cases, Kash said.
“I think the work of Unbridled is so incredible, providing a sanctuary and love and safety for all these beautiful race horses who might otherwise fall into slaughter,” Kash said.
She recalled horses that have been saved by the group, some from facilities far removed from Coxsackie.
“Last week Unbridled rescued a horse from a feed lot on the West Coast that was going to be sold for food,” Kash said. “Susan [Kayne] swung into action and paid the feed lot to get the horse out of there. She has a connection on the West Coast who took the horse in until the horse could come to Unbridled.”
The previous week, another horse was rescued from slaughter in Ohio and will make its way to Coxsackie.
Horses rescued by the group are either adopted out to loving homes, if possible, or live out the rest of their lives at Unbridled or a foster home.
Kayne has a team of volunteers who helps care for the animals.
“It’s all about the volunteers,” Kash said. “She has a dedicated cadre of people who do all kinds of work — feeding the horses, brushing them, exercising them, mucking out their stalls. She has a great village, as it were, to take care of the horses.
“It really does take a village, and Susan has assembled a really great one.”
Some of the horses who come to Unbridled are in need of a great deal of rehabilitation and Kayne provides that, Kash said.
“Some horses have come to Unbridled so malnourished they have to gain 800 pounds to be healthy,” she noted. “Susan nurses them back to health.”
Unbridled houses horses at its Farm to Market site and at others around the area, Kayne said.
“We have 20 horses at the sanctuary in Coxsackie and 10 additional horses boarded out or in foster or pending adoption on different local properties,” Kayne said. “At any given time we have 30 horses under our direct care and management.”
If a horse is adopted and things don’t pan out, the equine always has a home at Unbridled.
“We have an open-return policy for any horses — if people’s circumstances change, we will always take the horse back and try to rehome them,” Kayne said.
Winning the national award was an honor, but one deserved by everyone on the team, Kayne said.
“I am accepting this honor on behalf of our horses and our volunteers, because what makes us great is the daily rote delivery of care by our volunteers,” Kayne said. “They show up and take care of the watering, haying, cleaning of the stalls and the grounds, so it is a wonderful accolade to accept on behalf of all our volunteers and our immediate community.”