CFERD To The Rescue

Karen Speake & Company save horses in distress while teaching others why they are worth saving

When Nicolas was a year old, he was so emaciated he couldn’t walk.

He didn’t have the muscle or strength to get himself up. “He had no meat between his back legs,” says Karen Speake, founder and president of Changing Fates Equine Rescue of Delaware (CFERD). “A couple of times we thought he was dead.”

After several months of vitamins, shots, special food, vet visits, and lots of love and care, Nicolas stood up. “Every day, every couple of hours we’d go out there to pick him up to try to get him to stand up,” says Speake.

Nicholas was one of 17 horses rescued in 2018 by CFERD from a farm in Hebron, Md. More than two dozen horses were found dead and nearly a hundred others were living in deplorable conditions.

CFERD has rescued more than 200 horses since its inception in 2005. Four women currently run the non-profit, located in Laurel. They rehabilitate, retrain, and rehome abused and unwanted equines. Horses not suitable for adoption due to age or health live at the rescue until they pass on.

“All but 16 (of the 200) have been adopted,” says Robin Weinkam, who helps run the rescue. “Once a horse reaches their late teens and early twenties, people are less likely to adopt them even though they are still rideable.”

CFERD’s horses come from racetracks, riding academies, farms, and private owners. “We have also gotten some from the kill pens at auctions,” says Weinkam. These equines are sold to slaughterhouses outside of the U.S.

Horses adopted from CFERD can’t be sold, traded in or given away. If for any reason the adopter can no longer care for the horse, they must return it.

It costs CFERD $3,400 a year to care for one horse. The 34-acre farm has room for about 30 horses.

“Sometimes we are limited by funding,” says Weinkam. “We are careful to not overcommit and become a rescue that needs rescuing.”

CFERD relies on grants, sponsors, donations, and fundraisers. Since 2005, it has raised more than $771,000.

In January, Speake, Weinkam, Donna Kirsch and Carol Popleas were recognized for their efforts with a Governor’s Volunteer Award.

Speake started the rescue in her backyard. She knew there was a need for a horse rescue in Delmarva after having worked at a local animal rescue. People also started showing up at her house with horses they couldn’t afford to keep.

Thanks to a grant from the Longwood Foundation and several donations, CFERD eventually purchased land on Old Cabin Road.

Speake’s love of horses comes from growing up in Anne Arundel County, Md., where some of her neighbors had horses. To be around these magnificent creatures, she volunteered to care for them.

At age 14, she finally got her very own horse, Lady, who lived for 33 years. She was there during Speake’s teen years, when she got married, and when the kids came along.

“They become a family member; never to forget, always to love,” says Speake.

For horse lovers who can’t afford a horse or can’t get to the farm, CFERD offers two programs. The Virtual Fostering program allows sponsorship of a horse of your choice or of all the horses at the rescue starting at $25 a month. Virtually, the sponsor gets to be part of a horse’s progress while it remains at the rescue.

The Saturday Volunteer program welcomes 12 to 80-year-olds to the farm to groom and learn how to care for and train a horse. CFERD’s adoption fees range between $400 and $1,500.

“There is nothing like walking outside and having a 1,000-pound animal come to you just to be near you,” says Weinkam. “They help melt away the stress of everyday life. They have a calming effect on people.”

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Adriana Camacho-Church
Adriana is a freelance journalist who has written for newspapers and magazines in California and Delaware. When not organizing programs for the Hispanic community for New Castle County Libraries she dances in the kitchen while cooking her favorite Latino dishes.