Safe Haven Seeks Aid To Rebuild

Published 5:01 pm Thursday, June 27, 2013

Karren Cooper is a woman who believes in miracles. All of the animals at Safe Haven Horse Rescue in Meherrin safely weathered the powerful storm June 13 that toppled trees and downed power lines across the area. A hay storage shed and shelters for the horses, unfortunately, did not. Now Cooper is looking for a miracle – one that will provide a new shelter for the rescued horses in her care.

“When that storm came I saw things being picked up and tossed around like they were nothing,” Cooper recalled. “Our main shed where we store hay was lost. The three stalls out in the pasture – the storm tore half of the door off the first stall and tore the wall out of the middle one. I watched the storm pick up a heavy metal round hay bale feeder and toss it like it was a piece of paper. It took the air conditioners out of the window and pulled the screens off. The wind took my grape vine down.”

The biggest blow from the storm, however, came later.

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“We had insurance, but apparently the shelters for the horses weren't covered,” Cooper related. “When I heard that I cried – I couldn't believe it.”

Originally from New York, Cooper rescued her first horse in 2000. She called her farm in New York “Safe Haven” and brought the name with her when she moved to Meherrin about eight years ago.

“I rescue just about anything,” she smiled.

The current census on the farm includes 15 horses, 11 German Shepherds, two goats, assorted peacocks and other fowl, and four kittens.

Cooper, herself a disabled veteran with PTSD and subject to seizures, also trains German Shepherds for veterans with PTSD.

“I will have to admit that this storm really scared me,” she said. “When the storm hit I just shoved all the dogs into the big closet under the stairs. Do you know what it's like getting 13 dogs in one closet? You shove one in – one comes out.”

Horses often come in and out in similar fashion. The 15th horse in residence at Safe Haven was turned in by her owner this week.

“We've been getting a lot of horses, like Eloise, being turned in by their owners,” Cooper advised. “With the economy, owners can't afford them anymore.”

Cooper cares for the horses until they put on weight and can be adopted.

“A lot of that comes out of my pocket,” she said. “Some of the horses – the ones that look the worst – they need a special feed. It costs $17 a bag. For the three horses that are getting it now, a bag lasts maybe a day and a half.”

Cooper is pleased when she places a rescued horse in a good home.

“I do charge an adoption fee,” she said. “And people who get a horse have to sign a contract.”

Cooper expects prospective horse owners to spend time with a horse before adoption – to see if their personalities mesh.

“We've adopted out quite a few horses this year,” she added.

Providing care for so many horses is expensive, Cooper added. Assessing the damage after the storm and considering her budget, Cooper didn't see how the buildings could be replaced.

Aside from a miracle, that is.

“When I put what happened on Facebook I was crying, literally,” she recalled. “I wrote – that's it. I can't do it anymore. I'm always on Facebook telling people you've got to have faith – you've got to have faith. I tell you what – that day I didn't have it!”

The next day, in what Cooper sees as a miraculous turn of events, an anonymous donor contacted her via Facebook.

“All we know is that he's in Bridgewater, Vermont,” Cooper related. “He has eighteen 12 by 12-foot prefab stalls that he wants to donate to a 501c3. The thing is, we have to find a way to get them here.”

Cooper contacted various trucking companies and received an estimate of $2,000 to transport the stalls to her farm. As soon as she posted this information on Facebook, donations began coming in.

“We're up to $703 now,” she said. “Any amount will help us – even a dollar.”

The other issue is, of course, a structure to enclose the stalls.

“Once we get the stalls we have to put a building around them,” she continued. “I was thinking of having a row of six stalls, maybe three long buildings. That way if we only have enough material to do one side, we do one side. Then we'll just keep going on.”

“What we need is an old-fashioned barn raising,” Cooper added. “But first we have to get the materials to build it with.”

Cooper is looking for local volunteers, such as Eagle Scouts, who would like to take on a worthwhile project.

“I do believe in miracles,” Cooper affirmed. “These prefab stalls – that's a miracle. It was another miracle that the donor read about us on Facebook.”

With the support of friends from across the country and the offer of donated stalls, Cooper's faith has been renewed.

“I want to believe that this is God telling me, 'Karren, stick with it. You've got horses that are trusting you,” she said. “Animals do so much – when the PTSD gets really bad, I just come out and talk to the horses.”

The horses haven't said so, but Cooper is sure they believe in miracles, too.

“There are a lot of good people out there,” she concluded. “If people would just open their hearts a little bit to the animals they would see it's a wonderful world out there.”

Part of that wonder is what Cooper and her horses are waiting for – a miracle.

For more information on Safe Haven Horse Rescue, 889 Meherrin Rd., Meherrin, VA 23954, contact Karren Cooper at (434) 414-4059.