Horse haven needs help after burglary blow

Goods and gear worth more than R60 000 were stolen from the Tom Ro Haven in the early hours of Saturday February 11 and Sunday Feburary 19.

A Noordhoek shelter for abused and neglected horses is appealing for help after two burglaries within days of each other dealt it a heavy financial blow.

Goods and gear worth more than R60 000 were stolen from the Tom Ro Haven in the early hours of Saturday February 11 and Sunday February 19, according to the non-profit’s chairwoman Gillian McCulloch.

They had raised R25 000 in donations since then but were still battling to cover daily operational costs, she said.

Most of the 17 horses and ponies at the haven have been rescued from lives of abused and mistreatment.

“We receive heartbreaking calls daily to rescue horses in desperate need but due to lack of funding and the cost to rescue and re-home a horse, we are currently unable to accommodate any more,” Ms McCulloch said.

The horses are themselves used in healing programmes that help children and adults who are battling trauma, addiction and mental illness.

“We bring in children from The Homestead in Khayelitsha, The Jones Safe House in Masiphumelele and Amazing Grace in Westlake. We also work with an organisation that helps victims of human trafficking, and provide a safe space for them until they can relocate and live their lives again.”

They also welcome anyone who needs therapeutic interaction with horses, or people who just want to be around them and want to learn.

Stephanie McCulloch runs the equine-assisted healing programmes where participants learn how to groom and handle horses.

“Through these programmes, we are all able to witness the incredible healing power, intuition and compassion of these magnificent animals,” she said.

Gee Greenwood experienced trauma and addiction herself and was able to see first-hand the benefits of Tom Ro Haven’s programme when she first volunteered there in 2019.

According to her, the relationship she has built with one horse in particular, Meredith, saved her life.

“While I was struggling with addiction, I would volunteer there for weekends in a row, helping with grooming, feeding, and anything else they needed. I was afraid the horses would see me as a terrible person and not want to come near me, but Meredith just loved me.”

It all came to a head on her birthday in March last year, when her addiction reached its absolute worst and she hit rock bottom.

On that day, she explained, she spent three hours in silence with Meredith: it was a safe space where she could think clearly.

“There is a lot of shame and guilt involved with addiction, but that day, I left there convinced that I was worth recovery, that I deserved a chance. That was a turning point for me.

“Meredith was severely abused and had no reason to trust anybody. We had to build trust as we were both scared. This experience was a safe way for us both to learn to connect again.”

Jessica Roode’s daughter, Hailey, who is home-schooled, always wanted to take up horse-riding lessons, but they could not afford it. When her daughter started feeling depressed and isolated, Ms Roode signed her up to become a volunteer.

“She had no horse experience and was a bit unsure, but Gillian and Stephanie have this amazing ability to draw people out of themselves, and they provide a safe space for anyone needing mental health help, or emotional support,” Ms Roode said.

She said she had watched as her daughter blossomed, growing more confident the more time she spent there. “It was really beautiful to see. We don’t realise how much healing comes with spending time with animals,” she said.

Tom Ro Haven will hold a “Let’s go Retro” fund-raiser at Café Roux in Noordhoek on Saturday April 15, at 6.30pm. There will be a raffle and an auction to raise money.

Tickets cost R200 and can be booked through Quicket.