Breed: Hackney Pony

Adopted From: New Jersey

Date Rescued: August 2012

Date Adopted: September 2017


Esther Roberts Bell, owner and founder of Starlight Farm Animal Sanctuary, fondly recalls the story of Bonnie:


"It was August 20, 2012, early on Monday morning and, as usual, I was checking social media for the morning news.  A friend on Facebook had shared a picture of a lovely bay mare "Camelot Hip #495" with a caption saying the mare was "out of time" and due to ship to slaughter.  At that time, I was completely unaware that horses are shipped on a daily basis - by the hundreds - out of the United States to be slaughtered in Mexico or Canada.  When I saw this mare's photo, I naively assumed she was a lone horse that had somehow wound up at a cattle auction.  The posted comments noted the mare was about 12 years old and 14.2 hands high - just the right age and size to make a great trail horse.  I contacted my husband and told him I was going to rescue this little horse if I possibly could.  Being an animal lover himself, he readily agreed.

I called Camelot and asked, "Do you take Visa?"  "Why yes, we do."  "Great!  I'm buying that little mare; please ship her to Tennessee."  The folks at Camelot helped me find a great shipper, and the little mare arrived at my farm the next day, August 21, 2012.  

When she got off the trailer, it was evident she was much smaller than 14.2 hands, and, indeed, she is 12.2 hands tall.  I didn't care.  She was welcome in our equine family, irrespective of size.  The first thing I noticed about her was her lovely head - wide forehead, delicate jaw, large, dark eyes, and a teacup muzzle.  I named her, "Bonnie" which means, "Beautiful."

The next thing I noticed was she had obviously been in a recent harness accident of some type - she had injuries on her croup, side, chest and eye.  I had the vet come out immediately, and he surmised she had been an Amish road pony, based upon her injuries and the shape of her feet.  He checked her to confirm she was not in foal while he was there.

Bonnie's physical injuries healed fairly quickly.  Her spirit required a good bit more time to heal.  In the beginning, she was terrified of men, and especially men in hats.  No one could approach her from behind, or touch her croup, or she was squat down and tremble in fear.  My husband and I spent many moments just talking to Bonnie and letting her know she now had a safe, forever home.  Over time, she calmed down and began to seek us out for petting and treats.

After a few months, I saddled Bonnie for the first time.  She was quiet under saddle, but obviously green to carrying a rider.  With gentle and consistent work, Bonnie progressed to the point this spring (2014) where she taught a 5 year old girl the joys of riding! 

Bonnie has blossomed from an injured, terrified, slaughter-bought castoff into a darling children's pony and diminutive equine diva.  We have learned so much from Bonnie!!  Now that we have educated ourselves on the massive number of American horses that go to slaughter each year, my husband and I have rescued several other horses from slaughter, either directly into our equine family, or by paying the bail so someone else (individual or non-profit rescue organization) can give the horse a home.  We have "bailed" light horses of various breeds, draft horses, mules, donkeys, and minis!  We absolutely LOVE helping save the lives of these "unwanted" animals!

And it all began with a shared picture of Camelot # 495 on Facebook. Fast forward to 2015, and Bonnie is a happy and healthy resident and the Sanctuary is officially a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization! 

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