FLORIDA - When Lilly first came to Easy Street Horse & Barnyard Rescue, she was underweight and very shy.
Now, the 2-year-old Tennessee Walker walks right up to strangers. The white and black horse has gained some weight, as well, since arriving at the rescue in May.
"She's coming along really well," Nina Bellinger said.
The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor
Nina Bellinger bathes Lilly while Bella waits her turn July 14 at the Easy?Street Horse & Barnyard Rescue in the town of Florida.
Bellinger and her husband, Paul, operate the Easy Street rescue at their home on Langley Road.
The inspiration to start the rescue came a few years ago, when Nina read information online about horses being slaughtered.
People have been overbreeding horses for years, she said, with too many "backyard breeders" involved who just want to make money.
"It's very difficult to take if you love animals," she said about the thought of horses being slaughtered.
The couple sold their house in Guilderland and purchased their homestead in the town, which gave them the space to officially start the rescue. An accountant by trade, Nina's work had taken her to the town she currently lives before.
The not-for-profit rescue officially was incorporated July 5, 2006.
The rescue has about 12 horses, 10 of whom currently go out into the pasture.
The farm has 18 acres of pasture for the horses. Nina said it is ideal land to use because, for years, it was used by the former owner to grow hay.
In addition to the house, the operation also includes a barn and pen for the horses.
Nina said what has helped Lilly, in part, is being able to spend time with another horse, Bella.
Bella is among the first horses the Bellingers rescued after starting their operation. The horse, about 5 years old, is very calm and accepting of other horses, Nina said. She can act as a "nanny horse," allowing the new horse to see how things are done at the rescue.
For instance, when it came time for Lilly to be bathed, she initially seemed reluctant, Nina said. After watching Bella, however, she understood what was going on.
"It was like, 'Ah. So this is what we do,'" Nina said with a laugh.
Of course, that is crucial for the type of work the rescue tries to do.
"We need horses that are easy for others to get along with," she said.
Among the groups the rescue has worked with is the Double H Ranch in Lake Luzerne.
The ranch, in 2009, adopted two horses - Chelsea and Blacky - from the rescue.
According to a news release, Chelsea had been part of a herd of horses used in the drug industry. She was later left to run wild in Canada for three years, caught and auctioned in 2006. Blacky was part of a large rescue and was malnourished and neglected.
"After much time and love, Chelsea has big, brown trusting eyes and does whatever is asked of her," the release said. "Given time and attention, today Blacky thinks people are great and looks forward to visitors."
When Nina leads a brief tour of the barn at the rescue, she can give a detailed description of each horse that includes physical details, why it came to the rescue, as well as a sketch about its personality. She also has plenty of stories about horses that have been rehabilitated and are now living a goof life with new owners.
"We've got a lot of heartwarming stories here," Nina said. "That is part of why we do this."
Nina and Paul both still work full time. When they are not working, they both spend plenty of time caring for the horses - feeding, cleaning, etc.
While the two work to pay the bills, Nina said, there have been plenty of people who have helped over the years.
For example, a sponsor paid for the transportation and vet bills for Lilly. There are also a couple of volunteers who stop by and help take care of the horse.
"People always come through when we need help," she said.
Nina said while the rescue is behind on donations this year compared to last year - which she suspects may have to do with the economy - she is not worried.
"I don't worry. I turn it over to God," she said. "I feel like this is what we should be doing."
The Bellingers hope to secure a grant that will allow them to do several of things.
They want to fix a road that runs back to their pasture land. The money also could be used to build a small, indoor training area. They said if that can be done, they hope they can get a trainer to spend time working with the horses. That will not only get the horses ready to be adopted quicker, it will increase the number of horses they can take in. A trainer will be able to help rehabilitate the horses quicker, so they can be adopted out to families or for therapeutic riding, Nina said.
"I must turn away over 200 horses a year," Nina said.
In August, the couple plans to have a day when volunteers can come help at the rescue. The couple already has the wood to build two sheds for the horses.
"We just need people who can swing a hammer," Paul said.
The couple also will need volunteers to help with the Fonda Fair.
For more information, visit www.easystreetrescue.org