It is impossible to see from the road. There is no sign or welcome, and the driveway is shrouded by trees and bushes. If you do not slow down, you will miss it. But if you make the turn onto the gravelly dirt road, you will soon find yourself in the middle of the sanctuary that is Bright Futures Farm.
Bright Futures Farm is a 501(c)(3) equine rescue located in Cochranton. A 501(c)(3) is a nonprofit organization that has been approved as exempt from federal income tax because of its charitability, which in the case of Bright Futures Farm, is the prevention of cruelty to animals. The sanctuary is owned by Beverlee Dee, a woman who started rescuing abandoned, neglected and surrendered horses in 2000 while living in Butler.
Growing up, Dee never owned a horse but always had a soft spot in her heart for these powerful creatures. As a business woman living in the city, she simply did not have the space. But one day she came across Brite Decision, a severely injured Thoroughbred ex-racehorse, and felt called to help. “Why not?” Dee said, smiling.
After nursing Brite Decision back to health, Dee decided to found Bright Futures Farm, named after the racehorse himself. Over the past 15 years, Bright Futures Farm has fulfilled its purpose, and Dee has had to move to three different locations in order to accommodate the growing number of rescues. Most of the horses at Bright Futures Farm are retired Thoroughbred racehorses that have been abandoned at the track or surrendered by their owners.
In some circumstances, however, Dee makes exceptions for other breeds. One horse, Brandy, was rescued from owners who could not take care of her.
“You can see the white marks on her face where her halter was put on too tight,” said Dee. “Her old owners told me that they called her ‘Horse,’ but I’m not going to do that. I’m calling her Brandy.”
Dee does a majority of the work around the farm by herself, such as caring for all of the horses and cleaning the property. However, it is hard to find help with all of these responsibilities, especially during the winter months.
“I would love to have volunteers,” she said.
She starts her mornings at 4 a.m. and works until the late evening hours. The horses are put out into the pasture every afternoon, and Dee brings them in every night.
“They go out whether it’s rain or shine, even in the winter,” said Dee. “They only stay in if the rain is icy or if it’s too cold.”
Even though it’s a lot of work to care for so many horses, spending time with the animals is important to Dee.
“This is my favorite part,” said Dee while grooming one of the horses, a retired
Thoroughbred named Star Boggs. “If I can ride a horse, that’s just a bonus. I love grooming them and just spending time with them.”
Bright Futures Farm does not receive funding from state or federal agencies, so the sanctuary operates entirely on the generosity of its supporters. Dee has to rely on online auctions, fundraising events, donations and sponsorships in order to care for the horses.
Although most of the horses that come to the farm are adopted within a short period of time, a lot of the older residents become permanent and are sponsored instead.
“Sometimes people connect with a horse, so they sponsor that horse,” said Dee. “We love sponsors.”
At the end of each exhausting day, Dee would not change a thing. She has given a second chance to injured and neglected horses, and she has provided a permanent sanctuary of safety, light and love.
“I love what I do, it’s like a hobby or a vacation for me,” Dee said. “When horses come here, they can remember how to be a horse again.”