H.O.R.S.E. of Connecticut has rescued more than 650 horses during the 30-year tenure of Patty Wahlers, now serving as president of the program.

The 47-acre farm, located at 43 Wilbur Road in Washington, is home to the nonprofit Humane Organization Representing Suffering Equines, familarly known as H.O.R.S.E.

"Our horses have been through incredibly difficult times, and yet they've survived and now are thriving. They deserve the best," Ms. Wahlers said.

The farm relies solely on donations and private grants, as well as the volunteer efforts of area residents such as Darlene Lockwood of New Milford.

"We rely on our volunteers to keep things running," Ms. Wahlers said. "And we are grateful for everyone who volunteers."

H.O.R.S.E. recently received a grant from the John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation to put in new wood fencing and rebuild three paddocks. Work was scheduled to be accomplished July during a Vounteers Day. The foundation, which was established by Jane to honor her husband, assists nonprofit organizations with the care of animals.

"The fields need to be cleaned, the horses given extra attention, repairs made to barns and many other things," Ms. Wahlers said. "We are especially looking for people who have skills in the trades such as carpenters, electricians, landscapers, or anyone who can help us make the farm better for the horses.

For Ms. Lockwood, it's more than just helping out, it's a life's mission. As a volunteer for the past two years, she has helped to rehabilitate and rescue many horses.

"I was looking for a volunteer opportunity that filled my heart," Ms. Lockwood said. "I've always been an animal lover and, when I found out about H.O.R.S.E. of Connecticut, I knew this was the right fit for me."

Her introduction to horses had come from her father, who was a horseman in the 1940s at the Fairfield Hunt Club. She has long been vehemently opposed to the poor treatment of racetrack horses.

"I feel as if it's my mission to educate people about the inhumane treatment of these magnificent animals," Ms. Lockwood said. "When the Kentucky Derby comes around, some people are excited about it but I don't think it's wonderful at all. The horses used for racing are too young, too inexperienced and isolated from others. It's all about the money and not about the welfare of the horses."

Since coming to H.O.R.S.E. of Connecticut, Lockwood has worked hard to change that. One of her favorite horses to spend time with is Romeo, a retired racehorse who was injured in a trailer accident that resulted in a broken back.

"Romeo is one of my favorites, Ms. Lockwood said. "He is so sweet and loving. When he first came here, the vet said he would never be ridden and probably wouldn't live for even a few months. Today, he is healthy and can carry a rider who weighs less than 125 pounds. It took a lot of hard work to get him to this point."

Like most of the other horses on the farm, Romeo is up for adoption to a loving home and part of the organization's sponsorship program through which, for $50 a month, people can visit the farm four times during the month and groom, hand walk and spend time with the horse of their choice. For those unable to visit the farm, updates about the horse's progress are sent via email.

According to Ms. Wahlers, "Darlene is a great asset to the farm. She is consistent in her work and enjoys the horses. She also likes the challenge of working with horses who are afraid."

Working with the horses, whether it's riding, grooming, or walking them, is an important part of their recovery, she noted.

"All of the horses that come to the farm have been severely abused and neglected," Ms. Wahlers said. "Many times, even the vets don't think they'll make it, but my volunteers and I have proved them wrong many times."

Ms. Lockwood feels as passionately about the H.O.R.S.E. cause.

"My big wish is that each horse will be adopted into a loving home, and live in peace for the rest of their lives, never ever to be hurt again," she said. "The other thing I wish is that everyone would become aware of the awful way horses are treated and donate money so that more work can be done to help them."

H.O.R.S.E. is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of abused and neglected horses. For more information call 860-868-1960.

To make a donation, check www.horseofct.org. For more photos, see www.newmilfordspectrum.com.