A Baiting Hollow horse rescue receives surprise donation

Even the best-laid plans can run into unexpected hiccups.

Chris Court of Manorville arrived Monday morning at Neptune Feed & Saddlery in Calverton with two neighbors who had helped with a fund-raiser for a nearby horse rescue. The plan, meticulously organized by Ms. Court, was to surprise the owners of North Shore Horse Rescue with 1,500 pounds of donated horse feed.

The many bags of horse feed, whose value totaled more than $700, were to be loaded into a truck at the facility and then transported to Sound Avenue for the surprise delivery.

As Ms. Court and her neighbors, Bonnie Forstel and Jane Dagostino, examined the “Team Sapphire” banner they planned to unveil during the surprise, an unexpected visitor walked into the store: North Shore Horse Rescue owner Laurel Palermo.

“She’s not supposed to be here,” Ms. Court whispered.

Ms. Palermo had expected Ms. Court to be stopping by the farm to deliver some feed as she had done in the past, but was unaware of the extent of the fund-raiser that had been underway for several weeks. Ms. Court introduced her neighbors to Ms. Palermo, who stood at the counter to purchase hay. Ms. Court told her that her neighbors had tagged along to see the farm. A few moments later, Ms. Palermo left, unaware of what was next.

The surprise was still intact.

Chris Court of Manorville (second from left) organized a fundraiser to buy horse feed for North Shore Horse Rescue. Ms. Court, two of her neighbors and employees at Neptune Feed & Saddlery in Calverton surprised the owners Monday morning with the donation. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

The story began in March, when Ms. Court, who works as a fund-raiser and special events director for Hospice Care Network, went on a 90-minute tour of the Baiting Hollow farm.

“I was so impressed with how the farm was run that I said to myself, something has to be done to help them,” Ms. Court said. “They need donations, they need sponsorships, they need publicity.”

Ms. Palermo runs the rescue on 10 acres with her husband, Tom Renzetti, and a team of about 10 volunteers. It was founded in 2002 with a small boarding facility known as Gold Rush Farms. The horses come from a variety of backgrounds, some as off-track thoroughbreds. One is a retired park ranger horse. One horse is named Bullet, a reference to how close it came to being put down before it was rescued. Ava is an ex-racehorse and Phoenix is the first rescue to make a home at the farm in 2003.

Ms. Palermo said some of the horses may have had caring owners who fell on hard times. Meadow and Confetti are two horses who lost their longtime home when their owner was dying. Some horses are adopted and either stay at the facility or move elsewhere with their new owners.

The farm is currently home to about 15 rescued horses.

Shortly after 10:30 a.m. Monday, a truck from Neptune pulled into the dirt driveway where Ms. Court was waiting to deliver the surprise.

“This is a magnificent horse rescue,” Ms. Court said. “This I hope will also inspire other people to either do the same thing I did or help sponsor a horse because it was easy. People do not have to do this alone. I was able to get other people involved and that’s what made the difference.”

“Just amazing,” Ms. Palermo said.

Ava, a rescued thoroughbred from Louisiana, now makes her home at North Shore Horse Rescue in Baiting Hollow. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

The donated feed will last about 2 1/2 weeks. The total donation equaled about $1,000, counting other monetary donations, Ms. Court said.

“That’s huge,” said Ms. Palermo, who also works at East End Disability Associates, while her husband is in construction.

More than 20 people contributed to the fund-raiser, which was named after Ms. Court’s dog Sapphire, an Australian shepherd mix. Ms. Court said her dog is like a celebrity in her neighborhood, so naming the fund-raiser after Sapphire helped bring people in.

Lexi Ritsch of East Quogue was at the farm Monday taking care of her adopted horse Ava, who stays at the farm.

Sapphire, the dog the campaign was named after, enjoys the company of a horse at the Baiting Hollow farm. (Courtesy photo)

Ms. Ritsch said it’s a more natural environment for the horse to stay there rather than spending time mostly alone in a stall somewhere else. She said Ava competed in about five races in Louisiana before she was bought at an auction and brought to Long Island and then wasn’t cared for. It’s the first horse she’s owned.

“She’s the sweetest,” she said. “She’s puppy-like, very friendly.”

North Shore Horse Rescue, located at 2330 Sound Ave., is open to the public Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Ms. Palermo estimates 600 to 800 people visit the farm yearly.

Visitors are encouraged to donate $10 per person.

“They do this from the heart,” Ms. Court said.

Top photo caption: Tom Renzetti and Laurel Palermo, owners of North Shore Horse Rescue in Baiting Hollow, were surprised Monday morning with a donation of 1,500 pounds of horse feed. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

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