To the Rescue
By Shannon Sickmon
According to the American Horse Council, some 90,000 to 140,000 equines are deemed unwanted, and most are sent to slaughterhouses. Canton resident Casey Montana and her family ensure some of those horses have a home where they can live out their natural lives in comfort and safety.
The good folks at WarAngel Farms in suburban Canton have spent the last three years fighting for horses that otherwise face abandonment, neglect, and abuse. While the farm’s main focus is rescuing horses, it also has rescued pigs, donkeys, cows, sheep, goats, a flock of chickens, and even a pair of alpacas.
Casey says she sometimes finds her rescue cases through social media. Horse lovers all over the country use social media and internet message boards to help save animals. Individuals post videos, pictures, and stories of horses that have only weeks—or sometimes days—left to live. Rescue organizations appeal to the public to raise funds to pay for the animals’ release and subsequent care.
A visit to WarAngel Farms is a story of transformation. The farm is an enclave away from the hustle of daily life. When you drive through the iron gate at WarAngel Farms Way, you hear nothing other than the whisper of falling leaves and the gentle nickers of horses. Once you pull up to the main barn, you’re greeted by one or more of the farm’s many ambassadors—charming barn cats. Curious, friendly eyes of various animals peer at you over a fence.
The vision of WarAngel Farms is simple. Casey pictures a future where all animals are safe, loved, and protected. In her small corner of Cherokee, Casey and her family hope to make their vision a reality. For animals her farm cannot save, she gives them the last act of kindness so they may die with dignity instead of terrified and filthy at a kill pen.
Casey explains how she got started on her mission, and it is a mission for her whole family. She has always lived on a farm and had horses, but only in the past three years has she been able to build her own rescue facility. The family members have always been animal lovers, and they translated that passion into rescuing animals.
Casey is a pretty woman with a slender build and delicate features, but when she talks about WarAngel Farms and all the animals on it, she glows. She has a degree in music and entertainment management and works remotely for a music management company out of Nashville, in addition to her work at the farm. “My husband and I rescued a horse out of the slaughter pens a few years ago. I fell in love with the horse, but I couldn’t save him. He died three months later. When he passed away, I decided, ‘This is what I’m doing. I’m rescuing animals.’” She started the rescue facility in Canton, and the rest, as they say, is history.
On a tour of the farm you get to know every animal on the one-hundred-acre spread. Every animal that you meet at WarAngel Farms has a story, and Casey knows them all. The animals are as much her family as her biological one, and they are loved. She relays some of the more harrowing stories and talks at length about how much each animal has changed since its arrival.
Miniature Charlie Brown is being trained as a therapy horse. When Casey rescued Charlie Brown out of a kill pen, he was abandoned and ill. He had shipping fever and could barely walk. Shipping fever happens with the stress of being transported compromises a horse’s immune system, and fluid builds up in the animal’s lungs. As a result of neglect, he was also blind in one eye. After a year at WarAngel, Charlie Brown is a new horse. At less than thirty inches high and only one hundred pounds, tiny Charlie is a feisty, cuddly miniature horse that demands petting. He is so gentle and well-trained that he often stays in the main house with the family.
Casey describes the story of Dreamer and her colt, DC, two wild mustangs rescued from a herd in Wyoming while Dreamer was still pregnant. Dreamer was sick, scared, and starving. She was wild and untrained. She broke through three fences at the farm in her panic, but after training, love, and excellent veterinary care, both Dreamer and DC are ready for riding. They love children and nuzzle up to you the minute you get near their stalls.
The farm’s newest rescue, Dutton, is a massive Amish draft horse, an ebony wall of muscle with mammoth hooves. If you look at the pictures from even weeks prior, Dutton’s eyes were a well of despair. He was unable to work because he was blind in one eye and sore from pulling. His owner had surrendered him to the slaughter pens. Casey had been watching Dutton for weeks on social media. She asked for donations over Facebook and other avenues and managed to raise the $4,000 needed to bail him out and bring him home to her farm.
Dutton arrived with pneumonia and still isn’t completely cured, but he still rallies to greet Casey when she walks over. She spent the first few nights after his arrival monitoring him. When his fever spiked, she stayed up all night bathing him in alcohol until his fever finally dropped. For the first time, Dutton’s gentle face expresses hope.
The stories from the farm are endless. Every animal has been rescued from horrendous conditions. Now they are all happy, healthy, and cherished. Some hope is on the horizon for suffering animals like the ones Casey has rescued. In 2021 the Save America’s Forgotten Equines Act was introduced in Congress. The bill, if it becomes a law, would prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the United States and ban their export, as well. Until and unless the bill becomes a law, though, senseless and cruel practices will continue.
Despite the many horse rescue organizations across the county, America still has far too many animals and too few rescues. The American Veterinary Medical Association notes that facilities do not have enough capacity or resources to accommodate all the unwanted horses. On average rescues are turning away more than one-third of the horses that need help. The numbers are heartbreaking, but even more distressing is that the unwanted animals aren’t gently euthanized. It’s a brutal end for the horses, and many are pregnant mares.
To fund their rescue and pay for the prodigious monthly vet bills, the family offers a variety of fun-filled events for the public. It hosts movie nights as one fundraiser. You can also have private, themed photo shoots with any of the animals, and the gorgeous mustang, Dreamer, makes a beautiful unicorn. The family offers an artsy animal camp for children too, and women can enjoy Ladies’ Night Out, where groups can paint a portrait of one of the horses. Anyone can reserve a private tour to meet and cuddle with all the animals. WarAngel Farms also created a 5K run for the athletic minded, plus motorcycle buffs can venture out on the WarAngel Farms Ride for Rescues. All proceeds of these events go to the animals’ care, shelter, and food.
How You Can Help
While the folks at WarAngel Farms love and appreciate their volunteers, managing a rescue for large animals is a formidable undertaking. Family members work from dawn to dusk, and they don’t get paid for their work. You can volunteer your time, particularly if you will help with cleaning.
WarAngel Farms mostly relies on donations to keep the farm running. To help, visit WarAngelFarms.com. You can send donations through PayPal, contact Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 770-317-8476. All donations are tax deductible. WarAngel Farms has a wish list on Amazon and at Tractor Supply too
Shannon is a writing and editing evangelist. She has been creating content of all types for over a decade in subjects that run the gamut from literature to politics to sports.