Freedom Valley

RUTLEDGE –  Freedom Valley Rescue is saving lives one horse at a time. 

Freedom Valley Rescue is a small, non-profit organization in Grainger County. It is a horse rescue specializing in slaughter-bound and neglected or abused horses and dogs. Slaughtering horses is legal in Mexico and Canada. Owner Heather Berthiaume said the organization works with owner-surrendered horses, kill pen horses, auction horses and loose horses, which are paid for by the pound for horse meat in Mexico and Canada. 

Freedom Valley Rescue operates on 45 acres at its farm in Blaine. The 45 acres are split into a quarantine pasture and a field for adoptable horses. Berthiaume and her husband built the pastures to meet federal requirements, where they are deemed safe and accessible. 

Berthiaume said it takes a strong person to be able to see the animals in the conditions they are often found in and know, more often than not, humans put the animals in the position. The horses are often deemed worthless by their original owners by the time they are rescued. 

Freedom Valley Rescue works with a trainer to correct behavioral issues. The horses are also given veterinarian care to help with malnourishment, among many other health issues. Once the horses are at peak care, many are made adoptable to vetted homes, where they will be safe and not in a position to return to a slaughter house or auction. 

Berthiaume said she had a wake-up call when she moved to Blaine from Iowa. 

“I had a lot of heartbreak when I first moved down here,” she said. 

Shelter animals are in Iowa, according to Berthiaume, but she said they were not as prevalent as they are in Grainger County.

“You’ll see stray dogs like you do down here. You don’t see dogs tied to trees, like that’s pretty common down here. It’s been a little hard for me,” said Berthiaume. 

Berthiaume spent her childhood in Iowa around horses at her grandparents’ house. When she and her husband found their farm in Blaine, Berthiaume said it was time to get her own horses. She rescued two pasture pets, one of which was an Amish buggy horse that had been discarded after an injury. He had been left to die on the outskirts of an Amish community and had no teeth where he had been eating rocks to survive. He had an indent on his nose from where a halter had not been moved as he grew from a colt. She said after receiving proper care, the horse is now a beautiful, healthy, easy moving horse. She currently has five horses at Freedom Valley Rescue.

Anyone who would like to help Freedom Valley Rescue can make a donation at www.freedomvalleyrescue.com through the organization’s GoFundMe account or its Amazon Wish List, or provide one of the many material needs for the rescue, including a horse trailer, new fencing and a barn. Donations can also be made via Venmo @FreedomValleyRescue. 

The rescue will also be seeking volunteers at a later date. 

Anyone who would like to assist Freedom Valley Rescue with a donation can also visit its Hocus Pocus Halloween movie night Friday, October 15 at 7:30 p.m. at The Little Dipper Diner and Creamery in Blaine. Guests may enter with an at-will donation. 

Freedom Valley Rescue merchandise will be available at the event. The Little Dipper Diner and Creamery will be providing treats. Guests are invited to bring a blanket or chair to the event. Berthiaume said guests who choose to bring a chair should seat them toward the back to allow for those who bring blankets to see the film. Halloween scenery will be available for guests to take photos. Costumes are encouraged. 

Berthiaume said if the weather and mood of the horses permits, one or two rescue horses will be at the event approximately 45 minutes before the movie. 

Freedom Valley Rescue has received recognition from Southern Comfort and has a rescue named SoCo in honor of the business. Southern Comfort has provided Freedom Valley Rescue with a box of products to raffle and will provide treats for guests ages 21 and older at a later Freedom Valley Rescue event. 

Freedom Valley Rescue is currently pending 501(c)(3) status. 

Anyone who would like more information about Freedom Valley Rescue can visit www.freedomvalleyrescue.com or at Freedom Valley Horse Rescue on Facebook.