We are just basically your normal life-long animal lovers who are following their hearts in stepping out on blind faith and committing our lives to save as many horses as possible.
I’m Joey Heaton and I have worked in the Information Technology industry since 1995 for companies ranging from professional football, to multi-billion dollar software companies. Starting an equine rescue was probably the last thing in the world that I would have ever thought I would be doing. Don’t get me wrong. I have always been an animal lover, but had never had much exposure to horses. In fact, I was initially intimidated by a horse’s sheer size and I had never thought of them as anything more than a farm animal. However, miracles do happen and this one happened to have a long white mane and tail. As a self-described “germaphobe” who would gag at anything resembling horse poop, I have developed a rescuer’s heart and would walk through hell and back to end horse suffering.
My wife Cynthia, has been a “horse person” since she was 3 years old and was placed upon a pony for the first time. Her love for horses blossomed over the years and rescuing horses was something that she knew she wanted to do for as long as she can remember. Cynthia had competed in Georgia Hunter & Jumper Association events throughout her childhood and teenage years competing at State and Regional levels. However, since starting her finance career in 1996, the thought of starting a rescue had taken a backseat to starting a family and establishing herself in her company.
Cynthia had first met Greyson when she was 13 years old and he was 2. Her trainer had asked her if she would be interested in taking a green Arabian who had never been ridden and turn him into a show-worthy hunter. Cynthia accepted the challenge and worked with him every day of her summer vacation and continued, once school started, in the evenings and on weekends. By the end of his training, Greyson had been honed into a future champion and he and Cynthia had built a bond that, unbeknownst to either of them, would be everlasting. Cynthia’s parents knew that they had to do whatever they could to maintain this relationship, so they purchased Greyson and surprised Cynthia as her Christmas present that year.
Over the years, Greyson and Cynthia competed together in numerous shows. He saw her through all the “ups and downs” of her teenage years. She often referred to him as her “Soul Horse” and if Greyson could have talked, he would have probably referred to her as his “Soul Human’”. Unfortunately, the time came where Cynthia had to make one of the most difficult decisions in her life and choose between keeping Greyson and going to college. The only way that she would consider giving him up was knowing that he would be going to the “right” home. About a year earlier, Cynthia had met a young girl who reminded her of herself, who had a strong desire to show hunters and had the natural talent to do so. Knowing that it was time to say goodbye, Cynthia sold Greyson to the little girl’s family and wished her the best of luck. Unfortunately, Cynthia had lost contact with the family about 2 years later after they had moved away and knew nothing else of what happened to Greyson. For the next 20 years, Greyson had been a staple in Cynthia’s memories. She often wondered if he was still alive and if the little girl still had him. She realized that she would probably never have closure as to what happened to her “Soul Horse” and would have to spend the rest of her life living with that uncertainty.
For most, that would have been the end of the story, but in late April of 2012, God sent the first of many blessings in order for us to realize His plan. One Saturday evening, Cynthia noticed a horse on a Facebook rescue site that reminded her of Greyson if he were “old and sick”. At first, she dismissed the thought because of the odds of it actually being Greyson were very slim. However, knowing that this horse was roughly the same age, it was his eyes that gave her hope. The next morning, Cynthia sent an email to the rescue asking for more information. The woman who ran the rescue said that a month earlier, she had been driving home from work when she decided to take a different route. She noticed a dry pasture with 4 senior horses standing at the fence who looked like skeletons about to fall over. Being that she has a heart for rescue, she was unable to pass the farm and continue on her way. She decided to visit the farm house and try to convince the owner to allow her to take them, get them healthy, and find them new homes. At the farm house, she met an elderly lady who had explained that the horses belonged to her husband who had passed away a few months prior. The woman didn’t have the ability to care for the horses anymore, but also didn’t have the heart to let go of the last living pieces of her husband. Knowing that the horses were very close to death and how much her husband had loved them, the woman agreed to let the rescue rehabilitate the horses and find them homes. After a few emails back and forth, an old coggins report would verify that Cynthia’s prayers had been answered and Greyson had been found.
Finally, on May 30, 2012, Cynthia was able to reconnect with her “Soul Horse” and rekindle the love that had been vacant in her life for over 20 years. It was also very obvious that Greyson felt the same way. He did not leave her side for the entire visit and showed a prominent sadness in his eyes when it was time to say goodbye. We knew that Greyson’s recovery would be a difficult one. He was around 350 lbs. underweight and was unable to eat solid food. Fortunately, Greyson’s rescuer had put together a plan to get him healthy again. An agreement was made that it would be best for him to stay in Alabama until he was physically strong enough to make the trip back to Georgia.
Over the next month, we drove down to Alabama whenever we had a chance to visit with Greyson. We would bath him, groom him, and give him lots of love and treats. It was during this time that he and I bonded and made the vow that I would spoil Greyson and do whatever it takes to make sure that he lives out his remaining years knowing nothing but unconditional love and making a personal transformation into being a “horse person”. These trips helped us decide that we wanted to get involved in rescuing and helping unwanted horses find new forever homes. Between finding Greyson and just learning of a boarding facility very close to our home that was for sale, it started to become obvious that a message was being sent.
On June 30, 2012, Greyson was ready to come home. He had gained enough weight to be considered healthy and had been eating solid food for a couple of weeks. We were so happy to get him back to Georgia where we could see him every day, but we knew that it could take months before we could finalize the purchase the property and get it ready for Greyson and our other horses. We also knew that Greyson would still need some rehabilitation and since he was still a bit underweight and not knowing how physically strong he was, we decided to give Greyson a job as a therapy horse through TRoT: The Reins of Therapy where he gets to help people work through their emotional issues and pass his “magic” on to them.
Sadly, Greyson crossed the Rainbow Bridge on October 15th, 2015. Even though he is no longer with us, his legacy lives on through the ones we continue to rescue. In his honor, we have dedicated his stall as Greyson’s Haven in which we will provide sanctuary to a senior horse in need.
Dreams Become Reality
After several months of negotiations, our offer was accepted to purchase a horse farm with a 23 stall barn, indoor/outdoor riding arenas, fenced green pastures, and plenty of usable office space. We have named the property Winding Creek Farm and this will be the permanent home of Trinity Rescue Inc. We also felt that before we officially started this part of our journey, we needed to make our relationship right in God’s eyes. So, on August 4, 2012, we were married on the property overlooking the pasture, completely catching our guests by surprise (they thought that they were here for the rescue’s kickoff celebration).
Finally, on August 31, 2012, the purchase of Winding Creek Farm was complete and Trinity Rescue Inc. became a reality. If anyone ever tells you that following God’s calling is easy, then they’ve never actually done it. Our journey so far has been very stressful, very expensive, and has even cost me the few remaining hair follicles on my head, but if we can save one horse from abuse, neglect, or abandonment and place them in a loving home, then it has all been worth it.
None of this would have been possible without God, His patience with us, our family, and our friends. We have also received so much inspiration from our Facebook family on Greyson’s Journey. Your kind words of encouragement and support helped us over the hurdles we’ve hit along the way when we were feeling that our dream may be cut short. Thank you.