The STAT Horse Sanctuary became a very busy place Saturday, March 18, with more that 150 visitors at the ranch’s St. Patrick’s Day Open House at 31530 Scott Road in Winchester.

Greeting visitors was Pattie Roberts, founder and director of the nonprofit sanctuary housed at a 20-acre leased ranch that currently serves 19 horses and has handled up to 47 in the past. In addition to the horses, there are goats, chickens, a donkey and a very old llama named Jeremiah that wanders aimlessly around the grounds and is loved by all the volunteers.

“What we do basically, is we take old horses that are no longer rideable but are healthy and loveable, and we use them as companion and therapy animals. We work with licensed therapists and call it ‘carrot therapy.’ We (also) invite the special needs community to come out, senior citizens and moms with teenagers,” Roberts said. “It’s an amazing bonding experience. We are totally staffed by volunteers. We are totally supported by donations.”

Volunteers at the ranch range from teens to seniors. One volunteer, Kim Rhodes, is a well-known Disney Channel actor, playing Carey Martin on the Disney Channel sitcoms The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and The Suite Life on Deck. She is constantly tending the horses and other animals at the sanctuary. “It’s heaven,” she said. “I can’t articulate a reason that would properly illustrate what this place does for my soul. It is everything I have ever wanted. Knowing that I’m being of service, making a difference, working with animals… Working in a place that we need and giving back to the community I’ve fallen in love with.”

Rhodes is one of the many volunteers working at the nonprofit sanctuary. Feeding the horses some treats was senior volunteer and contributor Teresa Matthews who the horses seem to love. Some of the teenage volunteers who sought solace with a visit to the sanctuary in the past, are now helping whenever they can.

The St. Patrick’s Day Open House at the sanctuary was the first after the COVID-19 pandemic. In prior years it was held at local restaurants according to Roberts, who was almost overwhelmed by the day’s turnout. The event included gift baskets from many businesses that were offered in a silent auction, a bounce house for children, a DJ with music, booths hosted by various organizations like Foresters Group, Lemon Quest products, Denise Gregory clothes and others. But the most popular attractions were the horses and animals living at the sanctuary, especially with the younger teen guests. Food offerings included Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers and special corned beef hash slider dishes.

Roberts said donations will help keep the horses healthy and away from euthanasia for many years. Donations will also help buy the medicines and feed for the animals, fly controls, dewormers, shelters and corrals and tractor work. Corporate sponsors are welcome as well as sponsors for veterinary services and ranch insurance. To help with the STAT Sanctuary, visit STATHorseSanctuary.org or call 951-733-3000.

Tony Ault