Heavenly Horse Haven owner seeks volunteers

Heavenly Horse Haven owner Gina Perrin rides a horse at a fundraising and adoption event in 2019. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo

Heavenly Horse Haven equine rescue owner Gina Perrin said she is in need of volunteers to assist at the ranch, due to health issues she is struggling with at this time.

Known for her kindness for animals, her organized ranch and generosity for those in need, Perrin is the one who could use some assistance with the daily chores at the rescue, according to friends.

Her daughter Cathy Perez said, “My mom has dedicated her entire life to caring for and rescuing animals. As long as I can remember we have always had a small zoo in our backyard of animals that needed help and needed homes. She’s one of those people that always had a calling to be with the animals, and she has devoted her life to that cause.

“Her days start before the sun comes out and end long after it has set – with most of the hours in between spent feeding animals, cleaning their stalls and water buckets and giving them the attention she believes all animals deserve. Her ranch and organization would not exist without the countless hours she dedicates to them every day. The work and detail she devotes to each animal at her ranch cannot be matched,” Perez said.

Many of these animals were acquired by the rescue in poor condition and in need of rehabilitation. Others were owner-relinquished in good health and in various phases of training. The horses are assessed and vetted, and their individual needs met. Additional training is provided if needed. When they are ready, they are offered for adoption to their forever homes.

“It is our mission to help meet the need for a ‘safe haven’ for horses or other farm animals who are at risk, neglected, abused, too expensive to keep, unwanted or otherwise in need of special care,” according to the Heavenly Horse Haven website. “We are a diverse team of donors, supporters and volunteers from all walks of life who have stood up and said, ‘Not on my watch!’ We are united in the belief that ‘I can help save this animal.’”

Besides horses, the ranch is home to an emu and dogs, donkeys, llamas, alpacas, goats, poultry and pigs.

Fundraising events have raised necessary money to help feed, vet, house and care for the animals at the rescue.

Over the course of the last year, Perrin’s health started to deteriorate, however. It was small issues at first, she said, things that could also be explained by other things, like fatigue from long days or even dental issues. But as time progressed, things became more noticeable.

“A woman who had the strength of an ox and the muscle tone to match, was now shrinking and becoming weak,” Perez said. “The muscle atrophy was very alarming.”

In October 2019, as she was hosting her annual Heavenly Horse Haven Chili Cook Off fundraiser, Perrin’s speech became barely intelligible, she was drooling and in the days leading up to the event, she lost so much strength she was dropping her coffee cup and was unable to even brush her hair.

“At this point we had to intervene and force her to go to the emergency room – thinking it was a possible stroke. My mom, feeding the animals before heading to the hospital, was trying to laugh it off saying ‘I’ve just been overworking myself.’ You see, over the summer the ranch lost a few of its workers, and the volunteers were not coming as often and my mom and Mike were so shorthanded, they had to do almost everything on their own. So yes, she and Mike were both very overworked, but clearly something else was going on,” Perez said.

Perrin was admitted to the hospital for stroke-like symptoms. After two days, the only indication that something wasn’t right was the results to very basic nerve tests that two different neurologists performed. The way her nerves were responding to the exam, combined with the muscle atrophy and weakness and slurred speech, was extremely alarming to both neurologists.

In November, a third neurologist performed an extensive nerve study and found that although all Perrin’s physical symptoms suggested ALS, her nerve response to the study aligned more with a very rare autoimmune disease called myasthenia gravis.

“Myasthenia gravis has taken a very serious toll on my mom’s body, and one of the main symptoms of MG is that it gets worse with work,” Perez said. “So if you can imagine a woman like my mom, who physically works her body 15-plus hours a day, is struggling immensely with this condition. This disease is treated with blood infusion treatments, and the future is very unknown. Right now, she continues to struggle with the most basic tasks, such as brushing her hair, opening containers, breathing and even walking. The hope is that in the future, with the treatments, she will regain her strength, but right now she needs rest. She needs to put her health first, which is nearly impossible when she is responsible for over 100 animals on the ranch.”

The Heavenly Horse Haven organization needs help, Perez said. They need loving homes for the adoptable animals, which are primarily horses. The ranch needs funding to pay for people to do the work that Perrin did every day. They need volunteers to show up every day and clean stalls, feed animals and give them the attention they deserve, she said, and to continue Perrin’s legacy of Heavenly Horse Haven.

Heavenly Horse Haven is located at 58290 Marlis Lane in Anza. Their phone number is (951) 551-3561. They can be reached by email at info@heavenlyhorsehaven.org.

For more information about Heavenly Horse Haven, visit www.heavenlyhorsehaven.org or their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Heavenly-Horse-Haven-Inc-249695083829.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.