Shorty’s Safe Haven Rehab and Rescue in Foley provides space to grow for foster kids and horses

By Melanie LeCroy
Lifestyle Editor
melanie@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 8/26/22

Amber Buswell and her family live and breathe horses.Literally.They live in an apartment inside their horse barn surrounded by their 20 horses, a calf, chickens, dogs, cats and a pot belly pig named …

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Shorty’s Safe Haven Rehab and Rescue in Foley provides space to grow for foster kids and horses

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Amber Buswell and her family live and breathe horses.

Literally.

They live in an apartment inside their horse barn surrounded by their 20 horses, a calf, chickens, dogs, cats and a pot belly pig named Miss Polly.

Buswell has a soft spot for those in need. Most of the animals on the farm have been rescued or surrendered but they are loved just the same.

Her love affair with horses began at the tender age of 5 in Michigan. At the age of 12, she needed to get service hours for a 4-H project. The seven years she spent volunteering at a therapeutic riding facility helped set her lifelong goal.

"It always had a strong hold on my heart. I always told everybody that when I become an old lady and retire, I want to own a therapeutic riding place. It has just always been there. It has always been my life plan to do what I am doing here," Buswell said.

What she is doing here on her farm in Foley is giving animals and children a safe haven.

Shorty's Safe Haven Rehab and Rescue is a 5013c nonprofit that brings foster and adopted children and rescue horses together.

"We are a therapy and mentoring program. We will take the younger children to hopefully get a hold of their trauma at an earlier age, but the majority of our program is for the older foster kids that aren't adopted," Buswell said. "We want to teach these kids, both boys and girls, life skills like how to swing a hammer. We want to give them a purpose."

The children in the program learn about horse ownership, how to provide daily care for them and build trust. Buswell said the trust they build with the horses carries over into their everyday lives.

"Most of these kids will go in and talk to a counselor but a lot of them are not going to tell the counselor everything to get the help they need," Buswell said. "They are going to cry into these horses' necks and talk to them while they are out under the trees. That is going to be their friend and security place. Horses have a phenomenal way of helping people."

The program also offers the children a mentor and they are taught skills that could help them in the future, including how to fix a fence and change a car tire.

"The kids that get in trouble are the bored ones with no guidance or purpose in life. That is what we want this farm to give them, just a little sense of purpose. Our motto is "where hope lives" and that is exactly what I want," Buswell said.

She has seen firsthand how a horse can help a child with trauma. In 2020, she adopted a child that was in a bad living situation. Having a horse in her life helped her come out of her shell.

"She would come in from school and you could tell she was having a bad day. She would put her bag down, grab a snack, grab a horse and just disappear. Then 30 minutes or an hour later she would come back, and she was happy and ready to talk," Buswell said.

Shorty's Safe Haven Rehab and Rescue currently has seven students, 13 therapy program horses and seven rescue horses which will be rehomed. Buswell hopes to get information about the program out into the community so it can grow.

The main source of funding currently comes from Buswell's horse transport business, Magnolia Equine. Coast to coast transport of horses has paid the bills and made the program possible but it keeps Buswell on the road most of the month. The more time away from the farm the fewer kids she can help.

Buswell and her board of directors have been working to produce fundraising events and ways for people to help. One of those events is Shorty's Fall Festival on Oct. 1. The farm has also created a sponsor a horse program. Her goal is to garner enough support through upcoming fundraising efforts that she can put the transport business on the backburner and grow the program.

"I would love nothing more than for this farm to be just Shorty's Safe Haven Rehab and Rescue whenever God decides to do that for me. I want this farm to serve the community however it needs to serve it," Buswell said. "It is all about building confidence, responsibility and empathy. All those things to be a benefit to society when they are an adult. That is what I am hoping this farm can do."

To learn more about Shorty's Safe Haven Rehab and Rescue, visit their Facebook page.

 

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