Equine Rescue of Aiken breaks ground for new rescue center at farm

·3 min read

Jul. 29—More than a year after a fire destroyed an eight-stall barn at its farm, Equine Rescue of Aiken held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday for the new structure that will replace it.

"This is another step toward becoming complete again," said Equine Rescue President and Managing Director Jim Rhodes prior to the event.

Plans call for another barn with eight stalls, but two of them will be larger so they can more easily accommodate horses with medical issues that require a high level of care.

The facility, described as a "rescue center" in an Equine Rescue news release, also will have an office and a room that can be used for the nonprofit's various programs for children, military veterans, active-duty service members and others.

R.H. Builders LLC is the contractor for the construction project.

Aiken County Council Chairman Gary Bunker welcomed the groundbreaking ceremony's attendees, including Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon.

Deacon Clay Pearson of Millbrook Baptist Church delivered the invocation.

Rhodes then talked about the immediate aftermath of the fire in April 2021. It caused approximately $450,000 in damage.

In addition to a barn, Equine Rescue lost equipment, medical supplies and tack.

Whistle, a miniature horse that had undergone multiple surgeries after being bitten by a dog, suffered burns.

"A year ago, I had no faith," Rhodes said. "I thought everything was on the way down. But since then, I have had some key volunteers that have stepped up that have restored my faith. They preached to me every day to have faith."

The new rescue center "is very much needed," Rhodes continued. "We will be able to do our programs better and we'll be able to take care of horses in need better."

The other speakers were Judy Mittino, Equine Rescue's capital campaign manager; Equine Rescue board member Amy Hebert; and Ginger Fox Haun, Equine Rescue board vice president.

Since Equine Rescue was established in 2006, more than 1,400 horses, ponies, mules and donkeys that it has assisted have been adopted, Mittino said.

Discussing the capital campaign following the groundbreaking ceremony, Mittino reported that more than $80,000 had been raised so far.

The goal is $450,000.

Much of the money will be used to pay for the new rescue center's construction, but funds are needed for landscaping and to replace medical supplies and other items lost in the blaze, Mittino told the Aiken Standard.

Also, "we want to add some things we don't have like slings for horses that are critically ill and can't stand," she said.

So that work could get started in earnest on the new rescue center while the capital campaign continues, Equine Rescue has arranged for financing through the Aiken branch of AgSouth Farm Credit.

"We're borrowing what we need with the hopes that people will see the progress and understand what is going on," Rhodes said. "Equine Rescue has never been in debt, but it's going in debt right now to do this. We're hoping that people will step up to the plate when they see something happening."

Aiken Equine Rescue's farm is at 532 Glenwood Drive.

For more information, visit aikenequinerescue.org.

Equine Rescue of Aiken also is known as Aiken Equine Rescue.