Man creates peace with horse rescue

Farm Forum

MIAMI – These days, when Victor Cutino puts his hand under 6-year-old Dreamer’s stomach, he no longer grips both of the thoroughbred’s sides at once.

A former racehorse who had competed under the name Remainstobeseen, Dreamer was 300 to 400 pounds underweight when she was rescued in January.

Dreamer, along with a 16-year-old broodmare named Haven, was discovered standing in several inches of feces and urine in a tiny stable. The woman who found them persuaded the owner to give them up, Cutino said.

Both horses are still thin, but their hair no longer falls out in dull clumps when he touches them.

Each has gained about 250 pounds since their arrival at Peaceful Ridge Rescue, the Davie, Fla., ranch Cutino founded in December to care for abandoned horses.

“The way they eat, they don’t come up for air,” he said. “And they look at you and it’s like their eyes are saying, ‘Thank you.’”

Cutino, a “concrete guy” from the Bronx, moved to Davie 14 years ago to be the CEO of Home Medical Equipment in Aventura, Fla.

He didn’t have any horses and didn’t want any.

But his wife, Ann Cooper-Cutino, did.

“That was my dream, to have horses,” she said.

And Davie, with its extensive trail system, is horse country.

So they fenced in the yard and got a white Arabian they called Baby Girl.

Then they got her a companion, and in 2004, Cutino stopped working full time at the medical equipment company to found Horse Tales Ranch, where he begins his days with 4 a.m. feedings, working until 9 at night.

Word soon got out that he had land and barn space and wouldn’t turn away an animal that needed a home.

“I’ve picked up horses when they’re nothing but a skeleton,” said Cutino. “People lose their homes, so they take their furniture, they take their kids, and they leave their horses in the backyard. And they don’t tell anyone.”

People started coming to him with the ones they couldn’t afford to keep – not only horses, but rabbits, goats, pigs, chickens and the dogs that bay when a visitor pulls up to the ranch.

Cutino took in eight rescued horses his first year, and spent about $15,000 of his own money on their care.

More came in after the economic downturn, and by the time Cutino founded Peaceful Ridge Rescue last December and set aside pasture space and stalls in Horse Tales’ hurricane-proof barns for the rescue ranch, he’d already taken in more than 50.

Since January, he’s rescued another 10.

The economic crisis didn’t only hurt people, it also hurt their animals, said Valerie Pringle, equine protection specialist with the Humane Society of the United States.

Across the country, cat and dog owners moved to apartments that wouldn’t take pets, and horse and cattle owners lost their land or couldn’t pay for their animals’ feed.

“There were a lot of people in a position where they had to give up their pets, and that includes dogs, cats and horses,” said Pringle. “With a horse, they might not be able to afford board, or if they were on a farm, they might have lost the farm.”

Horses are expensive animals to keep, said Cutino.

At Peaceful Ridge, he said, each horse costs about $2,500 a year in feed, shots and hoof care.

The rescue ranch makes up the cost through donations, horse sponsorships, riding lessons and adoptions.

Costs can be steeper for horse owners who don’t have their own land and need to pay monthly stable fees.

“Cutino just has his heart in this,” said Davie Mayor Judy Paul, who attended the ranch’s grand opening earlier this year. “It’s a great operation. They’re doing their part to keep Davie an equestrian, green