By CAROLINE MURRAY
TOWN OF FLORIDA -- Easy Street director Nina Bellinger has seen many volunteers come and go from her horse rescue operation since opening in 2006.
She said many volunteers take on the task without realizing how much responsibility is associated with maintaining a horse.
However, she said, those who stay never want to leave her farm -- or the horses' side.
"People help for a while, but then they have other stuff going on in their lives," Bellinger said. "Right now, we are down to a core group of really dedicated volunteers, but we need more."
In an effort to hire more horse-loving rescue members, Bellinger throws several volunteer orientations throughout the year. The next one takes place Sunday at 4 p.m. at her 109 Langley Road operation. And she hopes for a large turnout.
Her horse rescue operates solely through the help of volunteers and community donations.
Bellinger said the more volunteers her rescue attracts, the more horses they can help.
They are always looking for assistance; Bellinger said that unlike horses, there is rarely an overflow of volunteers or contributions.
Two years ago, Bellinger took in 15 malnourished, parasite-infested, untrained horses seized from a farm in Sprakers. She said her operation managed to foster out nine stallions and seven currently remain at Easy Street. Others shuffled to foster care and will be taken back at the end of August if no one adopts them, she said.
She said there will always be more need than she can monetarily or physically handle. She won't, however, take on more than they can manage.
She said Easy Street is not a horse sanctuary and the operation screens each animal before taking it in.
If another horse farm reaches out to Bellinger, but they do not have room, she said they will provide them with food or bales of hay.
"We are always asking for additional help. If we can raise money we can take in more horses, but we are not going to take in more than we can take care of," Bellinger said.
Easy Street is not the only horse rescue operation struggling in New York state, let along the United States.
Recent reports suggest some non-for-profit organizations are down 50 percent in contributions. Opposite of that, there has been an uptick in abandoned equines since 2007.
This trend can be attributed to the recession. According to reports, many owners have gotten rid of their horses and many donors have scaled back their generosity.
Even though the economy has steadied, reports suggest horses are still being abandoned and funds are not coming in consistently.
Bellinger said since opening in 2006, her operation has saved mor than 100 horses.
Easy Street focuses on taking care, vetting and rehabbing equines before matching them up with an owner.
Bellinger's love for equines stems from reading about American slaughter houses and the fate of many race horses.
She is looking for volunteers as dedicated as she is.
Over the years, Bellinger noticed many teenagers volunteering, but quickly giving up based on the amount of effort it takes.
On Sunday, Bellinger said she may see 15 people interested at orientation, but may have three to four stick with her operation.
Volunteers are put through training at Easy Street, especially if they have never worked with the animals before. All help may need to dress appropriately. Bellinger said no one can wear open-toed shoes, only "muck boots."
Additionally, all new help will work side by side with a veteran volunteer until they are ready to take on a shift of their own.
Besides actually caring for animals, Bellinger said the group is looking for fundraising and event coordination help.
Most importantly, the love for horses must be as big as, well, a horse.
"You must love horses. They are very therapeutic. Getting a horse hug makes each day a great day," Bellinger said.