Weekly Feature



2016-04-14 / Lifestyles

Spruce Meadow Farm

offers saving grace to animals
by ETHAN POWERS Clarence Editor


Spruce Meadow Farm co-owner Karla Deacon incorporated Phoenix Rising Equine Rescue & Rehabilitation Inc. in December 2009. 
Photos by Chuck Skipper.Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Spruce Meadow Farm co-owner Karla Deacon incorporated Phoenix Rising Equine Rescue & Rehabilitation Inc. in December 2009. Photos by Chuck Skipper.Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com For most people, a hobby, regardless of how intense or passionate their devotion to it may be, remains a leisurely hobby.

For Karla and Alan Deacon, their hobby didn’t just turn into a deeply rooted infatuation — it transformed their entire lifestyle.

The Deacons’ love of horses dictated the property they sought to buy back in 1989. Karla Deacon, a native of West Seneca, and Alan Deacon, a native of Orchard Park, ultimately came across a 10-acre plot in Clarence now known as Spruce Meadow Farm.

“There were definitely moments where we questioned whether we could, or should, buy it,” said Karla Deacon. “But we came to the conclusion that if we didn’t do it, it’d be something we’d always wonder about.”


Spruce Meadow’s head trainer, Erica Cox, works with Oliver, one of the farm’s many rescue horses. Spruce Meadow’s head trainer, Erica Cox, works with Oliver, one of the farm’s many rescue horses. While the front barn that still sits on the property was present at the time the Deacons purchased the land, the couple has done a considerable amount to turn a relatively barren, rural parcel of land into an equine farm that houses 45 horses, two barns, three riding rings and several pasture areas.

A new indoor arena was also recently built in order to better rehabilitate the horses that the Deacons are able to save from slaughter — and, as Deacon says, incorporating a rehabilitation center was not always on the family’s agenda.

“We really weren’t planning on a rescue or taking horses in, because it’s tough to provide for the horses we have already,” she said.

The Deacons have consistently dabbled in rescuing at-risk horses throughout their lives, but they formally incorporated Phoenix Rising Equine Rescue & Rehabilitation Inc. in December 2009 after one of Karla Deacon’s friends received a plea from a horse owner who could no longer provide for several of her horses. The Deacons turned to social media for help and were able to raise the necessary funds to save them.

Currently, their farm acts as a temporary home to 15 rescue horses as the Deacons search for permanent owners. Spruce Meadow provides good nutrition and medical care to horses and other animals that have often been injured, abused, neglected, abandoned or orphaned.

A rescue facility such as this one has many needs and requires a considerable amount of funds to keep it running. Tax-deductible donations are always welcome, says Karla Deacon, who points out that the horses have ongoing veterinary and blacksmith needs in addition to food, bedding and shelter.

“The rescue horses come in with a lot of different needs,” she said. “Often they’re malnourished and underweight. They need worming; they need dental work. Generally horses need their teeth filed once a year. Then they have to get their feet checked. There’s just a lot of expenses.”

In addition to its rehabilitation center, Spruce Meadow Farm also offers riding camps in which participants learn horsemanship skills and have daily riding lessons. Campers will also learn how to take care of their horse, including everything from putting on a halter, safely leading and grooming a horse, and feeding the animal, to cleaning a stall.

Spruce Meadow is currently competing for an American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals grant that would allot significant funding toward the health maintenance and rehabilitation of the animals at the farm. From noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 23, the farm will host an event in coordination with the ASPCA’s “Help a Horse Day,” which is set to raise awareness of the plight of horses.

In honor of the ASPCA’s 150th anniversary, qualifying equine groups will be in the running for a portion of $100,000 in grant money.

“We’re trying to put on a great event. We’re really working hard on it,” said Deacon. “We’re hoping to win a grant to help the animals here, especially through the winter. It’s tough. It’s hand to mouth. You have to take it week by week.”

In the future, Deacon is adamant about creating a lesson program consisting entirely of rescue horses.

“They just need a home and someone to love them,” she said. “That’s really the hardest part actually, is finding suitable homes, once they’re ready to go somewhere.”

Recently, Deacon took a road trip to save three horses from the kill pen — two in Pennsylvania and one from New Jersey. She thinks about the gratification that this lifestyle and commitment to equines brings her as she looks across the farm’s indoor arena to see head trainer Erica Cox riding Oliver, one of the rescue horses.

Deacon begins to tear up as Oliver’s head bobs up and down, gently galloping in wide circles.

“I think about the ones we couldn’t save, all the horses we couldn’t bring home,” she says.

“They’re going to end up with wonderful homes,” she adds, before pausing with a beaming grin. “Or they’ll just stay here with us.”

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