People laughed when she told them her idea. But she did it anyway.
Lynda Roemer was a thirty-something career woman. This bright, polished manager of a Manhattan-based real estate management company was on the rise in the corporate world.
But beneath the executive exterior, she was still the little girl who grew up loving horses.
“I was a really awkward kid,” Lynda says, “The only place I found solace was in the barn.”
She was just 5 years old when she began riding her neighbor’s horses and 11 when she swung up on her very own pony. Soon she and “Paint” were sailing over jumps in various horse shows.
She was hooked. So much so that she double majored in college, earning degrees in Equestrian Studies and Business Administration.
Life took her on a few detours and her horse days saw a hiatus. But like that clichéd penny, her passion kept turning up.
Time passed. The little girl grew up- chronologically anyway- and her childhood passion was bumped aside as her big girl job took precedence. Still, her first love maintained a steady presence in her heart.
So when the local paper’s front page story about an animal cruelty case crossed Lynda’s path, the horse lover in her reared its head.
It was 1994 when the headline story in her county was of farm animals found in horrific condition.
The local animal rescues were only set up for cats and dogs, and could not assist in saving any of the horses “lucky” enough to still be alive.
Lynda followed the story, and it burned within her. But she was just one person. There was nothing she could do to help- Or was there?
Time passed again. Lynda commuted to the city each morning and back again each night. She fell in love, got married, and still that cruelty case bugged her. Now, though, she had a partner.
“I asked my husband if he wanted to play a game called Equine Rescue, and he could be the president,” she laughs with her character smirk and wry humor.
For just because the work is serious, does not mean she can’t have fun doing it.
Equine Rescue Incorporated launched in 1996 and soon attained a non-profit status.
Lynda’s then-husband Mike held the title of president. She’d done it.
The bemused expressions of co-workers she shared her work with served only to fuel her ambition. Her iron will and steely determination got her the rest of the way, for it was no small feat to make it all happen.
Equine Rescue’s first residents arrived in 1997. Honey was a Thoroughbred with a severely damaged knee. The roan pony shivering next to Honey was Strawberry, whose abusers had used a bat to beat her so intensely no one could get near her now.
Last but certainly not least was Ronin. The shaggy little Shetland stallion pony may have looked squeezable, but boxed better than most Golden Glove champions.
His aim was so accurate that when he stood on his hind legs to land that blow, you’d better duck. Lynda found herself knocked out one day, and she was but one of many to feel Ronin’s wrath. Today Ronin is an affable kind of guy, and the belief is he knows just how lucky he is to have landed up in Lynda’s care.
“Be careful what you wish for, I always tell people that now,” Lynda will say with the same mischievous smirk. She’s referring to the deluge of horses to flood the Rescue’s doors in the years since.
Within a few years they’d outgrown their 7 acre rented horse facility.
Lynda was still commuting to the city each day but now she was also running the Rescue full time. While Mike handled the barn breakfast Mondays through Thursdays, the rest was up to Lynda.
Instead of heading home after a long day at work she headed to the barn to muck stalls, feed, and medicate the horses. Weekends were no longer her own. Rather than days at a lake or barbeque, those days were used to catch up on barn chores, purchase food and supplies, respond to calls for assistance, and the slew of other deeds that demanded attention.
She was ecstatic to make her dream come true. But even superheroes have their limits; Lynda was exhausted.
It was decision time; double or nothing.
Many of us have these moments in our lives. Some of us decide to play it safe, protect ourselves from loss, and forgo the gamble on our ability to succeed. Fortunately, Lynda and her husband decided to double down.
The Manhattan job and its corporate world disappeared into her past. Lynda’s world now focused on Equine Rescue. She purchased a 56-acre farm in Bloomingburg, NY, in June of 1999. With acres of turnout, several outdoor sheds and aisles of well-bedded stalls, the horses in residence receive 5-star treatment.
A Volunteer Coordinator oversees the dozens of volunteers who rotate in and out and a minuscule part-time staff pitches in to help.
“The volunteers are rock stars,” Lynda says. “I couldn’t do this without them.”
Indeed, many of the volunteers have grown into close friends. The camaraderie of the Rescue is a haven for them, too. Those friendships saw Lynda through challenging personal times, such as her divorce, and the darker moments of the Rescue; those days when she is forced to acknowledge she can’t save them all.
Dark days hurt. Lynda is no exception to this rule. Yet the bright days overpower the pain. The triumphs outshine the tragedies. Not only has the Rescue achieved the prestigious verification by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (This is a big deal, folks.), but approximately 200 horses have bedded down in safety and received compassionate care there – Two hundred lucky horses, she’s pulled from their nightmares and into lifetimes of love.
The horses too injured or otherwise un-adoptable remain at the Rescue for life.
Those who find homes always have a place to return to should their adoptions not work out. In addition to the horses physically at her Rescue, Lynda’s networking has helped save dozens of others.
Sometimes, though, love is not all you need; all the love and labor in the world would not amount to enough to care for the rescued equines if fundraising, donations, and grants cannot raise the over $250,000.00 necessary to cover annual costs. Every month is a struggle to pull that money together. She had to learn long ago, not to let pride stand in the way of asking for help.
What keeps Lynda’s feet moving and her will intact? The happy moments. The first time that spark appears in eyes once clouded with fear or pain. The day a horse that staggered in, trots onto a trailer to its new home.
She’s under no illusion that she can singlehandedly save every horse on the planet. And she doesn’t let that stop her.
Oversimplification at its best, perhaps, but this is the mindset that drives her to do what she does. Rather than be crushed by visions of those beyond her reach, she focuses on the ones wrapped in her care.
“Who cares what the scale is – One life is one life.”
I asked Lynda what advice she has for anyone else debating whether to chase their dream or play it safe. I’ll leave you with her words;
Get out of your own life and go find something else, because there’s somebody out there who needs your help.