HARWINTON, Conn. — Seventeen mustangs were on their way to Mexico to be slaughtered in 2017 when one horse suddenly collapsed, bringing the truck to a halt just before reaching the border.

Assuming the horse had died, the driver pulled over to drag it to the side of the road, but then he realized the mustang had gone into labor instead.

The birth of that new mustang prompted the truck to turn around to avoid suspicion from those driving by, and soon after, Rosa Buonomo, owner of Stoney Brook Farm Animal Rescue in Harwinton, received a call from a horse-kill operation asking if she would be willing to rescue the 17 horses that had been saved by the birth of a mustang now named Cody. Buonomo managed to find new homes for 10 of the rescued horses and seven still reside at Stoney Brook, including Cody, who these days is an ambassador for the farm.

The 25-acre farm now has 22 rescued horses, along with countless other rescued animals – cats, dogs, ducks, geese, goats, cows and emus.

ON THEIR WAY TO SLAUGHTER

“We hold many different fundraisers and programs to educate the public on what’s going on with the mustangs on our public land and what the (federal) Bureau of Land Management is doing against them,” said Night Hawk Flying, a mustang expert and volunteer at Stoney Brook Farm. “These mustangs usually end up at auction, then get shipped to slaughter houses in Canada or Mexico.”

This spring, Night Hawk Flying will host his 12th Painted Ponies Festival at Stoney Brook Farm, 96 Swimming Hole Road. The event – likely in May, but no date is set yet – will feature a Native American drum show with traditional food, music, singing and dancing. Visitors will be able to meet and ride the horses, which will be painted with Native American designs and symbols used to represent war and hunting.

On April 1, Stoney Brook Farm will hold a fundraiser dinner at Lorenzo’s Ristorante in West Haven. For a $30 donation, those attending will be provided a catered dinner, raffles, games and prizes.

“We want to create more awareness of Stoney Brook Farm Animal Rescue, and also more awareness for the wild mustangs and domestic horses to find them forever loving homes,” Night Hawk Flying said. “We’re also trying to educate the public on slaughterhouses. They’re not a good thing. No matter where they open or reopen, they’re a devastation to the area.”

Mustang Heritage Foundation, based in Georgetown, Texas, is a national nonprofit that rescues and finds homes for wild mustangs otherwise destined for a slaughterhouse.

‘WE ARE CHANGING LIVES’

“Not only are we rescuing these mustangs, but the people who adopt them tell us we are changing their lives,” said Matt Manroe, director of marketing for the foundation. “To see the life-changing impact these horses have on people is incredible.”

Mustang Heritage Foundation works in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management to provide homes for wild horses that have been removed from public lands.

Similar to Stoney Brook Farm, the foundation provides wild horses with a caring home, and promotes programs and activities to educate the public about saving mustangs. Night Hawk Flying said he plans to urge farm attendees to help fight the potential reopening of Amfran Packing Co. on Gendron Road in Plainfield, a local slaughterhouse that closed but could reopen.

He noted many mustangs are slaughtered and sold to other countries for human consumption, or used for cat and dog food.

“I look forward to the day when rescues like this are no longer needed,” Night Hawk Flying said. “We take in the unwanted, the homeless and the unwelcome. We train them, rehome them and give them purpose again. Any support people can give – whether it’s monetary, your time or materials – is critically important to make sure there’s no more homeless animals.”

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