Asia thrust her big head far out over the stall door to make it easier for people to pet her. The lovely dun-colored mare especially likes the attention of children, so she was a big hit Sunday at the official open house of the newly built Quest Stables in South Park.
Asia, 11, was very busy, as several hundred people had accepted the invite from Renee Koroly, who owns and operates the barn as a nonprofit rescue for horses and other farm animals that no one else wants.
It was a wonderful opportunity for people who don’t have regular access to horses that they can touch and meet. For Asia and eight other horses, it was a chance to enjoy the attention and the kindness of strangers, including some who donated money to help build the barn.
Pigs named Reuben and Ellie, Maddox the goat, roosters Max and Arnold, and a flock of friendly hens rounded out the welcome committee at the 5-acre farm at the corner of Ridge and Wallace roads.
It was a happy event but bittersweet as well. A plaque in the new barn explains: “This barn is dedicated to those who perished March 20, 2016. They are always loved and remembered in our hearts forever.”
Seven horses, two goats, a pig, a cat, and a number of chickens and ducks died on that day when a 100-year-old barn burned to the ground. The cause has not been determined. Seven wooden plaques list the name of each horse: Pegasus, Dorito, Commander, Hendrix, Sterling, George and Twinkle Toes.
Vistors and a feathered resident share the barn porch. (Nate Guidry/Post-Gazette)
Two horses who survived the fire now live in the new barn — Aladar, 20, an appaloosa who is blind because of abuse at the hands of a former owner, and an elderly pony, Romeo, 35.
The horses have sad backstories. The friendly and affectionate Asia was bought at auction by a “kill buyer” who planned to haul her to a slaughterhouse. The mare collapsed in the horse trailer, and slaughterhouses aren’t supposed to take in downed animals.
“They were just going to shoot her,” Ms. Koroly said.
Her veterinarian determined that Asia, thought to be about 11 years old, had a severe vitamin deficiency that probably led to her collapse. She is now healthy and happy.
In addition to operating Quest Stables for the past 11 years, Ms. Koroloy operates a Facebook page, End of the Line Horse Placement. There she posts photos of horses and ponies bought by a kill buyer. Would-be rescuers can buy them directly from the buyer.
Recent posts of available horses are in the $400-$500 range. The price varies, depending on what slaughterhouses are paying for horses that would be killed and processed for dog food or as meat for human consumption in Europe.
People and rescue groups working through End of the Line have saved more than 1,125 horses since 2012. Several of the horses at Quest were bought through End of the Line, including River.
The 2-year-old gray quarter horse had broken his hip and was headed for the slaughterhouse. It has since healed. When River is a bit older, he can be trained for riding on trails and in rings; it is thought he should not be used for jumping, barrel racing or other physically stressful equestrian events.
“River is going to make someone a very nice riding horse,” Ms. Koroly said.
Some of the horses, such as the elderly Romeo, will spend the rest of their lives at Quest while others can be adopted. Six Quest horses have been adopted since January. Recent arrivals include Mia, 7, a thoroughbred racehorse. She won the last race she ran in February but an injury sent her to auction.
Three horse show ribbons hang on the stall door of Brock, 3, a Friesan/Percheron cross draft horse. He, too, came from an auction, but the show ribbons attest to his good looks and good behavior.
Ms. Koroly, 48, lives in McKeesport, where she works as a school bus driver. In the summertime, she volunteers full time at Quest and End of the Line. She has some help from loyal volunteers, including her niece, Becky Franz, 20, of Bridgeville.
Linda Drago, who lives nearby in South Park, met Ms. Koroloy after the fire. The meeting happened at about the time Ms. Drago was retiring from her job at Duquesne University. She has always loved horses, but she’s never owned one.
When Ms. Koroloy needed help after the fire, Ms. Drago stepped up. She feeds and grooms the horses and other animals, and does any chore that is needed. For years, she has helped rescue retired racing dogs with Going Home Greyhounds. She regularly drives her van to West Virginia dog tracks to bring back greyhounds that will be placed in foster homes before being adopted.
“Now my hobby has become a vocation,” she told visitors at the open house.
Other neighbors who help include Rick and Amy Dellapina of South Park and their daughter, Alicia, 17.
“Every time we stop by it’s an adventure,” Mrs. Dellapina said with a chuckle. “That goat and that pig [Reuben] are escape artists.”
For the open house Maddox and Reuben shared a safely secured stall with Chrome, a very large black-and-white appaloosa/draft mix.
Also at the open house was Jennifer Wright of Bethel Park and her daughters, Trinity, 15, and Zoe, 7. Ms. Wright hauls horses for End of the Line — from the auction houses to Quest Stables or to the individuals or groups that buy them. She also worked on fundraisers to rebuild the Quest barn. She and Jason Campbell of Yukon, Westmoreland County, raised $6,000 at a spaghetti dinner. With Elizabeth Pagano she organized a horse show that brought in $1,900.
Ms. Koroly appreciates the donations, but the new barn and equipment cost $116,000 and insurance covered less than half of the cost.
Checks made out to Renee Koroly can be mailed to Ms. Wright’s residence, 3458 Forest Road, Bethel Park, PA. 15102. A GoFundMe page called Quest Stables Barn Replacement raised $20,626 from 460 people, and the page is still active.
Linda Wilson Fuoco: email@example.com or 412-263-3064.