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.
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. She had her own horse now, a bay Thoroughbred she still has and loves some twenty years later, and her equine affinity was still strong.
It was 1994. The Orange County SPCA was not equipped to handle farm animals, and could not assist in addressing the piles of horse, pigs, and cows that died torturous deaths or the “lucky” animals that had not yet succumbed. The Ulster County SPCA stepped in but it also lacked the ability to care for horses at that time. 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.
Equine Rescue Incorporated launched in 1996 and soon attained a non-profit status. Lynda’s 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 that wry smirk of hers. 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 their7 acre rented 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 super heroes have their limits; Lynda was exhausted.
It was decision time for the Broas’s; 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. It now has 17 stalls, 4 run-in sheds, and 7 fields of various sizes to accommodate the 34 horses currently in residence.
A Volunteer Coordinator oversees the dozens of volunteers who rotate in and out, and a miniscule 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 180 horses have bed down in safety and received compassionate care there- One hundred eighty lucky horses, for whatever nightmares they escaped from, the remainder of their lives would be under Lynda’s care. And she has made each of those days count
The horses too injured or otherwise unadoptable 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 costs. Read that again please… TWO HUNDRED FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS is needed to keep this dream alive. Lynda has taught herself how to raise that money through grant writing and soliciting donations.
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. Can she keep it up forever?
“Twenty years,” Lynda figures. In July 2016, she will have been running the Rescue for twenty years. She has no regrets, she says; “I’ve made mistakes, taken my lumps, and learned a lot.” Sometimes she reads recommendations and write-ups from law enforcement officers she works cruelty cases with, and those remind her why she does what she does. Still, twenty years is enough. She’s got her eye on someplace warm, with a handful of her own horses, and the long lost love she reunited with a few years ago.
Ideally she will find someone to pass the reins to. If not she will find another way to make it happen. Because that is her goal, and that’s how she rolls.
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;
Nothing is impossible. If you want it, go for it. Believe in it… But be careful what you wish for. Ha.