Chief came to us in 2000.  At the time, Ann was working with the South Florida Horse Rescue Association/ SFHPA-SPCA and was also on the Board of Directors of the Miami-Dade County Humane Society.  The Florida Highway Patrol had been called to the scene of a violent accident where 3 horses were found out on the highway and a speeding cement truck had struck one of the horses.  The Highway Patrol called the Humane Society to come out and euthanize the mare hit by the truck.  However, ranglers had to be brought to the scene to rope the bay QH gelding and  the mare's 4 week old foal, who the gelding now appeared to be protecting.
Although the foal's mother died, the foal and gelding thrived.  As people lined up to take turns bottle feeding the foal around the clock, someone soon adopted the little guy.  But no one had spoken for the strong-willed Bay gelding who had been the foal's guardian all those weeks.  Ann agreed to adopt the gelding, naming him "Chieftan" or "Chief", for short.  Although this horse bucked off everyone who tried to ride him, even putting people in the hospital in his younger days, through extensive training, patience and bonding, Ann now uses Chief as her primary riding horse.  He has some age on him now, but he is still the head horse on the property.  He is still Chief.

The story of Luna and Big Frank must be told as one, as even fate couldn't separate them.  Both horses were beach riders, used on North Carolina's Outer Banks.  For over 8 years, they faithfully carried tourists daily to the Cape Hatterass Light House and back.  Frank, a Belgian-QH cross, at nearly 20 years of age and 1350 lbs, was unable to continue at that level of activity due to his joints and was placed in a loving home in Eastern North Carolina.  Six months later, Luna, a QH who was already blind in one eye, fell ill with COPD (heaves) and was scheduled for retirement at 16 years old.  The two horses had been fast friends and inseparable on the trail and at the barn, but now Frank was gone and Luna needed a new home. Through the Internet, friends and relatives familiar with the Outer Banks connected the riding establishment there with Southern Sun Farm.  Soon, Luna was on her way to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Five months later, we got another call from the Outer Banks ... Big Frank couldn't stay in the home he had already retired to.  They were once again needing to place him, but permanently.  We were at our horse limit, but agreed to take him anyway.  After eleven months apart, these two loving animals were reunited at our Sanctuary.  We hadn't yet off-loaded Big Frank from the trailer, when they were already calling to each other.  The reunion was joyful for us and for them.


Horses that are ageing, with enduring medical conditions, physical impairment remain in the care of Southern Sun Farm Sanctuary where they will receive proper treatment, medical attention, and support for the entirety of their precious life.



Sweet Dusty is a retired rodeo horse that arrived at the sanctuary emaciated, the very day he was supposed to be put down. ADusty had spent years as a cutting and team penning cow horse.  By 12 years old, with athletic injuries he was primarily a trail horse and taught many kids and adults to ride.  But at 25 years old he was found in emaciated condition and he was scheduled to be put down. We gave him a home instead.  In horrific condition and near death, John and Ann thought they might just be too late to help this horse.  Dusty had missing teeth and had become unable to graze normally. He had not been given any grain so he was starving to death. We had Dusty's teeth cared for (floated) and he was wormed for severe parasite infestation.  We then put him on a strict regimen of 5 small meals per day which included shredded beet pulp and alfalfa pellets to replace the grass he couldn't chew up and swallow. Eventually Dusty would be the greatest success story ever, gaining more than 340 lbs. to regain his health.  Dusty will live out his life with us, his home.






Molly Mae is a donkey that was discovered during a cruelty investigation in Cabarrus County, NC, where she had been hit by car.  She was never taken to a vet and so this traumatic event left her without the use of her rear right leg.
We had the donkey evaluated by an equine orthopedist and it was determined that it would be harder on her to try and fix the leg after 10 years of adaptation than to just leave her be. She is not in any pain, moves freely (and quickly when necessary!) and is a happy member of our herd.”  Today, Molly Mae enjoys romping through the fields of her home and visiting with the ponies in the neighboring pastures. You can check out her video at;




A lady stopped by the farm one day and asked us if we would be able to “foster” some animals from a friend of hers in a neighboring State.  The friend was the casualty of a difficult and painful divorce and she had no place for their large animals. Realizing that we didn’t have proper fencing for her sheep, llamas, and pigs, we agreed to take her 3 equines until the family and animals could reunite. Teva, a 16 hands+ Quarter horse, Caspar, a large snow white, one eyed pony and Shorty, an overweight miniature horse would become part of SSFS lore. Teva had been crippled after backing into an electrical fence.  He managed alright, but although the injury seemed to be more in the stifle, the old horse was compensating by not using his back left leg, so his mobility was limited. He would need to use his badly atrophied back left leg in order to rehab it, so that process began. Shorty, a sweet, but rotund food hog, simply needed to be on a diet, so we raised the food trough for the other 2 horses, so that Shorty could only eat his food and no one else’s and he soon dropped 50 lbs.  Caspar was another story entirely.  He had arrived with blood and drainage seeping from the socket where his right eye had been.  Although the current owners were told that a veterinarian had removed the eye, a closer look revealed that the socket tissue and tear duct were still present. The eyeball had, apparently, burst after a wire fence line had popped and it had not been properly cared for before Caspar came to live with his current family. SSFS had the remainder of the eye removed and properly stitched shut.  The pretty white pony had already adjusted to being half blind, so now he just had to heal. Teva, Shorty and Caspar stayed at SSFS for 8 months until the family could find, fence and prepare their new surroundings.



Big Boy came to us after a sudden blindness in one eye. He was undertstandably nervous and skitish due to his new condition, but as he acclimated to his new reality, his personality started to emerge. Although his size is a little intimidating, he is such a sweet and gentle soul. He can still have a useful life as a trail horse and soon became a favorite of the volunteer "squad".




Rocky had a bad eye infection and, although not a big horse, he was seriously underweight. He has gained 163 lbs in 7 months and has started back under saddle. Because of his transformation, John calls him "Rock Star"... and Oh, he truly is!

Smooth Operator is actually a registered Appaloosa, bred on a nearby farm and sold as a young colt for $1200.  The owner then sold him to a family who fell on hard times with the husband dying and the wife suffering from mental illness.  Smooth Operator, or "Opie" as we call him, would spend 5 years in a 10' x 20' round, metal pen.  It seems extraordinary that the physical manifestation of psychological problems in a horse have traditionally been referred to as "vices".  He became a cribber or "crib-biter".  He grew thin, frail, and very mean.  Watauga County Animal Control was finally called and Opie, along with 5 other horses, was seized.  The owner, wishing to avoid criminal prosecution, surrendered all six horses without a fight.  The other five horses were placed quickly as they were not in as bad condition.  But no one wanted poor Opie as he was such a bad cribber that he had completely worn down all his incisor teeth.  When he attempted to eat grain, at least two-thirds of each mouthful would fall out.  He had trouble grazing as well.  We brought him home to the Sanctuary.  Opie gained over 200 pounds with us over the next 6 - 8 months.  However, his POW attitude would take longer to heal.  Operator took a stern hand at times, but a soft touch was needed for his soul.  Opie is now at a good weight (around 1000 pounds), is shiny, bright-eyed, and runs to the fence to get feed and treats.  He will always be aggressive over food and will have worn teeth in the front forever. He is part of the herd and has a family now.

When Ann and John were involved with the Humane Society of Greater Miami, they helped implement a program called Safe Families, Safe Pets which allowed women who were victims of domestic violence to go to a safe house and have their pet kept by the Humane Society until they could safely reunite. When they helped found the Ashe County Humane Society, they established the same program. As fate would have it, the very first Safe Families, Safe Pets case in Ashe County involved Bud, a black gelding. Bud’s owner, a victim of domestic violence and Bud had been abused, as well, as “punishment” for Jane. Jane was ready to leave the abusive situation and informed her abuser. Predictably, Bud was threatened by the abuser in an attempt to keep Jane from leaving. Jane was not about to leave Bud in danger, so she called Ashe County Animal Control and they told her about Safe Families, Safe Pets. That evening, Ann and John were on the road to Jane’s farm. When they arrived, Jane was standing in the middle of a field with Bud on a lead, her cheek next to his. Ann walked out, Jane offered the lead to Ann and fell to her knees in relief. As they were loading the horse, AC called and said the abuser is “armed and on his way” AC arrives before the abuser and takes care of Jane and Ann and John leave with Bud. Bud came to the Sanctuary with Ann and John that night and stayed for about 8 weeks, when Jane was able to be reunited with him.

Tootsie was a retired carnival pony who had been sold to a young couple who was told the elderly pony was only 12. When John and Ann went to a local farm to pick up some hay they had purchased, the old pony, lying down and alone in the lush pasture slowly rose to her feet and called out.  Ann was stunned as the pony looked more like a bear than a pony. At close inspection, she was badly foundered and her hooves were so long and twisted, she appeared to be on skis.  Rocked back on her heels due to the pain, Tootsie could barely walk.  She was badly dehydrated with Cushing's Disease a possibility and was over 25 years old even then.  The folks who owned her said they knew nothing about horse care and were dismayed by her condition.  They had only wanted an inexpensive pony for their daughters. Tootsie couldn't ride the girls, so they had no need for her. They surrendered her to SSFS after a telephone call and we picked her up that same day. Sweet Toots was in a bad way but she had other plans! She saw the farrier the next day, the vet, and then had an appointment with Ann, the equine beautician. Over 13 and a half inches were trimmed from her poor, ski-shaped feet, and she would be on meds for some time. Tootsie, rose from the ashes of her former life! She loved the dogs, the other horses and all children and lived another 5 and a half joyful years grazing in comfort at the Sanctuary with friends Then, when well into her 30s- it was Toots' time. We dug a place for her on the shady lane where she often grazed.  We tied ribbons in her mane, fed her sliced apples and buried her on the shady lane where she often grazed - which we now call... Tootsie Lane.





We raised John’s horse, Duke, since purchasing him at 4 months old and 18 months later took him to a training facility to be started under saddle.  To keep up with Duke’s progress, we were regular visitors and got to know the other horses who were there to be trained, as well.  Ann remembers seeing a beautiful little registered Paint Horse mare.  She was a black and white tobiano with a sweet disposition.  She had a gentle nature, kind expression and long white stockings stretching up to her knees.  Seven years would pass before we saw her again.  Before the owner was hauled off to jail on drug charges, our farrier had been called to come get the remaining 4 horses at this man’s barn.  The scene would horrify even seasoned animal cruelty professionals.  Horses had been left dead in their stalls and the same small black and white mare that we had seen at the training facility was found up to her knees in her own manure.  Our farrier would keep the 4 survivors for a while, but this mare needed more.  We brought “Darlin’ ” to SSFS and renamed her Libby Darlin’ in honor of one of John’s favorite Aunts to whom everyone was “Darlin’”.  We treated her badly infected ears, had a tumor removed from one ear and over the next 6 months, added 70 lbs to her trim frame.  Once healthy, we rode her, socialized her and began getting her ready for a new life.  Although spirited, by Summer’s end, she would calmly trot past chain saws, weed eaters and moving cars.  Libby Darlin’ was a fighter and that spirit kept her alive until better days finally came.  A woman who had lost her beloved dressage horse was looking for a new riding and companion horse.  The lady was small herself and well into her 60’s.  Libby Darlin’ would leave SSFS for a lovely life with folks who would love and care for her just as we had.  God speed, Darlin’!

Prince came to SSFS in late Spring of 2011 through a local veterinary office.  AlleghanyAnimal Control had seized the horse when so many complaints were logged about a horse that was being starved. The owner was cited and the horse was removed to receive veterinary care. During his weeks at the vet’s office, Ann saw the pathetic horse. Having only seen one horse in worse physical condition throughout her years in rescue work, Ann said that if the owner would surrender the animal, she would bring it to SSFS. Instead, the owner wanted the horse back and, animal cruelty laws being what they are allowed the abuser to pay fees and the horse was returned to him. Two weeks later, Prince was badly injured when he had been turned out with another gelding who bit and kicked him to keep him away from the limited food and water. Prince was returned to the vet with multiple, severe wounds, the worst being a bite at his withers which resulted in a severe case of fistulous withers. The painful, hot, spurting masses erupted continuously over 4 months. After multiple courses of antibiotic injections and twice daily expressing and cleansing of the wound, Prince finally healed. Within 8 months, Prince had gained over 250 lbs. The once pathetic, wounded, starving Bay gelding would not be recognizable now. Although sleek and shiny with a flowing black mane and tail, there will always be traces of the indentation at his withers. He will remain on joint supplements for the remainder of his life to ease movement, but he is turned out daily with his friends and has taken on a protector role for his pasture mate Luna who is partially blind, as her "seeing eye horse".  Other horses might have simply quit the fight to keep on living, but Prince knew that God wasn’t done with him, yet.

But love

restored our lives.



Duke is a registered American Paint horse.  He is out of champion stock and is the only equine on Southern Sun Farm who is not a rescue.  John and Ann purchased Duke as a colt and raised him in North Carolina.  Duke is John's horse and participates in the local Christmas parade, the Annual Happy Trails Cowboy Church Revival and Ride, and charity rides.

These may have been

our experiences...


Walker was adopted by friends at the Grayson Highlands Wild Pony Auction.  The annual September event helps manage the three herds which can be found wandering the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and Grayson Highlands State Park in Southern Virginia.  In addition to thinning the herds, the auction also raises money for the ponies' Winter upkeep on Mount Rogers' 5,729 foot summit where the Winters are brutally cold and windy.

Walker, adopted along with his sister Peaches, was now in a new home with a fresh stream and green pastures near the Blue Ridge Parkway, but when Walker went missing one day, a search party found the 4 month old pony collapsed at the edge of the woods with a serious eye injury and barely alive.  Fortunately, Walker was small enough that John could pick him up and carry him across a stream and up a hill to our horse trailer.  Our vet, who was a member of the search party and had actually found the colt, immediately started IV fluids and antibiotics.  Walker required twice daily eye drops for 6o days and stayed at SSFS for the next 6 months while recuperating.  We brought his sister to SSFS to keep him company and they remained throughout the Winter under the watchful eye of Chief, who became their veritable  "Godfather".  When Spring arrived, the fully recovered Walker and sister Peaches went home to join the herd at Sky Blue Waters Farm.






Three legs doesn't stop her from taking a dirt bath!


Kat and Tess came from a seizure in Lumberton, NC.  Kat was 4 years old and now is a beauty!  Tess was over thirty when she came home with us. She only made it 3 days, but it was the best three days of her life. "Saving one horse won't change the world, but it will surely change the world for that one horse"