Abandoned horses find home at Meadow Haven


Meadow Haven Horse Rescue and Sanctuary sits on a 45-acre spread about 10 miles south of Smiley. It is here that owner Darla Cherry toils daily to take care of abandoned and mistreated horses and offer them a better way of life.

Darla and her husband Todd took over the original location in Nixon before moving it to the Smiley area two years ago. Darla said the current location used to be a pig farm.

“Having to turn a pig farm into a horse farm has been a big job because we have to convert all these small pens into something that can house a larger animal,” Darla said.

Darla has always loved horses, and has trained them for 40 years. About 10 years ago she started rescuing them, taking horses that are surrendered by owners who can’t take care of them.

“I also work with Gonzales County on obtaining strays and seizures,” she said. “I just went to court [recently] on eight horses that the county had seized.

“When we bring the horses in we rehabilitate them, then we try to adopt them out. But that can be really hard to do. We get a lot of horses that are really young and haven’t been handled much. We have adopted out quite a few in the years that we’ve been here, so we’ve done pretty good. We try to get them to adoptive homes.”

Darla and Todd have a group of animals totaling about 200, which is a mix of horses, minis, donkeys and two cows. We go through about four tons of feed a week, and about 35-40 round bales of hay.

“We get some volunteers, but not as many as we used to,” Darla said. “We do have kids who like to come out and get involved. There’s a group of girls who come out on the weekends and spend the whole day volunteering. They’ll come out on a Saturday and brush horses, stuff like that. We’ll take anyone who is over the age of 10 and doesn’t need adult supervision.”

Darla says she plans to soon be able to give the kids horseback riding lessons as a reward for their hard work and as an incentive to get some fresh air.

“Some of them are planning on becoming vet techs, so we try to get them out here with the horses and not so much on the computer.”

All in all, Darla looks forward to continuing her horse rescue project, and feels the hard work is worth the reward of saving neglected animals.

“We’ve done quite a bit, but we’ve still got a lot to do to get it where we want it as a horse farm,” she said. “But we’ll get there - it just takes time.”