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Westchester Farm to Provide Sanctuary for Retired Central Park Horses

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By: Mario Mancini

There’s great news for all animal lovers.

A national animal rescue group is buying a Westchester County farm to provide a home and permanent sanctuary for retired carriage horses and other neglected farm animals, according to an exclusive report from The New York Post.

The beloved carriages horses will be able to spend their retirement days at a beautiful farm Upstate. The nonprofit group, The Gentle Barn, kicked off its local expansion plans for the hamlet of South Salem after Ryder, a Central Park carriage horse, collapsed on West 45th Street in August — and was flogged by his driver in a viral video that led to widespread outrage and further calls to ban horse-drawn carriages from city streets.

According to The New York Post, The Gentle Barn was founded in 1999 in Southern California by Ellie Laks. Since then, she and her husband, Jay Weiner, have expanded to St. Louis and Nashville — where they rescue animals from food factories, farms, auctions and city sidewalks.

“We were talking about [opening in New York] when Ryder collapsed,” Laks said. “We knew it was just a matter of time until the next carriage horse falls and we have to be ready.”

A donor put them in touch with Douglas Elliman broker Janna Raskopf, who looped in her colleague, Bronx and Westchester market expert, Ari Susswein, to find the perfect spot. It turned out to be a listing from Ghlyaine Manning of Vincent & Whittemore Real Estate.

“It is stunning and has a wide-open view, great sunlight and a stream — and makes you feel wonderfully connected to nature,” said Susswein of Gentle Barn’s new grounds that are adjacent to a forested park with numerous riding trails. “It lends itself to a perfect blend of education, nature and sanctuary. What was most important was that we were in close proximity to Manhattan, so people from the city can come out and find hope and healing.”

The exclusive New York Post report states that The Gentle Barn is now fundraising to get the $3.2 million needed to close and fix up the existing 18-acre spread — a former horse operation — by the end of the year.

Lois Weiss writes that the new digs include two barns and a shed with more than 35 stalls — plus paddocks, pastures and turn-out areas. There’s also a heated indoor ring and a show-worthy outdoor arena, along with apartments for caretakers.

“It has beautiful barns and is totally set up, but we need to reconfigure the fencing and make other improvements,” said Laks.

“Right now, it’s set up for horses — and we also have cows, pigs, sheep and goats, chickens and turkeys,” said Weiner, ticking off a list of their convalescents that can also include the occasional peacock, llama and emu. “And we need to buy tractors and utility carts, snowplows and things like that.”

This is The Gentle Barn’s third public fundraising campaign focused on purchasing a property and the fifth they have bought, Weiner said.

The fabled Central Park horses have been under the spotlight for years, by animal rights activists. Former Mayor de Blasio at one time promised to end the entire industry of horse and carriage rides, which never happened.

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