Cradled on a gentle crook of East Street against dense woodland and pristine farmland is a beautiful haven for both horses and humans. It’s incredibly peaceful; the serenity is interrupted only by whistling birds, a symphony of grasshoppers and the happy grunts of content horses. It’s here where Second Chance Ranch Equine Rescue is dedicated to providing quality care and placement for equines in need.
The rescue began with Paul and Karen Bacon, Somers residents who share a deep love for all animals. The two met simply and perfectly at the Big E, an event rooted in agriculture. An accomplished pianist, Paul was on the road from Manchester, New Hampshire, to play on the fair’s stage.
“I had just met her and I thought she was absolutely gorgeous,” said Paul with a twinkle in his eye. “I said, ‘I’m going to date that gal. From the time we met in 1977, 77 days later on December 11 at 7:00pm, we were married. That was forty-nine years ago.”
Karen had already had her first horse at the time, one she had gotten as teenager. She grew up on Park Street in Enfield, a neighborhood surrounded by tobacco fields and farmland. She remembers hanging on the fence of a barracks, just beyond the lumberyard, there every day watching in amazement of the beautiful horse inside. The owners took notice, taking Karen under their wing to teach her how to care for the beautiful animal.
The couple realized a need for equine rescue when they went to an animal auction and met Petey, a ranch pony destined for the slaughterhouse. Paul offered the auctioneer the price of what Petey would have been worth in meat and with that, Second Chance Ranch was born. The small horse sparked a passion, one they have diligently pursued since.
The original ranch was located in Hampden on a 42-acre boarding farm, but with frequent trips to auction houses they quickly outgrew the property. After meeting Tom Nicholson, who Paul and Karen currently lease from, they made a deal over a glass of wine and moved the rescue to East Granby.
The property is a sanctuary, providing refuge for animals that have been abandoned, unwanted, abused, misused, neglected or slaughter-bound. Their main goal is to rehab and rehome; bring together people who love horses with the horses in need of love.
“These animals are children to us and if we take the responsibility for them it’s until death do us part. That’s the commitment that we make,” says Paul.
Like most successful operations, they can’t do it alone. The heartbeat of the barn is through the work of a dedicated team, equine professionals who generously donate their expertise for the betterment of animals that need them most.
Volunteers and animal professionals serve as the backbone of the non-profit, providing daily care, rehabilitation, retraining and education to potential adopters. These people are the heartbeat of the operation and Barn Manager, Michelle Cormier, is the pulse. She works daily and diligently to provide both proper care and compassion to each animal. Often arriving before the suns shines, Michelle’s daily priorities include feeding, watering and mucking stalls. Other days she’s trailering horses, meeting potential adopters and overseeing volunteer groups.
“I’ve been involved with horses since I was little, but never realized how many horses don’t have homes,” says Michelle. “I enjoy educating people about horses and teaching them that there is a need for horse adoption out there.”
All adopters go through a thorough application process as a safeguard to ensure the safety and well being of every horse. To guarantee a happy future, Karen and Michelle meet multiple times with all adopters, making sure the equines are headed to able, loving hands. Each adopter signs a “Right of Possession,” a contract stating if for any reason you cannot keep the horse - if someone passes away, a kid goes off to college or you can no longer afford it - you can return the horse at any time; horses cannot be resold. Karen and Michelle also conduct spot checks, ensuring proper care and that each horse continues to live in a happy home.
While Second Chance Ranch is the dream of Paul and Karen, it simply would not exist without a caring community. They’ve saved many animals over the years and it’s because of these compassionate people. Everyone is welcome to donate their time; Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, universities, high schools, and those serving drug and alcohol community service are just a few groups that have helped out in the past. They have saved hundreds of equines, dogs and cats over the years; it’s commendable to see people come together to care for another living soul.
“I think the biggest gratification is when we bring in an animal that wasn’t or couldn’t be cared for and say [to them], you’re home; we’re going to take care of you,” says Paul. “For me the greatest thing is to see that horse go to a forever home to receive the respect, nurturing, and love it deserves. That’s why God gave us these animals.”
For Karen, it’s to “see these horses in their new environment - knowing what I do about their personal history - happy and healthy. Their personalities change, animals know when they are loved – and they deserve it”
“It might not be the Taj Mahal, but its one of the friendliest places you can be.” With a smile Paul points to a once emaciated rescue, but now chubby cat napping in the sun on a rocking chair and says, “that shows you how good things are around here.”
Authors Note: Sadly, Paul Bacon passed away in the days following this interview. He was an incredible spirit that was full of life and love; he was always smiling. It has been my sincere pleasure of knowing both him and Karen over the years, each humble and giving. His greatest pride and joy was to help and rescue animals, but also to connect with humans. An amazing man, he influenced many with his wit, humor, compassion and love. He truly had a heart of gold. Paul left many beautiful things behind, including Second Chance Ranch Equine Rescue. If you would like to help keep this dream alive, please consider a donation in his memory by visiting scrrescue.org