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(From the Times Union)

A lesson in second chances

Brown School students help rescued equines at Peaceful Acres Horses

Rotterdam Junction

There's something about Riley.

The towering Palomino quarter horse at Peaceful Acres Horses in Pattersonville has such a sweet temperament that he gives hugs — with his head.

Like many of the 82 rescued horses, ponies and donkeys at the 156-acre facility, Riley was on his way to a slaughterhouse when Nanci Beyerl pulled him off a meat truck in Ohio.

Beyerl, who founded the nonprofit in 2003, recounted the story of Riley's rescue to students from Brown School's Community Outreach Crew over the weekend.

"I met him (Riley) at a slaughter pen and he put his head in my arms," said Beyerl, 50, the rescue's executive director. "Here's this gorgeous horse, only four or five years old, and I knew that we had to save his life and give him hope again."

Peaceful Acres also gives hope to people, using its horses to help breast cancer patients, veterans and other trauma victims heal.

True to its name, the nonprofit fosters a peaceful, therapeutic and nature-based environment where equines and people regain strength and trust through compassion, encouragement and care.

Programs include rejuvenation and R&R retreats as well as field trips for youth and corporate groups, veterans, seniors and students, like those from Brown School.

"I was a Brown School mom, and it's so important for young people to have experiences like this because they can make the world change," Beyerl said. "That's their power."

Community Outreach Crew members spent their Saturday mucking stalls and visiting old friends because for some, it was their third time volunteering.

It was the first trip for Liam Post-Good, 11, who got up close and personal with Riley. "He's eating me," Liam laughed as the horse gently nibbled his shoulder.

The crew was put together by Brown School office manager Emily Klotz and STEM/science teacher Betsy Messenger, who work with students on community service projects and fundraisers.

They recently raised money to create a "Little Free Library" at the school and volunteered at the Schenectady City Mission. Members will create craft kits for patients at Albany Medical Center, make fleece mats for cats at the Animal Protective Foundation and visit the Red Robin Song Animal Sanctuary later this month. "We try to make this club kid-driven and when we ask them what they want to do, it usually involves animals, " Klotz said.

"Coming to a place like Peaceful Acres, the kids love it," Messenger added. "They have a great bond with these animals and that's part of the mission — to build trust."

In order to offer rehabilitation, placement and retirement sanctuary to off-track thoroughbreds, quarter horses, drafts, ponies and donkeys, Peaceful Acres needs community support.

Beyerl said that seven horses have been adopted this month, but more can be placed. That's why she teamed up with the ASPCA for Help a Horse Days, April 23-26.

The program will include a match-making clinic for 12 people interested in adopting a horse, a reception and "friend-raiser," an open house with tours and "horse hugs" field trips.

"We go above and beyond for these horses, which comes with a price tag of about $28,000 a month," Beyerl said. "What we need are donations and boots on the ground to make that happen."

jpatterson@timesunion.com @JenSPatterson • 518-454-5340