Stephanie Huggins Billingsley took her love for horses and created two sanctuaries dedicated to rescuing horses. Now Billingsley has two sanctuaries, Muleshoe in Coila and Twelve Oaks in Madison.
Billingsley and her organizations, Mississippi Horses, are gearing up for their “Fun in the Country” event.
The event will take place at Muleshoe, located at 4400 County Road 23 in Coila, on Saturday, Nov. 10, from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is $10, and there will be rides, games and a ride through the sanctuary where visitors can see the horses in their habitat. All proceeds will go toward the care of the horses and the upkeep and maintenance of the sanctuary.
If the name Huggins sounds familiar, Stephanie’s father Bunky, was a state senator for many years before his passing in 2006. A native of Greenwood, Huggins said Muleshoe is special to her because it’s on family land that’s been passed down. Now, she connects her love of family and horses there to give horses who have been abused, malnourished and neglected a new life.
“We see everything,” she said.
Billingsley said she hopes that people are educated on horses. She said there’s education out about abuse and neglect of dogs and cats but not a lot about horses. She hopes this event will give people more insight and that some of her horses find their new forever home on a range, ranch or even a stable.
She also said some horses rescued and brought to the sanctuaries were “kill buys” originally, meaning they’re purchased for slaughter and shipped to Europe.
“They eat horse meat in Europe,” she said cringing. “A lot of people don’t know that when you sell a horse at auction, you think you’re selling it to a trainer but you’re selling it to a kill buyer.”
She said she works to keep those horses safe from slaughter by bringing them the shelters to be rehabbed. She said people don’t realize how expensive a horse can be.
“They think you can just put them in the pasture. But, that’s not it. They have to be cared for, they have to be wormed, some have to be rehabbed, they have to be tamed and those costs can add up.”
Billingsley said those expenses alone are high and are sometimes too much for people to handle, so they abandon the horses.
Billingsley said some of the horses can’t be ridden but can be companion horses.
She said some horses that are purchased are drugged and when people buy them from a private seller or get them at an auction, they think they’re calm and tame but once the tranquilizer wears off, it’s a different story.
“They (the horse) go crazy, and people can’t tame them and don’t know how to,” she said.
Billingsley said she’s always getting calls to take in horses, and with her being the only equine facility in the state, it’s easy for her to reach capacity.
“I got a call where someone begged me to take two horses and I told her I was full, I couldn’t take them,” she said.
She said she works with law enforcement and takes horses who have been seized or left, and she works with In Defense of Animals, an animal sanctuary, that takes dogs and cats.
“When they call, I’ll take them,” she said.
Billingsley said she works with two veterinarians, one being a member of her advisory board for her Madison facility.
“He advises me when to euthanize a horse or not,” she said. “I don’t like doing that. I want to be able to rescue and rehab all the horses, but I can’t do that.”
She said some of the horses she takes in, they can’t be ridden for a reason – they are not trained.
“We have two trainers that we work with. Christie Galey stays here at Muleshoe, and she also gives horseback lessons. We allow Christie to use the horses whenever she needs them.”
That’s how Kathryn Allman became involved.
“They met because her children take lessons from Christie,” Billingsley said.
After learning more about Mississippi Horses and what the organization does, Allman wanted to get involved.
“My family has two rescues from Mississippi Horses, and I know many, many more families in the area who also have adopted horses from this organization. One of the best reasons to adopt from Mississippi horses is that the horses are fully-vetted and evaluated before they are adopted out. All those adopting animals must be approved as well, Kathryn Allman said.
Billingsley said there is an extensive list before an adoption is approved for a horse to ensure it’s going to an environment that is safe.
Allman praised Mississippi Horses for their work of matching owners.
“The rescue does a fantastic job of matching the horses with owners. For example, if a horse needs an experienced rider, Mississippi Horses makes sure that the horse doesn’t go to someone who doesn’t have the experience to safely ride and handle that animal.”
For more information about Fun in the Country, call 601-201-8522.