AIKEN, SC (WJBF) – The work is never done for Aiken Equine Rescue. The non-profit organization’s mission is to rescue horses that have been abused or neglected and work with racetracks to find a new purpose for off-the-track thoroughbreds.

In 15 years, they’ve found new, adoptive homes for over 1,400 horses, mules, and donkeys.
Their barn was lost in a devastating fire back in April, but that hasn’t stopped the rescue from helping animals in need. This holds true for Stephanie the Donkey.

“Stephanie was a hardship case to start with. She was born and rejected by her mother for whatever reason. We found a surrogate momma for her, but she had gotten stepped on prior to us getting her and had damaged her leg,” said Jim Rhodes, President of Rescue Equine Aiken.

“She came to the clinic about a month old. She had some congenital defects from birth. She had some contracted tendons and birth plate damage. So, she was kind of a financial case. Her previous owners surrendered her to the clinic,” said Breanne Maraman, associate veterinarian at Performance Equine Vets.

Stephanie didn’t have an easy journey ahead of her, but luckily she was in the right hands.

“Her surrogate mother took care of here like a dream. That was her baby. Stephanie was, to say the least, living in the vet clinic and was spoiled beyond belief; but she was sweet,” said Rhodes.

“We contacted the rescue and they sponsored her medical treatment for about a year at the clinic. She had multiple surgeries, physical therapy, casts, braces…a lot of stuff going on; and then after about a year, she made her way out here to the rescue to be rehabbed out here for a little while, and they did a great job with that. They got her some braces, worked with her every day, and once she got to a point where she needed a little bit of different care, she came back home with me,” said Maraman.

when the story of Stephanie’s recovery started making its rounds on social media, it got people talking; and luckily, Stephanie’s story has a happy ending.

“She was adopted back by the vet clinic, and two people at the vet – one vet tech and one vet – and they tag team her now and she is running free; no casts, no brace, and enjoying life,” said Rhodes.

“She’s my donkey now. She’s doing great. She doesn’t require any more medications, braces, foot extensions…anything like that. She just requires frequent trimming to keep her legs as straight as we can get them. She lives with another donkey named Jelly Bean. They have a great time. They live out in a pasture. She is free to roam, come and go as she pleases with all the grass she wants. So shes a happy girl,” said Maraman, Stephanie’s new owner.

Stephanie the Donkey has become the face of Aiken Equine Rescue, demonstrating what they’re all about.

“We’re tasked to take care of animals. That’s why we’re put on this earth – is to take care of people and take care of the less fortunate and to take care of animals. So, it’s refreshing, in a small way, that Stephanie became a poster child for what we do and the direction that we want to go in and how we’re tasked to take care of animals. Some people thought that it was a complete waste of money and time to take care of a little donkey. We felt like she was worth saving regardless of her just being a small donkey. She was worth the effort, the labor, the financial things that were put on her. It was all worth while and it was what we were supposed to do,” said Rhodes.

Aiken Equine Rescue is asking for support from the community after the fire it suffered earlier this year, so they can continue to rescue horses and give them a second chance.

“It burned everything to the ground. We lost everything. We only had one miniature horse that was injured, but we have nothing and the community was a huge help in coming to the rescue with blankets and things so that, operationally, we could continue on; but we’ve got to build a barn. We have calls to take horses, but without a barn, some are turned away because we aren’t able to provide the care they need” said Pam Patron, a volunteer.

The rescue is now starting the “Aiken Equine Rescue Capital Campaign,” a fundraiser to help build back their barn. Below is a video with more details about how you can help support the rescue.