Founder of Peaceful Acres Horses, Inc., she has established an equine rescue sanctuary where horses and people can heal.

By Bonnie Eissner

This year, approximately 130,000 horses in the United States will be sent to Canada or Mexico to be slaughtered for human consumption in other countries, according to Nanci Beyerl, M.S.W. ’07, founder of Peaceful Acres Horses, Inc.

Where Rescued Horses Rescue People

Peaceful Acres is a 156-acre farm in Pattersonville, New York—about 26 miles northwest of Albany—where 40 rescued and retired horses guide children and adults in healing psychologically and physically. Ms. Beyerl started the farm in 2007 to help people dealing with grief and trauma. She says she didn’t initially intend to rescue horses, just people. The horses she worked with at first were healthy and had simply retired from racing and other pursuits.

Over time, though, Ms. Beyerl’s commitment to rescuing and rehabilitating abandoned and neglected horses drove her to establish Peaceful Acres as an equine rescue sanctuary. The rehabilitated horses also have a powerful effect on her human clients. “You can imagine what it’s like for one of our clients who helps in the rehabilitative care of one of these horses; it’s so incredibly empowering,” Ms. Beyerl says. “When you match an abused, neglected horse with an abused, neglected child and watch them grow and become strong, and healthy and confident, and, together, they become best of friends…it’s beautiful. There’s absolutely nothing like that.”

Her own experience with divorce and domestic abuse compelled Ms. Beyerl to start Peaceful Acres. She had recently moved to what was then a dilapidated 12-acre farm with a few horses. She was anxious and suffered from panic attacks. Yet, she says, “I was feeling a lot better in the barn and with the horses.”

After significant research and soul-searching, Ms. Beyerl became certified in equine assisted psychotherapy and learning. She also decided to pursue a master’s degree in social work at Adelphi, traveling an hour and a half each way to take classes at the Hudson Valley Center in Poughkeepsie, New York. The investment, she says, was worthwhile. “Adelphi made it possible for me to think… that my dream and my vision to open a not-for-profit organization was possible, and that wasn’t what I was hearing anyplace else,” Ms. Beyerl says.

Last year, according to Ms. Beyerl, Peaceful Acres served about 125 children, many of whom were living in foster care or residential treatment facilities. Peaceful Acres also offers a variety of programs and retreats, including support for breast cancer survivors and adults struggling with addiction. “Horses are wonderful therapeutic partners and healers,” Ms. Beyerl says. “Unlike people, they do not pass judgment.” Peaceful Acres’ budget is supported through grants, donations and memberships. So far, Ms. Beyerl has obtained funding from foundations such as the Charles R. Wood Foundation and Newman’s Own.

“I love what we do,” Ms. Beyerl says. “I wish we had more funding to do what we do. It’s expensive. We need to keep our horses and our people comfortable. We live on a shoestring.”

This piece appeared in the Adelphi University Magazine Spring 2012 edition.

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