- FUN FEATURES
When Cheshire resident Clare Aliberti sold her show horse, Jazz, to a women looking to breed, the large animal was regal and in perfect condition.
Eight years later, when Aliberti received a phone call asking if she would like to take Jazz back, she assumed the horse would be much as she had last left her.
She was wrong.
Instead of the proud, noble, athletic animal Aliberti had loved, she found an emaciated creature, barely able to stand, and so hungry that she was eating the dirt around her feet.
“I was shocked to see her in that condition,” said Aliberti. “She was a champion horse. She was a wonderful mare, but that kind of treatment changes their whole personality.”
Though Aliberti's property in Cheshire, just off of Highland Avenue, is not large, there was enough to set up a place for Jazz, so she took the horse home and began the painstaking process of trying to heal it, both mentally and physically. It sprung a desire deep within Aliberti to help animals like Jazz - animals who have been abandoned and abused.
It was the genesis of the Cheshire Farm Sanctuary.
“I thought to myself, 'I have to help these animals,'” remembered Aliberti. “It has become overwhelming. It is extremely rewarding, but very overwhelming.”
For the last year, the CFS has been taking in and rehabilitating different animals and, once ready, placing them in permanent homes. Aliberti, with the help of her husband John, are currently caring for two horses, an abandoned rabbit, a dog, and a Shetland Pony, as well as Jazz, who will remain a permanent resident at CFS and is not available for adoption, and Aliberti's show mare. It is tiring work, the couple admits, as almost every free moment is spent caring for the animals - free time that comes only after both Aliberti's have finished with their full-time jobs.
“It takes a lot,” said John Aliberti. “You spend almost all of your time with them. But, it is rewarding to see them change. When they come to us, they are skin and bones. They are barely alive. Then, as they get better, you say 'wow, that really is a beautiful animal.'”
Caring for the animals not only takes time, it takes money. According to Aliberti, the couple spends approximately $1,300 per month for food, care, and medication for the animals. It means that CFS can only take on so many animals. It means that, essentially, no animals can be taken in until another is placed.
“If we don't get donations, we are pretty much out of business,” said John Aliberti. “It's a struggle. That's why we have to keep it small.”
To date, CFS has placed three animals, and Aliberti is always careful to make sure that none are offered up for adoption until they are ready for such a placement.
“I don't care how long it takes to train them, (the horses) have to be trail broke before I let them go,” said Aliberti. “We may not take in a lot of horses but, for the ones we do, it is their lives. We want to make sure we are doing the best for everyone involved.”
One of the current horses, Amber, a light tan horse that was abused, has already attracted a significant amount of interest from prospective owners. However, Aliberti insists the horse will not leave until she is ready to be around humans.
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of animals looking for a new lease on life. As Aliberti specializes in horses, she scours over the lists of animals that have been rescued from glue factories, where unwanted horses are sent to be killed. Most are abused and starved during such a time, meaning that, by the time Aliberti receives the animals, they are in need of every kind of imaginable care. Jazz, for instance, is frightened of men and will still eat dirt at her feet, even though she now has ample food. The starvation also attacked her heart, and has left her with a myriad of other medical conditions. Another animal, a Shetland Pony named Jack who suffers from Cushing's disease, was beaten so many times he remains tentative of anyone who approaches.
“It takes a while but once they warm up to you, they are fine,” said Aliberti.
But Aliberti has a tender touch with each animal, obvious to anyone who spends even a few moments watching her interact with them. That, she admits, is the toughest part of the new endeavor. After months of caring for the animals, letting them go can be quite difficult.
“It can be hard. You become attached,” she said. “But, in order for one to come in, one has to go out, so we want to find them their home.”
For now, CFS is content to remain a smaller operation, however both Clare and John Aliberti admit they have spoken about the possibility of doing it full-time. However, that isn't a possibility at this point, and so the two are simply hoping to continue to help animals in need, and are looking for help from the community to aid in that operation.
“We get donations, but the economy is tough,” admitted Aliberti. “It is difficult, but this is something we believe in, and something we want to continue.”
For more information on CFS, visit www.cheshirefarmsanctuary.org or call Aliberti at (203) 640-8135.