From slaughterhouse to sanctuary: Rescued horses find new home at St. John Riding Stables

Published 3:45 pm Wednesday, June 14, 2023

LAPLACE — Growing up in the thoroughbred racehorse industry, Kimberly Terrana had a glimpse into the horrors that went on behind the scenes. Seeing defenseless horses bruised and beaten motivated Terrana to fight for change within the industry.

Today, Terrana and her husband operate the St. John Riding Stables in LaPlace. Located directly behind Frostop, the stables are home to more than a dozen horses that have been rescued from abuse, neglect and starvation. “I don’t sell horses. I get them and rehabilitate them, and they stay with me forever. They will have the best life, whether it’s five days or five years. They will be loved,” Terrana said.

Once rehabilitated, the horses participate in riding lessons with children from St. John the Baptist Parish and the surrounding region. Individual riding lessons are offered by the hour, with affordable packages available for 10 or 20 lessons. With a very limited staff, Terrana isn’t able to offer enough lessons to offset the enormous costs of food and medication for the horses. She works two full-time jobs to care for the animals and continues offering lessons in hope of inspiring change.

“I do it because I love it. One of these kids is going to change the legislation about slaughter. It’s got to be a child, because adults don’t care,” Terrana said. “The biggest issue in the industry is overbreeding, and the second worse is slaughter because there aren’t enough places to house the animals. Lots of kids have come through here in the last 10 years, and they’ve learned a lot.”

Terrana raised her children in LaPlace. She and her husband moved to Las Vegas and returned 13 years ago with four rescued horses in tow. Limited availability of barn space to house the horses led her to open the St. John Riding Stables as an LLC, and the operation has grown from its original four stalls with the addition of many rescues over the past decade.

Terrana has visited slaughter lots to rescue horses from the brink of death, and she’s a trusted point of contact to police organizations. According to Terrana, each of the horses has a unique story.

One of the original Las Vegas rescues came to the St. John Riding Stables because she was going blind. Despite her limitations, she is the herd leader who runs all 18 horses on the property. Another one of the horses from Las Vegas was left to starve because she wasn’t the color the breeder was seeking.

Some were severely beaten by people who believe a horse must be broken before they are ready to ride. Jude wears a specially designed halter at the St. John Riding Stables to avoid inflicting pressure on her injuries, which include a collapsed nasal cavity and tear duct in addition to breaks in her chest and ribs.

One of Terrana’s rescues is a beautiful winning race horse who racked up more than $100,000 in earnings for her previous owner. As soon as she was hurt on the track, she was thrown away and sold to slaughter. She was completely emaciated when Terrana brought her to LaPlace, and it took two months before she was strong enough to leave her stall. Two and a half years later, she is happy, cared for, and teaching children how to ride.

The St. John Riding Stables is still in the process of recovering from Hurricane Ida, which absolutely devastated the property by knocking down all of the gates and fence lines, as well as 30 trees. A family member of one of Terrana’s students was generous enough to donate materials to repair the roof.

Through the setbacks, the stables radiate a sense of hope. Terrana said it has been a pleasure to work with Kate Brouwer, a trainer who utilizes the liberty training method to give horses a sense of freedom.

“There’s a lot of force, coercion, and training through pain in some of the traditional horse training methods. This gives the horse an element of choice and agency. Most of the training that we do takes place without a halter,” Brouwer said. “There is space to experiment and make mistakes. It’s really good for traumatized horses.”

Brouwer, who plans to open her own stables this summer under the name Equity Horsemanship, can be reached at 904-616-7847 or equityhorsemanship@gmail.com.

For more information about the St. John Riding Stables or riding lessons, call 985-379-6454.