She is Port Stephens’ answer to the horse whisperer.
Debbie Barber, who has been rescuing horses and other wildlife for more than 40 years, has established a horse sanctuary in Anna Bay.
The not-for-profit Hunter Horse Haven Rehabilitation & Sanctuary Inc, currently in the process of being granted charity status, is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and re-homing of horses in need of care.
“In a matter of only a few short weeks we have taken in 15 horses in care, horses of all breeds and some who have been saved from the knackery or abattoir,” said Ms Barber, who treats her horses like she would own children.
“We have standard breeds, former pacers, Shetlands, quarter horses, Arab crosses and warm bloods.”
Ms Barber said that she was grateful for the support from the Port community, starting with the generous family who made the 32-hectare property available.
“We have eight volunteers on our books and the number of people who have donated food and medical supplies has been most encouraging,” she said.
“But we are still looking for both volunteers and donations of such things as fencing posts, railings and star pickets.
“I would like to see more young people involved … there is a capacity for us to offer training, grooming and horse riding when the right opportunity arises.”
Ms Barber said that many of the horses had arrived in poor condition and that their journey to health and happiness could be a positive experience for all involved.
“We save many of the animals that are destined for the knackery or the abattoir, where they are processed for human consumption overseas,” she said.
“There are many animals which are discarded for whatever reasons … I cannot bare to sit back and watch any wildlife put down or culled, such as the case at the Army Singleton base where the Defence Department seems intent on killing wild brumbies.
“Even as a kid my brother and I would save worms and other insects.”
Ms Barber said that rehab horses can be sponsored for $12.50 per week, which “provides us with funds to rehab the horse and gives the sponsor access to their sponsored horse plus continued updates during the horse’s rehabilitation and training”.
Some of the medical items required include a variety of oils including canola, zinc and castor oil cream, Betadine, hydrogen peroxide, tea tree oil, lavender oil, eucalyptus oil, baby oil, Aeroguard, baby wipes, swabs, new unused syringes, Pinetarsol, latex disposable gloves, hair conditioner and liquorice as a treat.
To donate funds, food or items towards the rehabilitation of horses at the sanctuary, or to sponsor a horse, people can contact Debbie Barber on 0422 870 075.