What started out in 2017 as a cute “boutique” farm in Eaton Rapids, with chickens and goats, is evolving into a rescue organization for abused and neglected animals. Kelly Ruehle and her family own Fanciful Farming, a small farm just outside of town.
“We just have a very hard time ever saying no,” said Danielle Raad, Ruehle’s daughter, as she explained how that situation evolved.
Last November they rescued a frost-bitten rooster that appeared wandering the alleys and sidewalks of downtown Eaton Rapids. In August 2020, Ruehle wrote and released a book about her rescue of Olivia, a miniature horse. Peacocks, goats, chickens and ducks—they all can find a safe place to live at Fanciful Farming.
Currently, the farm is home to nine miniature horses, four goats, four peafowls, four rabbits, four guinea fowl, and many discarded chickens and ducks. Most of the animals they provide a home for have health issues or deformities and require special veterinary care. Miniature horses, especially, are known for having foot and digestive issues.
Ruehle’s most recent animal rescue involved Willow, an 11-year-old retired “carnival pony,” actually a miniature horse, from a kill pen in southern Mississippi. Willow worked for years at a pony ride at carnivals and for pony parties, and was recently “retired.” Willow is pregnant and is due to foal in April. She stands less than three feet tall.
It is illegal to slaughter horses in the United States, Ruehle explained. Kill pens act as a layover and most will try to sell the horses first. If they aren’t sold, then they are shipped to Canada or Mexico for slaughter, where it is legal.
Raad organized a GoFundMe account to help cover some of the expenses associated with the rescue and the rehabilitation of Cheyenne. “This is the first time we’ve ever asked for donations,” Raad said. Fanciful Farming paid the $1,500 “bail” to save Willow from the kill lot. The horse has walking issues due to her feet being in bad shape. A farrier will be coming soon to check that out, along with a dentist that will be able to determine her age and other things about her health.
“As a family, we reach in our own pocket first; it’s a true labor of love,” said Raad. The paperwork is being filled out to become a non-profit organization.
Muriel Bos, a longtime friend, accompanied Ruehle on the rescue trip to southern Mississippi.
“Kelly was driven with such compassion and determination to save this mare and her unborn foal,” Bos said, “that nothing could get in her way – not sleep deprivation, traffic jams, car accidents, and not even the fear of visiting a kill lot.”
“It truly was one of the most beautiful experiences that I’ve ever been a part of,” Bos added, “and my memories will last a lifetime.”
“I was nervous about going to a kill pen,” Ruehle said. “I was worried about what I might see, the condition and the treatment of the horses. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.”
What makes the experience even more unique is that Willow was transported home in the back seat of Ruehle’s dual-cab truck. She rode most of the way with her head between the front seats, resting on Bos’ shoulder. With tarps to protect the vehicle’s interior and hay spread for the horse’s comfort, they made the 15-hour trip fairly uneventfully.
Ruehle pointed out, however, “We had a bit of a mess. It’s going to be a truck cleaning day. Sorry, Chris!”
The horse is currently in quarantine on the farm. She’s a little nervous with people, Ruehle said, and has some trust issues. “We’re just not sure what she’s been through,” she explained.
“Her feet are bad, she needs some groceries in her, and her muscle tone isn’t great.”
If you would like to help financially with the rescue, you can donate at gofund.me/5af20f4c. For more information, visit them at facebook.com/FancifulFarming.