Established 2010
Founded in North Fort Myers, Florida on February 21, 2010.
Relocated 2014
April 15th, 2014 relocated to our current location to establish a rescue facility.
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Over the years SWFHR has rescued horses that were considered a ‘throw-away’ in the eyes of the unkind and heartless individuals who owned them.   The idea of rescuing actually began in 2009 when founders Tina Garrett (Founder) & Matt Venaleck (Founder) recognized the growing need to help ‘local horses’.

The Beginning

Over the years SWFHR has rescued horses that were considered a ‘throw-away’ in the eyes of the unkind and heartless individuals who owned them.   The idea of rescuing actually began in 2009 when founders Tina Garrett (Founder) & Matt Venaleck (Founder) recognized the growing need to help ‘local horses’.  At the time, Tina & Matt had owned (4) horses, (3) dogs on (5) acres of land and worked for FedEx Ground delivering packages all over Southwest Florida.  Over the years they had taken in numerous abandoned and unwanted animals, both large and small.  They also donated to many national-level charity organizations through the years in their attempt to “do our part”.  Tina had written a letter to one of these charities stating “I don’t want the trinkets anymore please use my donation for the horses only”.  The next month her check was cashed and she received refrigerator magnets.  This disconnect from the donor was quite irritating, to say the least.  When they thought about it donors truly saw what their donations really did.  The thought was alarming especially when right out anyone’s back door there were horses in need.  When you would search craigslist you would find horses in abundance with a selling line of “don’t want it no more”, “just come and get’em”, or just plainly “free”.

One day while on craigslist Tina came across a listing for “Help Needed”.  It was an individual named Lisa who privately rescued horses and was looking for someone to help do the same.  “We did not know, how much we did not know in our early days but believed we could make a difference even if it was small”  so, they teamed up with Lisa with the intention of only rescuing (2) horses at a time.  Their thoughts were simple, these horses did not ask to be put in these situations, they did not have a ‘choice’.  The belief was that all animals should live happy, healthy lives and they were going to make sure that they could make that happen.

February 21
A Rescue is Born

The first rescued horses of many to come arrives. Her name was Jeannie.

Newspress Feature
12 Days of Giving

The Newspress article written by Amy Bennet Williams goes live.

The Corporation Forms
Incorporation Filing

filing of articles of incorporation for South West Florida Horse Rescue, Inc.

April 15
New Facility
New Facility Purchase

After 8 months of searching, a 40 acre property is finally closed on the establish a Rescue Facility on via a Private Foundation grant awarded to South West Florida Horse Rescue.

Volunteer Program Starts
Official Program for Volunteering Becomes Available

The first official application to volunteer is made available on paper only. In person application is the only way to get in. 

2010 - 2013


Tina & Matt were finishing a 2 stall barn on the back 1 acre of the property to suit 2 rescued horses at a time.  February 21, 2010, was the official establishment of what later became SWFHR with the arrival of the first rescued horses of many to come. Her name was Jeannie... see Jeannie's story here.  Soon after Jeannie came a horse from craigslist named Drea Polly Ann.  

2010 JULY

A staff infection in Jeannie's leg led to her loss of her in less than 2 days. This event was very taxing on both Tina & Matt which challenged their conviction to rescue horses.  A determination was made to rehome the remaining 2 rescues and shut down or at least pause on taking new horses in. 


2014 APRIL

April, 15  was the closing day for the new rescue location.  It was initially planned for the 14th but was delayed one day.

April, 27 an informative event labeled the "Soft Opening" was held.

2015 - 2017

2015 MARCH

Officially, the Volunteer Program is initiated.  Forms applications and data keeping begins.  The development of procedures and rules are put into action and orientation.  Antiquated as it may have been the website did not have procedures on it for a few years.


January 28 - 30, 2017, SWFHR hosted its 2nd horsemanship clinic, "Mark Rashid Horsemanship Clinic"

2017 MARCH

A pond was dug to provide emergency water needs and dirt availability.

2017 APRIL

A fundraising event labeled "Grand Opening" was held on April 1 & 2, 2017 marked the official opening of the facility to the public knowledge. 3 years after purchasing the SR31 location it was finally time to say the development was advanced enough to be called a running rescue facility.

2018 - 2020

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2021 - Present

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Other important information

Mission & Vision





  • To not chase numbers but rather focus on quality;
  • To refrain from following the typical molds and be different;
  • To not use donor funds for employee costs unless they are derived via a grant allocated for employees;
  • To not seek media attention unless they come to us.  Let our worth be our advertisement;
  • To not cold call or panhandle/beg for donations.  Offer a chance at something in return.


Dedicated to saving the lives of our local horses from abuse, neglect, and slaughter; by providing the best vet, farrier, and feed to bring these horses back to health in a safe and positive environment. With the community in mind, we strive to gain an excellent standing with all we come in contact with. Finding “forever homes” for these horses is our priority.


To make the lives of equines in our local region of Florida better off by educating our community, providing action when warranted, and advocating owner responsibility.


Compassion: No matter the situation we will always carry compassion toward equines. There will never be a day where any equine is mishandled, no matter its attitude or the situation. Commitment: To the Equines and our Community.  We are in this for the long haul so to speak. Advocacy: This comes in many forms but is very close to our hearts.  Speaking up and out for those who don’t have a voice, pushing leaders and lawmakers for change when possible, teaching people the effects of improper care and handling, and many more ways. Education fills the void of ignorance.


Southwest Florida is the geographic area we focus heavily on but that doesn’t mean we won’t help outside of our geographic area if we can.  With that said the situations that require our services of rescue & rehabilitation of equines as a horse rescue are focused on those equines that don’t already have a capable human owner involved.  More simply stated, we focus on equines involved in authority seizure and grave owner surrender situations.   This doesn’t mean we don’t attempt to assist others.


Horse before Human.

Press & Publications


Community Strong

At SWFHR, our community is at the heart of everything we do. We are proud to be closely tied to our local community, and we welcome inspection of all our activities from our community members. We regularly publish press releases to keep everyone informed of our actions, and we welcome our patrons and professional sources to share and republish our content. If you are a media representative looking for more information, please get in touch with our PR representatives at #CommunityStrong.


See the archive of newsletters here. 


Awards & Recognition




Video Media:

Print Media:

  • Elite Equestrian Magazine 2016 – “We will be their voice (view print)
  • The New Press April 27, 2016 – “Volunteers’ devotion to horses changes equine lives” by Tammy Ayer (view print)
  • The New Press 2012 – “12 Days of Giving” article written by Amy Bennett Williams (view print)

Reviews & Testimonials


We value input from our community. Good, bad, or indifferent, it all matters. , We encourage those who interact with us to write a review.  This can be done on any of the major platforms. Here are some:

If you’d rather, we have our review form that you can fill out with an anonymity option.

  • SWFHR’s Review Form (rebuilding)

You can even email or mail us a note.  Make sure to specify (2) things: one, identifying whether you’d like to have your statements public, and two, whether you want to remain anonymous.

Click here for all reviews of SWFHR. 


Facebook | Google | Great Nonprofits | Volunteer Match | Yelp | Yellow Pages



Trust but Verify.  This is for those who heed this warning.  We believe all should do this with any organization, especially in the charity world. Some of the useable sources for inspection of a charity are through the IRS Tax Exempt Organization search engine (search EIN 46-2031584 for Ours)| GuideStar search engine (Ours) | Sunbiz corporation search engine (Ours) | Charity Navigator (Ours)

The links listed below are our legitimacy documentation, made viewable for public inspection by the actions of transparency, a good practice of charities.


The Team

  • All
  • Staff
  • Board Member
  • Officer
  • Founders
  • Director
  • Vice President
  • President
  • Treasure
  • Volunteer Director
  • Development Director
  • Development Coordinator
  • Administration Director
  • PR/Community Affairs Director
  • Operations Director
  • Finance Director

Affiliate Programs


These are organizations that we partner with for various reasons, such as education, advocacy, exposure, and donations to our mission.


Member of and listed as (SW Florida Horse Rescue, Inc.).

Homes for Horses Coalition is a national coalition dedicated to increasing collaboration, professionalism, and growth in the equine rescue and protection community.


Member of and listed as (South West Florida Horse Rescue).

The Fleet of Angels is a grassroots not-for-profit organization initially created to get more at-risk equines rescued and adopted by making transporting them more affordable.


Recipient of and listed as (South West Florida Horse Rescue).

Helping Hooves Program is a program offered by The Horse Holster which believes in giving back to the community through various forms of support.

Partnered Links


We offer a Backlink Partnership program in the spirit of the internet community and partnership of sources with affiliation to Horses or our organization.  If you would like to be a part of this program, feel free to contact us with your request.  In return for partnering with a link on our site, these sites have offered to share our link on their side.  These are not listing sites we’ve applied for.

*In no way should these links be a consideration of endorsement or identifying products we are using.


At Bale Buddy, we are proud supporters of all rescues who work tirelessly to provide shelter and hope for our four-legged friends. As such our feeders are always half-price to all registered farm animal and/or horse rescues and shelters.
SWFHR is listed on their "Rescue Buddy's" page.

The Facility


The current 40 +/- acre facility was purchased in April 2014 via a grant awarded by a Private Foundation.  With the purchase of what became known as “The Facility,” the founders were to build a rescue facility to be a beacon quality in our community for the plight of the Horse in Need.  The business and development plan for “The Facility” outlined ten years of development for the rescue organization on only 1/2 (20 acres) of the whole property.

Almost everything that someone will see on the property has been built since 2014, as the only structures on the property were the House and just the roof structure of 2 pole barns. The rest has been built since establishing “The Facility” in 2014.


Each paddock is built with the idea of durability. Varying in size from 3/4 to 1/2 acres. Fence lines are built with top-quality materials to prevent the need to repair often.
and growing


Most are built with the capacity of two horses per barn. Each paddock for the most part has its own barn.
and growing


The physical capacity is based on two horses per paddock, albeit not a real number when you account for financial and manpower constraints.
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