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’.



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.


In early February, Lisa put Tina in contact with a horse in need of care at a “private horse rescue” and on February 21st Tina went to pick up the very first rescued horse that started it all.  Her name was “Jeannie” a 22-year old, Off The Track Thoroughbred (OTTB) tattooed with Thrush, COPD, Under Weight and Unkept.



To not chase numbers rather focus on quality;

To refrain from following the typical molds and be different;

To not use donor funds for employee costs uness 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.


South West Florida Horse Rescue, Inc. is 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 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 towards 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 in heart.  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 by a 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.

Our Community

Community and more of it.  You will find most all we do is related within our local community. For this fact we welcome inspection from our community of all we do. Our press releases below will advise everyone of our doings.  We welcome republication of our actions by our patrons as well as professional sources.  Media representatives may contact our PR representatives at press@swfhr.org for further information.

Press Releases

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Our Awards

Print Media Recognition

Video Media:

  • The New Press 2016 (view video)
  • The New Press 2012 (view video)

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)
  • Tina Garrett Co-Founder / President & VP / Director / Staff (Fundraising & PR Manager)

    Tina Garrett – Founder and President of South West Florida Horse Rescue, Inc.

  • Matt Venaleck Co-Founder / Director / Treasure / Staff (Volunteer & Facility Manager)

Reviews & Testimonies

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 own review form that you can fill out with an anonymity option.

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 or not and two whether you want to remain anonymous.

Click here for all reviews of SWFHR 

  • "Great people with big hearts to help these beautiful creatures Thank you Thank you"

    Karen Perdicho Hoven (Facebook - August 21, 2014)
  • Absolutely amazing how the horses are cared for! I've seen the differences from when some of them first came to The South West Florida Horse Rescue and and where they are at today .. So much healthier and happy!!

    Tiffany Lynne (Facebook - October 2, 2015)
  • Wow, I can't believe how much meticulous care goes into the horses and their home conditions. And they are loved on and are sweet and trusting animals. Every aspect of their care is carefully managed. These are really fortunate babies and they know it. But, it takes so much to make it happen.

    Beth Anne Algie (Facebook - November 3, 2015)
  • "This place is tidy and well kept! You can tell owners, Tina & Matt, put their hearts and souls into it. The horses are well cared for. I would encourage anyone to go visit and make a donation."

    Marilyn Ireland (Facebook - January 26, 2016)
  • Went to visit with intentions to become a volunteer. Heard the history of SWFHR and got to meet the residents. Great place. Can't wait to start.

    Elke Ramos (Facebook - October 25, 2016)
  • The kindness, care and concern that Tina and Matt show for these rescues is out the top. They, along with their volunteers are totally dedicated. Praying that God will continue to bless them and enrich them in all ways.

    Bobbi Harrison (Facebook - November 5, 2016)
  • Tina and Matt care about the horses,miniatures,donkeys they take in. They care for their immediate needs until they find good homes. But sometimes these animals stay for quite sometime at their facility. Funds are needed to continue their great efforts to give wholeheartedly to these abused and homeless critters of God. So please give.

    Debbie Revell (Facebook - November 8, 2016)
  • This is an organization that deserves everyone's support. Everything accomplished at this facility is for the betterment and placement of loving horses looking for a forever home! Please consider them for your up coming annual charity!

    Jim Mason (Facebook - November 9, 2016)
  • This Rescue has HEART! We moved to Cape Coral, Fla in July of 2016. I found out about SWFHR in the late fall...and I was so happy, because my husband, Rich, loves to work with rescue horses. When we got here, I was impressed by how clean it was, and how much room there was for each horse to graze, and just be a horse. And then, Tina introduced Rich to Blackie, a pregnant mini horse. Almost love at first sight. Actually, love on 3rd visit. Grooming sessions plus carrots cemented that connection. Now, when Rich shows up, Blackie nickers at him, and waddles over. She waddles because she is due pretty much at any time, and has a big baby mini inside her. Rich kisses her on the snout, and she holds up her face for that kiss. SWFHR not only rescues horses, big and small, but creates opportunities for non horse owners to volunteer there, and to interact with horses. And friendly? My husband is somewhat shy, but he feels right at home there. Tina, and Matt and Darcey, are so easy to be with. They are truly confident Rescuers. They can pretty much evaluate a new volunteer's capabilities. If they see the volunteer is competent, they show their trust by being available, but they don't hover. It is such a relaxed environment, that is just perfect for the horses AND the volunteers. It is a little piece of Heaven. (Even for me..I have bad arthritis..I can barely walk. But just sitting in my car, watching all the horses, makes me happy, too!)

    Nancy Walters (Facebook - January 2, 2017)
  • A wonderful equine rescue! I am so thankful they are here in our area to take on horses in need.

    Andrea Rothwell Jones (Facebook - January 14, 2017)
  • "I personally can't say enough about South West Florida Horse rescue! They are truly a passionate and caring group of people ( every one of them) You instantly feel the love they have for each one of these precious horses the moment you drive onto the property. Friendly and sociable volunteers who will greet you with a smile and answer every question you might have. I have know this Wonderful group of people for a few years and have developed a close friendship with our common love of Rescue. My daughter has a horse and each time she would trail ride, she would ask me to go with her. So me, not having a horse, would walk behind her..lol Silly I know. Well after a few times of "following her" , I prayed That if it was meant to be, that God would bring the right horse into our lives. Since It was for me . it had to be a easy going, sweet horse... Well, GOD had a plan.....A few weeks later , The Rescue took in a beautiful Mare by the name of "Winnie" . I saw her picture posted on their Facebook Page and had to inquire on her. I contacted Tina who suggested for me to come meet her. That very next day I was at the rescue. She was totally Beautiful and had such a sweet personality. Needless to say that's where her story began as a new member of our family. xox Winnie had some minor issues with her feet and previously had a cancerous tumor removed from her face. So I was prepared to learn everything i could about her treatment to get her to where she was physically back to that perfect horse. Matt & Tina taught me how to do everything so I would be familiar with her care. In fact when they realized her feet need some attention they had x-rays taken, which I was invited be apart of. Was able to ask the vet any question I had about her treatment and know what to expect. . Prior to adoption, I was able to go out to the rescue as much as I wanted, to spend time with Winnie and start the bonding process . Tina was always just a text away.. Now Winnie Has a Sister by the name of Goldie and they are truly the bonded pair. It's so nice to see the Happy Every After for this Girl! Whats unique with this Rescue is that we weren't just adding Winnie to our family, but also becoming part of the South West Florida Family!! xoxoxox"

    Themiddlesis (Greatnonprofits.org - January 26, 2017)
  • Wonderful cause with truly devoted caring people!

    Debbie Wiles (Facebook - February 1, 2017)
  • "Thanks to the Southwest Florida Horse Rescue, Tina and Matt, I was able to find my new best friend. When I first heard of the rescue, Tina, Matt, and all the volunteers there were extremely generous and helpful. I immediately fell in love with one of the baby minis they recently rescued. Braveheart was 1 of the 11 minis that were in need of help, in which, Tina and Matt took them under their wings. Braveheart was about 11 months old colt and still nursing on his mom. SWFHR rescued Braveheart and his mom first, then went back for the others. When Tina showed my mom and I around and introduced us to all the horses we instantly fell in love with Baby Braveheart. Before adoption we had to geld Braveheart, since he hasn't dropped, the SWFHR raised enough money to get Braveheart the best possible help he could get. Matt and Tina was by his side during his whole recovery. When it was time for Braveheart to come home Matt walked the property to make sure it was definitely a safe place for the pony. He didn't leave until both Braveheart and I were comfortable. Whenever I have any questions they are there immediately to help. But thats not all, after working with the horse rescue for a few months now they have showed me the true meaning of "who rescued who". Without them I would still have a missing piece in my heart. I am truly thankful for the above and beyond love and care that the SWFHR gives to be able to find my perfect match, Mr. Braveheart."

    Nikki (Client Served) (Greatnonprofits.org - February 1, 2017)
  • "I was given Tina Garrett's name by a very close friend who knew I was in a desperate situation. My rescue Thoroughbred, Stetson, has been in danger on the island we live on. From the moment I spoke to Tina I knew we were in good hands and she inspired me so much I got on a plane the next day to go visit her, Matt and their team!!! Is it crazy to say it was "love at first site"? They were quite eager to find out what I was all about as I jumped out of my rent a car in sparkly heels!!! We soon became quick friends and I truly can say I can trust them with my rescues life! I spent two days going to the Rescue and they spent as much time as I needed showing me around and letting me ask question after question! Getting Stetson off an island and doing an International Transfer has not been easy to say the least and the most stressful adventure I have ever done. Tina has stood by my side and said "pull up those boot straps girl...we have a horse to save!!!!!!" The kindness and genuine support, love of their rescues is far above and beyond what one could hope for when leaving my heart behind in someone else's hands. We are still on our journey and about half way there! The Team will be picking Stetson and I up in Miami! Driving us to his new home, to just be a horse and allowing me to spend all the time I wish with our miracle boy! He was 600 pounds when I rescued him at 16.5 hands and now he is 1400 pounds. He is 800 pounds to the healthier and the smartest boy out there. With their help, Stetson has been awarded a new start to Life. A life every Horse should be allowed to have:) He has made me a better person and now with Tina's help he is going to help so very many more! Support this great team!!! Support their rescues!! THEY ARE WORTH IT!!! They truly are THE REAL DEAL!!! Dr. Nicolle Schultze"

    Nicolle S. (Greatnonprofits.org - February 1, 2017)
  • This is an excellent well-run rescue with people who really care about the animals they provide for. It is refreshing to see a rescue run with such great care and attention to detail!! We recently attended a clinic here and all the staff were so great to work with and very helpful. The facility is beautiful. They have built an awesome arena and round pen with great footing to work in!

    Pam Hensley (Facebook - February 1, 2017)
  • I want to thank Matt and Tina for their time and introducing me to my lady "Fancy". I am so excited to have her come home and start a new life with me.

    Cathy Murphy (Facebook - December 18, 2014)
  • "This is a fantastic rescue. They have their heads on straight and make sure each equine is provided for above and beyond. They are welcoming and supportive."

    Andrea169 (Greatnonprofits.org - January 17, 2017)
  • "My saddle sister and I went to the South West Florida Horse Rescue, Inc to go to a Mark Rashid, Considering The Horse Clinic which we go to every year in Florida. We found out that there would be one very close to our home so we decided to try out a new place. We did not know what to expect and actually did not expect too much at all, just in case it was not that great of a place. The women first of all where on the ball and communicated beautifully and helped with anything they could to accommodate before we even arrived. When we did we were extremely happy to see such a beautifully well kept, clean and happy environment for the horses!. The first thing out of the Manager Darcy's mouth was let's get your horses happy first then we will get you girls going. Well that did it right there, BOOM! Let's take care of the horses first!! From then on it was stellar!! The President Tina Garret was in the background taking care of everything, she is a work horse! Eileen Coe, coordinated all the riders and made everything go as smooth as silk, incredibly kind! The property had plenty of room for all the horses and guess what, their horses at the facility were HAPPY!!! You usually do not see that at a rescue around here. They had so many volunteers helping and they were so friendly! I will recommend this Rescue to anyone and everyone! We will be back next next and found a new home at South West Florida Horse Rescue!! Do not be hesitant to help with this team in anyway!"

    Lisa317 (Greatnonprofits.org - February 1, 2017)
  • "Bella was one of the first to be rescued. When my husband and I saw her picture that was sent to me we knew we must get her and care for her and give her a forever home. When I brought her home she was so unhappy and sad, but you could see in her eyes that all she wanted was to be loved and fed some food. We have had her since the very first day and we love her and she gives us back more love than we could ever imagine. She is still very shy of people but she trusts only the ones that give her a carrot...she loves treats. The reason we love Bella is because when I look in her eyes, I see hope, dreams and the wonder of love. When I touch Bella, I feel joy and serenity, When she walks beside me, we connect with our souls. When I am with Bella, I am who I am meant to be...There is a saying "who rescued who?" I ask that everyday when I look in Bella 's eyes and we both say thank you to each other."

    maryfitt (Greatnonprofits.org - December 11, 2016)
  • "Matt and Tina are two of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life! The love they have for these horses is so great and they will do anything to help them. I love going out to volunteer whenever I can! Such a great place and a great cause! Love South West Florida Horse Rescue inc!"

    kingbritt86 (Greatnonprofits.org - February 1, 2017)
  • "I have fostered multiple horses over the past 4 years and have also adopted. I can't say enough about the owners who put these horses before themselves on a daily basis."

    Writer (Greatnonprofits.org - May 1, 2016)
  • "I have followed this organization since first learning of it, and could not be more impressed with their true caring and help for local horses in need. They have a large volunteer base with wonderfully dedicated people who help with everything from grooming to fund raisers. I have seen before and after pictures of horses they have helped and their knowledge and persistence are exceptional. They are very careful to make sure that any horse adopted from their facility is a true match and forever home. I could not recommend becoming involved with this worthwhile organization any more highly. Matt and Tina are the very best of the best!"

    darlow734 (Greatnonprofits.org - May 2, 2016)
  • "I have volunteered for SWFHR for a little over 2 years now. It's kinda of a family affair. My husband and I are usually the ones organizing the food for events and my mom helps out where ever she is needed. Tina and Matt give everything they have to provide for the equines that are in their care and for that we are more than willing to help in any way that we can. SWFHR is truly made up of great people, amazing horses, and a couple cute donkeys! I would recommend that if you ever have time that you stop by and check them out!"

    bighorses (Greatnonprofits.org - November 24, 2014)
  • "SWFHR is a very special place. Tina Garrett and Matt Venaleck had a dream to create a safe haven for neglected, abused, and abandoned horses and donkeys. With no paid employees and all volunteers that dream is coming true. From the first day my husband and I visited the rescue we knew we had found an endeavor we wanted to be a part of. We have seen horses come through the gates sick, starving, frightened and hopeless. Under the loving care of all at the rescue they begin to get better and hope returns to their eyes. We are proud and grateful to be a part of SWFHR."

    Writer (Greatnonprofits.org - May 2, 2016)


Trust but Verify.  This is for those who heed this warning.  We very much believe all should do this with any organization, especially in the charity world. Some of the useable sources for inspection of a charity is through the IRS Tax Exempt Organization search engine | GuideStar search engine | Sunbiz corporation search engine

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

Under Construction


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

Homes For Horses Coalition

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.

Fleet of Angels

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

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

Helping Hooves Program

Helping Hooves

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

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

Dover Donations program

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

Dover Donation program is aimed at donations of inventory items, when possible, to rescue organizations nationwide.

In the spirit of internet community and partnership of sources with affiliation to Horses we off a Backlink Partnership program.  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 some sort of sharing 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 identifing products we are using.


As time went on we realized we needed help to continue rescuing, we asked local folks for donations, not monetary, just to simply clean out their garages, attic, closets, barn, etc. and donate any unwanted items to us. We put together a large group of volunteers to help us with this, either by donating their time, picking up donations or passing out flyers. Our very 1st “Barn Sale” was a tremendous success and we found that there are many people out there who may not have the means to own horses, rescue horses, or care for horses but they did have a strong desire to “do their part” and that was to make us, as a horse rescue, stronger and bigger, day by day. We have met some awesome people and made some lifelong friends over the years. We have taken a horse who may have had only weeks to live and made some young girls dreams come true. We have a special bond with our rescues and we keep in contact with them.

We built an additional barn and fenced off 3 sections of pasture to accommodate only three horses at a time. This quickly changed and we were taking in multiple horses at a time. We put up temporary holding areas and round pen paddocks for these horses just to get them out of the horrible living conditions they were in and move them on the path to a better tomorrow. We saved and rescued over 20 horses in 2011 alone; this was all done out of our own pockets and with help of many of our friends volunteering their time. We never wavered from our mission to save as many as we could and we never turned our back on or refused to take in or assist any horse who needed us. When the paddocks and barns were full, we simply built on and extended things. If we were “full” we would call in some of our horse friends to foster the rescues.

“We chose to be a voice for their well-being.  You can choose to help.  We may not be able to save the world, but for the ones we save it means the world to them.”


Help feed a rescued equine today!

with a  Sponsorship or Donation of Only


per day

$2.OO a day is equal to the grain cost per day for (1) horse

Contact Us

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