The three-decade-old Little
Brook Farm on Route 13 in Old
Chatham was filled with guests,
friends, sponsors, horses and
kids all celebrating the 25th
anniversary of one of the areas
By Hilary Hawke
Tuesday, July 26, 2011 2:09 AM
For rescue horses, Little Brook Farm is a beacon of hope
premier horse rescue operations, a B.I.T.S. teaching methods school, July 24.
Honorary Chairman Steve McLaughlin, the 108th District assemblyman who helped
organize and sponsor the event, called it “awesome.”
“This is a labor of love and I am happy to lend a hand,” he said. “We hope this is just
one of many events that can bring attention and funds to this outstanding
“It's expensive enough feeding two teenage boys,” he quipped. “Can you imagine the
cost for close to 100 horses?”
Saying that he hoped the July 24 event would serve as just the first of many
fundraisers, he mulled over the idea of a “Little Bits Christmas.”
“The Old Chatham zip code is the wealthiest in the county,” he said. “It seems we
should be able to come up with more assistance.”
“Lynn Cross doesn’t ask for anything from anybody, and yet the value of her work, the
impact on the kids, the riders, the volunteers and most of all the horses is
Cross consistently stressed that all the horses on the farm are rescue animals, and
without Little Brook they each would have ended up at slaughter.
A platoon of volunteers, at least 45 according to one count, spent the past two days
bathing and preening coats, brushing tails, mucking stalls, practicing routines for the
thrill of showing off the best side of these magnificent animals.
The love between humans and horses was palpable.
The emotional bonds forged over many years were on display, especially when 37-
year-old Dallas, who has been part of Little Brook for the past three decades, posed
with four of the six ladies who have cared for him over the years.
Cross said this may be Dallas’s last winter, as health issues have caught up with
him. At that announcement there was not a dry eye in the field.
But Cross considers such passings the natural part of the life cycle and prides
herself on giving every horse that ends up at Little Brook the best, happiest, most
loving life imaginable.
As the gala continued, Little Brook put on a dazzling drill team show choreographed
to music and demonstrated ‘vaulting’ school led by equestrienne extraordinaire
Her students first learn the moves and techniques on a barrel horse with safety mats
and trampolines lying beneath to break the inevitable falls.
On it students learn turns, spins, headstands, standing and all sorts of daredevil
Once they get good enough, they do the same on a moving horse, one that is
During the Parade of Breeds, the farm showed off some of its stars and provided a
bit of history for each as well as their continued value to the farm. These horses work
for their living.
The ballet between miniature horses Rocky and his son Fritz was a real crowd
pleaser. Seeing the perfect little packages tearing around the show ring at top speed,
manes and tails blowing, demonstrating the "Liberty" portion of miniature horse
shows, was a vision.
Without Cross’s intervention, Fritz and Rocky, like hundreds of other horses over the
years, would have been sent to slaughter.
It was hard to imagine those two ecstatic creatures, handled by Robin and Kimberly
Eckerle, as anything other than brilliantly alive and full of joy.
There was Ben, the 29-year-old part Clydesdale who was rescued when a woman
noticed him unsheltered and unfed in a field.
Gorgeous golden Sam who was 300 pounds underweight and had chronic
abscesses, now happily serves as vaulting training horse for the drill team.
Karen, a 43-year-old mini-horse is still in decent health and the magnificent Falcon,
who came to the farm in 2005, is a young thoroughbred.
There was a 23-year old Morgan named Charlie who does it all, from jumping to
pleasure riding, eventing to lessons, who would have ended up at slaughter without
Little Brook’s intervention.
The same is true of the pretty 10-year-old Shetland pony Narina, found in a backyard
with overgrown hooves and 250 pounds overweight.
The two stunning Arabians, Opal and Silver, are only 10 and 15. Seeing the riders
atop those stunning animals it’s heartbreaking to imagine that but for a stroke of luck
in the form of Little Brook Farm they might not be here.
There are so many others: Winnie, the Welsh pony, Sam the Haflinger, a gorgeous
Paint, several part thoroughbreds, not to mention the sheep, the pig, the rooster, the
chicken, the dogs, the cats all of whom find refuge at Little Brook.
One woman in the audience sends $100 a month to "sponsor" Ben, the much-
Another woman had traveled from Massachusetts in gratitude for Lynn’s assistance
with replacing a horse which had just passed away.
Veterinarian Stephen Naile, from the Renowned Equine Clinic at OakenCroft, was
delighted by the horse parade.
To see them shining, healthy, happy, after treating them in deplorable condition when
they first arrived at Little Brook was perhaps the best payment a veterinarian can get.
"I saw some of those horses when they were so sick they could barely stand," he
said. "Now they are magnificent."
Oakencroft offered a $3,000 matching grant at the gala and continues providing help
for the animals. A few months ago they vaccinated all the horse against rabies.
While the gala was designed to help fund the rescue horse operation, Cross is still in
need of donations.
The farm was established in 1972. Providing sanctuary for more than 140 animals, it’
s one of the oldest and largest such organizations in the Northeast.
In addition to lessons in dressage, hunt seat and vaulting, the farm is renowned for
its educational program, B.I.T.S., which has long been recognized as “exemplary” by
the New York State Department of Education.
But the faltering economy has affected Little Brook's finances.
Cross said she realizes how difficult it is in this economic climate, but said there are
many ways people can help besides attending the gala.
“They can sponsor a horse for as little as $1 a day,” she said.
“They can donate a bag or two of Nutrena Senior Horse Feed, which has increased in
price by $6 over the past four years.”
“They can volunteer shavings, or time.”
“Our feed bills and vet bills are staggering,” she said.
Little Brook Farm has the place, the space, the talent and the staff to take in horses
but lack of financial resources limits them.
It is the horses that suffer, she said.
Meanwhile, Cross, her crew, her students, volunteers and well-wishers continue to
keep Little Brook Farm and B.I.T.S operating.
Following drill and vaulting demonstrations and the Parade of Horses guests
gathered for a cocktail hour and then dinner where a silent auction with donations
from Winter Clove, Equine Clinic at OakenCroft and Richmor Aviation, among others,