PASCO -- Linda Christiano sees potential where others might see dog food.
A few years ago, the Pasco woman snapped up a one-eyed pregnant mare at a livestock auction, where many horses are sold to be made into dog food.
"I couldn't let Lucky go on sale for the meat man," she explained.
The purchase turned out to be not only humane, but also a win-win. Just because an infection caused by flies had wiped out the horse's right eye didn't mean there was anything wrong with her genes.
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Lucky produced a promising foal for Christiano and now the mare gets to frolic on a pasture with Lil, a 22-year-old horse with a slight limp.
Christiano is a lifelong horse lover and longtime breeder who always has had a soft spot for the equine underdog.
Now she plans to quit breeding and start a horse rescue on her Pasco property.
Several groups of volunteers today will help her get the barn ready for her first intake.
The walls inside the house Christiano shares with her husband Brett are covered with plaques and photos of award-winning horses, many of them ridden by the couple's two daughters.
Quarterhorses for youth competition have been the family's passion. But recent events changed the nature of Christiano's horse business.
When the economy tanked, reports of starving, neglected and abandoned horses increased. It costs about $2,000 a year to care for a horse, not including unexpected vet or farrier bills.
"Not a week goes by where I don't get a call from people saying they have about two days' feed left," Christiano said.
The need became obvious, and then an accident forced a lifestyle change.
Christiano has worked as a nurse for 31 years. But in June she broke a vertebra in her lower back while lifting a patient at Tri-City Regional Surgery Center.
She went through surgery and long, painful rehabilitation. Eight months later, she still is on extended medical leave.
"When you hurt, you have a lot of time to think what it is you really want to do in life," she said.
She realized what she really wanted to do was to help more horses.
She already owns a few horses with "special needs," she said. There's one-eyed Lucky and limping Lil. Also Legs, who was born with contracted tendons and couldn't stand up to nurse as a foal.
But Christiano decided to go beyond the horses she owns. Two weeks ago, she filed documents with the state to turn her Spot-O-Faith Farm -- the name under which she had bred and boarded horses -- into a nonprofit rescue facility.
She hasn't gotten back her paperwork, but the first two horses will arrive Sunday. A breeder in Sunnyside couldn't care for them anymore.
This weekend, Christiano will take in a pregnant mare and a 2-year-old.
She hopes to eventually take care of up to 10 at a time. But she's not looking to retire a herd of horses on her property and call it a day.
Christiano wants to focus on horses that can be valuable companions again with sufficient care and investment.
"My plan is to have a re-homing project," she said. "I want to rehabilitate the horses, get them healthy and find a trainer to work with them."
And then adopt them out.
She has the horse skills, the passion and the space. But she needs a barn that's less drafty, which is why there will be a work party behind her house today.
The barn isn't completely covered and has just one stall for a horse. Her own horses have space and shelters outside, but the incoming neglected steeds will need a warm spot inside. Eventually, Christiano wants to have the barn sealed, with six stalls inside.
Volunteers with the Benton Franklin Mounted Sheriff's Posse, Walla Walla Fire Department and a local church youth group are expected to help today.
And -- ever the nurse -- Christiano has plans beyond helping just horses.
Many details remain to be ironed out, but she wants to offer summer activities for humans in need of some horse love.
Horses are known to be a calming influence on people under stress, she said. "I'd like to do a camp for children from foster families or women who've been abused."
Looks like another win-win situation in the making.