older adults with horse
Oak Hammock residents feed carrots to the Mill Creek Farm horses on their private tour. (Photo courtesy of Oak Hammock)

The Retirement Home for Horses at Mill Creek Farm in Alachua, FL, opened in 1983 after the owner, Mary Gregory, met her future husband and they bonded over their love for animals.

Now, at their Florida horse retirement farm, they are dedicated to providing a good life to horses that are too old to be worked or ridden.

It costs about $3,000 a year for the upkeep of a single horse, but the residents of a local continuing care retirement community, Oak Hammock at the University of Florida, are helping alleviate that cost by joining together and sponsoring their first horse, named George, for $50 a month.

“This operation is completely done by volunteers,” said Oak Hammock resident Bill Rossi, describing Mill Creek Farm. “The lady that owns this place and her son have dedicated over 300 acres here to save animals. I think it is a place of beauty.”

The president of the retirement home for horses, Paul Gregory, said the partnership with Oak Hammock is beneficial for both mental and physical health.

“We really want this to be a learning experience for people out here,” he said. “An elderly horse, just as an elderly person, deserves to be respected and taken care of.”

Oak Hammock residents feed carrots to the Mill Creek Farm horses on their private tour. (Photo courtesy of Oak Hammock)

Approximately 20 Oak Hammock residents went to tour the horse retirement farm after hearing about the program, and more are interested in going back when it’s a little cooler, according to Katherine Osman, director of community services at Oak Hammock. She anticipates it being an ongoing relationship, with roughly 50 residents attending the information session before the trip.

Osman said that to kick off the program, people from the Mill Creek came to speak about the organization and educate residents. A private tour of the 350-acre property was arranged following the meeting, allowing residents to meet the horses and learn their back stories.

“Some of these horses have survived horrible abuse and neglect or worked in dangerous situations, so they all deserve a happy retirement,” Osman said.

After the tour, residents pledged to sponsor one horse. Additionally, some Oak Hammock residents individually plan to donate and sponsor horses at the facility. 

From one retirement community to another, there is no doubt that the friendships between Mill Creek Farm and Oak Hammock will only continue to grow. 

“I think when we focus on others, even four-legged others, it helps us realize how much small gestures can lead to a large impact,” Osman said.

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