Once inside the gates, guests are greeted by OLD-FASHIONED hospitality and a very SINCERE GREETING of, “Welcome to the ranch that the horses own”

Just across the Orange County border in Chino Hills California, steps away from upscale shops and restaurants, is a little country road. Almost instantaneously, a traveler has an awakening similar to Dorothy’s epiphany of “We aren’t in Kansas anymore”. The road segues from upper middle-class America to the look and feel of an older-day country oasis. The street is flanked by horse farms, mature Eucalyptus trees, and a field dotted with wild mustard, and is no stranger to groups of equestrians, cyclists, and locals walking the scenic path. Only a half-mile down the lane sits a cheerful red and white ranch, with a distinct logo and signage identifying the property as Red Bucket Equine Rescue. Once inside the gates, guests are greeted by old-fashioned hospitality and a very sincere greeting of “Welcome to the ranch that the horses own.” The first thing that is most noticeable is the pristine condition of the barns and grounds which are meticulously maintained. The three dry pastures are lightly populated with happy, contented horses grazing out of slow feeders, or napping in the warm sun. In a separate pasture, young foals play, darting about bucking and testing their new legs for speed. Two geriatric geldings and a mischievous donkey appear to be in charge of the youngsters and occasionally intervene when the playing becomes too enthusiastic.


While the look and feel of Red Bucket is one of a private stable or show barn, in actuality, Red Bucket is the idyllic home of over 140 rescued horses, and with few exceptions, all of the residents have been saved from slaughter, starvation, or unspeakable abuse. The stunning horses sunning themselves in the front pasture no longer resemble the starving or abused horses they once were, as the average weight gain for a Red Bucket resident is between 300 and 350 pounds. What is not as obvious is the healing that has occurred on the inside; the horses have transformed from terrified and abused into peaceful and happy horses, with gleaming coats that would rival any blue ribbon winner. Then there are those foals that are alive because Red Bucket rescued their mothers from a slaughter auction while they were still pregnant. The babies are adorable, well-mannered, and perhaps most astonishingly, they have no idea of the fate they so narrowly escaped. The older geldings were at one time show horses, one having been a champion several times over. Once age and lameness claimed them, they were discarded and starved. Even the donkey had been rescued from an extremely abusive situation. Red Bucket’s mission is to save and rehabilitate horses, restore their trust in humankind, and find them safe, loving, permanent adoptive homes. They are getting results too, with hundreds of horses saved to date, a staggering number of forever homes found, and dozens of other horses in varying stages of rehabilitation and training, being prepared for their second chances. Impressively, Susan-HarlowRed Bucket is run by volunteers, nearly 400 of them, ranging from President and Founder Susan Peirce, to a dozen or so committees comprised of dedicated team members. Committees range from gardening, ranch care, tour guides, new volunteer orientation, horse care, training, fundraising, community outreach, marketing, feed crew, laundry, recycling, and of course, bucket washing. The team spirit is palpable as volunteers bustle about, proudly clad in Red Bucket t-shirts, polos and hats. There is even “Charm Farm”, coined by Peirce to describe the training that the horses, donkeys and foals receive in order to prepare them for the ultimate goal; a family of their own. Horse experience is not required; as a matter of fact, enrichment extends beyond the horses to the volunteers who have opportunities to grow and develop in their skill sets.


The red buckets are real and originated when Peirce, a lifelong horsewoman, found a starving and abandoned filly. Unable to catch the terrified horse, Susan purchased a fifty-pound bag of carrots and a red bucket. Six and a half hours later, Peirce finally caught the filly, and never let go. Today, upon intake, new residents are given a name, a red bucket, the gift of dignity, and a promise. What is ever-apparent is that that promise really means something to this group, who work tirelessly to care for the horses and ensure that they are trained. Adopters are carefully matched with horses and receive coaching, instruction and field support long after the horses are placed. Forever means forever, and this group is removing all obstacles to the horses staying in their new homes. Red Bucket is one of those few “feel-good” places where the very best of humanity links arms to make a big difference in the lives of formerly shattered animals. There are heartwarming lessons for all, including delightful donkey antics, and of course, those darling Charm Farm graduates. Red Bucket offers tours every Sunday from 1:00-4:00 and reservations are not required. Private tours are available by appointment. Red Bucket is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and relies solely upon the generosity of others who wish to see their good work continue. To visit “The Ranch That the Horses Own” or to donate, please visit their website at or phone them at (909)627-2524.GFAS-logo

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=16]

Get your digital copy!

Equine Monthly

Same great magazine, easier, faster delivery. Sign up now to get your copy of Equine Monthly by email each month.

No thanks. I'll just visit again later.