Taking care of horses is expensive. But for Greg McCormack, and his wife, Toni Sagrilla, the reward of helping the horses outweighs the cost.
"That is what horse rescue is all about," said McCormack. "You take horses people can't care for and try to make them comfortable. But you can't stop letting them be a horse."
The couple founded Bit O' Luck Equine Rescue almost one year ago. In the past, Bit O' Luck has rescued dogs, but is now focusing its attention on horses. However, McCormack and Sagrilla are able to pull dogs from animal shelters - most likely Lincoln County Animal Services - if anyone is interested in fostering opportunities.
Bit O' Luck is caring for four horses - 21-year-old Willie Bit O'Luck, an American saddlebred and mascot for the rescue group; 25-year-old Fight Talk, a thoroughbred; 19-year-old Quinn, a saddlebred mare; and 30-year-old Sugar, a palomino.
Tim Baxter, of Huntersville, a member of the organization's board of directors, allows Bit O' Luck to use 5 acres of his land for the horse rescue organization at no cost.
For McCormack, 59, and Sagrilla, who also live in Huntersville, that kindness is a relief, considering the average daily cost for feed and healthcare is $12.50 per horse. With four horses, that is about $50 a day or $1,500 a month. A 50-pound bag of horse feed costs $20 - it lasts two days.
On top of the anticipated costs, Bit O' Luck is facing another challenge with their latest addition, Sugar. She has an internal infection and will require surgery, which is expected to cost more than $1,000. Right now, she is taking antibiotics - 26 pills a day - until she undergoes surgery. McCormack is hoping to get the surgery done within the next few weeks.
The Lake Norman Comedy Zone is hosting the fundraiser Feb. 7 with 100 percent of ticket sales going to Bit O' Luck. Doors open at 7 p.m. with comedian B.T. performing at 8 p.m. B.T. has been featured in NBC's "Friday Night Videos," BET's "ComicView," MTV's "Jenny McCarthy Show" and FOX's "The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show." A full food and beverage menu will be available during the show.
McCormack, a part-time TaiChi instructor and emcee, and Sagrilla, a prepress technician, want to raise enough money from the fundraiser to at least cover Sugar's surgery. However, the couple is hoping to just spread the word about their organization too. Bit O' Luck is always in need of volunteers to help groom, feed and care for the horses. Supplies, including feed, bedding and building materials, are accepted in lieu of monetary donations.
"The more you get your name out there, the more other people may see it that have the same aspirations and maybe that would inspire them to start (a rescue group) themselves," McCormack said. "There is always room for growth in the rescue field. You can't save them all, but we save the ones we can."
Willie is not available for adoption, but the other horses still need to find their "forever" homes. If they aren't adopted, Fight Talk, nicknamed "Fighty," Quinn and Sugar will spend the rest of their days grazing the pasture at Bit O' Luck. McCormack and his wife jokingly call it "the retirement home" for horses.
"These are old guys," McCormack said. "They are happy to have a nice, calm place where they can come, eat and sleep."
One Bit O' Luck horse did find a new home.
Three months ago, Dusty, a 20-year-old Tennessee walker, came in with Sugar after their owner was unable to care for them. Colton Price, 10, found Dusty online and came with his mother, Missy Snipes, to visit. Immediately, Colton and Dusty bonded.
"I let the horse interview the owner," said McCormack. "If there is not a connection, you will know. The horse will let you know if it's a good fit."
On New Year's Eve, Dusty was adopted to Missy Snipes, who lives near Sharon, S.C., and her family. Now, Dusty spends his days with three other horses and a donkey on 80 acres. The family's property backs up to 6,000 acres, ideal for trail rides.
"Dusty got a great home," said Sagrilla. "The family is so kind and nice."
Bit O' Luck is in the process of becoming certified by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS). The two-year certification process requires Bit O' Luck to meet certain guidelines to ensure the safety of the animals, volunteers and caretakers. GFAS representatives visit the Huntersville property every six months to make sure guidelines are being met. Earning certification from GFAS will give Bit O' Luck more grant opportunities.
"We want to be able to grow," said McCormack. "We want to be able to add more animals and land and so forth, but we want to make sure we are doing it right. Whether (GFAS is) looking over our shoulder, giving us a nod, or shaking their finger at us, we want that."