LEE, Maine — Debra McKay looked to the gray sky and shivered Saturday, and not just because it was a raw, wet 38-degree day. The horse rescuer has 17 horses in her KD Stable barn, three more than usual, and fears she will soon need room for more.
“I feel that this winter there will be a lot more horses in need,” McKay said. “There have been so many free ones listed in ‘Uncle Henry’s’ and at Craigslist lately. If it’s a long winter, it could be very tough on them and their owners.”
“I think a lot of people have just enough hay to feed their horses for a little while longer,” she added. “Then, I am afraid, they will start giving them up.”
That’s why McKay counts as blessings her friends Mark and Lorrie Helsor. Since the weekend of Nov. 6, the Lincoln couple has been leading the volunteer effort to build a 30-by-30-foot hay barn and stable attached to the main barn at her 4R Animal Shelter on Thomas Hill Road.
A building contractor for 33 years with Mark L. Helsor & Sons, Mark Helsor designed and is building the barn with many raw materials bought by his wife, he said. The support posts are dug in and the skeleton of the building is assembled, including the framing for the doors and windows.
“It’s about 75 percent done. It just needs a skin on it, pretty much,” Helsor said. “We are going to cover the outside with metal.”
An incorporated non-profit organization registered with the state, 4R relies largely upon donations to rescue, rehabilitate and find homes for abandoned or abused horses. It is also a horse-riding school and boarding facility that offers equine therapy to teenagers to help treat a variety of mental health problems, including attention deficit disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, anger management and conflict resolution. Its 17 horses include seven rescues, 10 boarders, six horses McKay owns and a horse taking a month’s training, she said.
The new barn will have room enough for six more horses and about 1,000 bales of hay, McKay said.
For Helsor, whose family became involved with the stable when Lorrie started taking riding lessons, the barn project was a chance to help a charity, exercise his love of construction, and maybe will lead to some horse-riding lessons for himself, he said. He estimated the barn would have cost about $8,000 to build commercially but said it would cost McKay less than half that.
“Why not help? I like to build. I am constantly doing something. I can’t sit in the house and do nothing,” Helsor said. “There’s no other stable around here, not one that is doing what she is. It’s good to help people. I like to do it, and it’s nice to have a place around here like this one. It’s not every day that you see something like this.”
“Mark and Lorrie have just been phenomenal,” McKay said. “They just called one day and said they wanted to do this. Truly I could not afford this without all the support they have given. I was astonished. It wasn’t anything I would have even thought of pursuing.”